Produced by:Robert Miller and Kevin Halpin Recorded at:Edison Recording and JSM Studios, New York, NY
You may not know it, but you’ve probably heard Robert Miller’s music hundreds of times before. Make that thousands of times, if you’re a serious TV and movie watcher. Miller’s award-winning compositions have made him the go-to guy for more than a thousand TV commercials alone, almost all recorded with live orchestras in concert halls. He also creates unforgettable movie soundtracks, including his recent work on Michael Moore’s provocative documentary, Capitalism: A Love Story. That’s his starry-eyed music, too, behind "Journey to the Stars," a spectacular show at the American Museum of Natural History's Hayden Planetarium in New York City.
All those accomplishments, though, barely hint at the composer’s serious symphonic capabilities. Trained at the Mannes College of Music in New York City, Miller has studied privately with American masters William Schuman and Aaron Copland and has already composed several works performed by symphony orchestras around the country.
For The Possible, his debut release on the Next Horizon label, Miller set aside his talent for accompanying the vision of others and decided instead to craft a deeply personal collection of music, one that summons the innocence and optimism of his 1960s childhood. A lush, symphonic tribute to America’s best and brightest, the album evokes Miller’s memories of moon landings and Camelot-era national pride – all brought to life with a remarkably accomplished orchestra and vocal chorus. He’s supplemented that sound with much sought-after instrumentalists, including Glen Velez, whose percussion work adds a propulsive heartbeat to the CD. Miller admits that he considers “the symphony orchestra to be the most miraculous sound-force on earth.” Yet he’s also an unabashed fan of popular music. His love of the Beatles, XTC and especially the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson is evident throughout this innovative collection.
On the first five tracks, Miller sets American poet Walt Whitman’s words to music and somehow manages to make the 19th century writer’s lines seem as fresh as today’s news. “Life” opens with a triumphant blast of horns and builds to a climatic crescendo, while Whitman’s words ask, “Ever the undiscouraged, resolute, struggling soul of man / Have our former armies failed?” The most Brian Wilson-influenced track here is “Earth, My Likeness,” with its gentle harmonies that cushion Whitman’s words. “Quicksand Years” features swirling strings and a hypnotic drum solo, while “Then, Last of All” creates the mystical feel of Gregorian chants and hushed anticipation. “Reign of Tears,” an adagio for strings, adds an introspective interlude that builds into a surge of emotion, which is then followed by a tape of John F. Kennedy delivering his inaugural address in “Reflections on the Last Idealism.”
The CD closes with “Ever A Seeker,” which quotes Carl Sandburg’s vision of an America “ever seeking its way amid storm and dream.” Miller couldn’t have known when recording this CD that “hope” would become the clarion call of our times, yet he’s crafted a prescient work that feels both topical and timeless. Like his mentor, Aaron Copland, Miller understands how to use music to rouse our slumbering spirits. The Possible is a symphonic call to rise to the promise of our best selves.
- Holly Crenshaw
The Beach Boys