Robbins, who studied music at New England Conservatory in Boston and then later in Vienna, was first introduced to Ismail Merchant and James Ivory in 1976 by screenwriter and novelist Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, whose daughter he had taught while acting director of the preparatory school at Mannes College of Music in New York. The pair produced his documentary Sweet Sounds, which he wrote and directed.
Drawing from the music of Stephen Foster and Clara Schumann, Robbins first film score he composed for Ivory and Merchant was for 1979’s The Europeans. He would go on to compose the scores for more than two dozen films either directed by Ivory and/or produced by Merchant, garnering back-to-back Oscar nominations for Howards End (1992) and The Remains Of The Day (1993). Other films that he worked on include A Room With A View (1985), The Ballad of the Sad Café (1991), A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries (1998), Le Divorce (2003) and his final film The White Countess (2005).