"ONE PERSONS informal and in progress INTRODUCTION AND
DIGRESSIONS TO THE WORK OF ERV WILSON (A GOAT HERDER OF MEXICO) AND MICROTONAL AND JUST INTONATION THEORIST [first penned around 2000]
BACKGROUND (SKIP IF YOU WANT TO GET DIRECTLY TO THE TUNINGS).
I start with the limited history as I saw it. Afterwards I will talk a bit of his relationship to the archives itself.
I first met Erv when he lived in West Hollywood, this being about 1975. Erv at this point was quite focused on the possibilities of 31 equal, as there had been some contact with Fokker and the activities at Webster College in St. Louis. A whole movement appeared to be under foot. Stuff was still happening with Emil Richards as the microtonal blues band while Erv and his roommate, Scott Hackleman, were just began work on a 19 tone clavichord design.
My formal lessons didn’t really start until his move to Normandie St, next door to a whole slew of Cal Arts percussionists including David Rosenthal (who built quite a few Partch influenced instruments tuned to the 13 limit diamond). Now Erv’s roommates at the time were the strangest group of people one could imagine. One a talented percussionist Todd Manley, who one morning ran out of coffee filters and so served us Bustelo Coffee ( the ‘official’ microtonal coffee at the time) filtered through a black sock. His other roommates included Hervé Villechaize (before he was the midget on the TV show Fantasy Island) and a Danny Elfman who was organizing ‘The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo’ in which Todd was the drummer. Todd also wrote some pieces for one of Erv’s Helix song (2” aluminum tubing) as well as performing at this time a composition by Lydia Ayers for this instrument. Lydia e-mailed saying; the name of the piece is "Ombres de la Lune" and it was written and performed in 1977. Erv's focus at this time besides the helixsongs was on structures called the Hexany and the Eikosany (and other what are called combination product sets). Although he had discovered these almost 10 years earlier, having the “diamond crowd” next door might have caused him to focus quite a bit since they have a compensatory relationship to each other.
The move to Ave 65 (since I have fallen into some geographical trap) found myself in the guesthouse with my wife at the time. I should mentioned that early on Cris Forster Presented his work on Walt Whitman. The e-mail from Cris says: 1978: "Song of Myself: Intoned Poems of Walt Whitman," for Chrysalis, Harmonic/Melodic Canon, and Voice. Glen Pryor both a skilled percussionist and was a bagpiper, moved there after we left. Glenn worked quite a bit with Ivor Darreg under the moniker, Mustache Blue. (responsible for my own first public performance). Scott Hackleman set up shop there (and at the time of this writing is back there once again building away). Since then, I returned again for a brief time before it housed, Jim French (which he now refers to as “finishing school’), and for probably the longest, Rod Poole and quite a few others.
Erv now has the big house by himself, much of the floor space is covered with open paper bags labeled in a short hand code informing, mainly to himself of the properties of the seeds of corn (now replacing the previous same number of such Chenopodium seeds which I imagine have migrated upstairs). Besides corn and these aforementioned quinoa relatives, he has also worked with tripsicum, some amaranth, and quite a few mints of the Monarda family, and other Mexican herbs and single plants of interest. It appears that his activity with plants might be more of a priority for him, seeing the need for good food crop as being higher on his agenda, but his musical ideas seem to continue to intrude themselves into being. I have noticed that often when he takes off in a new direction he will sit on what he knows until he feels he has investigated the territory enough to have a good feel of the terrain. Like the plants he looks after his seedlings till they are developed to where they can hold there own.
He once told me that the reason he took the musical path he did was what he needed to do musically when he young wasn’t available, so he stated he could do more good by providing the tools necessary. He felt in the long run this actually, would have more of an influence on music than ‘compositions’ anyway. (his idea of composition would include ‘spontaneous composition too.) This is also provides insight into how some of his ideas or scales developed out of conversations with others.
In wishing to help others by his work is of of the ways he is a great model of what a teacher should be. I remember once someone offered him x amount of money if he sent all his Xeroxes to them. He answered it wouldn’t be fair to those who can’t afford it.
It is for this reason, despite his initial reluctance of this stuff up on the web; I think he enjoys the idea of his work out there in the world for basically free.
Erv saw his teaching of music being taught in an oral tradition. These papers represent documents used to accompany a verbal presentation or lesson, being ’shorthand’ of the points covered.
The only math that is required in 90% of this work is the simplest, addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
He identifies with a ‘conservative’ or "cautious" methodology, and accomplishes monumental feats with just a few simple steps. He applies and explores material found in the world first and follows thos implications. The results are often radical in the end even though his means might be otherwise.
He hears and plays his material, and when I have come up with a scale, he might modulate it around and be whistling the notes as he is graphing out the possibilities. Mathematics is just a means to an end.
His greatest desire in life has been to have a generalized
keyboard in which to try out different tunings.
As opposed to giving lists of the ‘infinite possibilities’, Erv likes to drop in ones lap that which caught his ear in a particular way as being specifically viable in artistic merit. He presents his own choices prominently of what he thinks this material has to offer.
Along with both my own desire to provide a greater accessibility for others who I felt might benefit from this material and Erv’s own desire for his work to be given the opportunity to ‘speak for itself’, the Wilson Archives was initiated with his published documents (mainly in Xenharmonikon and a few choice documents that had been widely circulated . The possibilities of the medium quickly became apparent and expanded to unpublished older documents as well as an extended section of “Main Library’, the work of others that bear a direct relationship to work in the archiv .
In its existence on-line, it has been reorganized in quite a few different ways. The present arrangement is based on what I consider the more accessible papers to the more difficult. This differs from the previous chronological or some variations on this, which had too many shortcomings due to how and who they where written for.
Feedback is quite welcome in regard to the order or others suggestions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org