Kraig Grady Interview - Microtonal Composer on Erv Wilson from "The Sonic Sky"




    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.

19toneclavichord       31tonevibes

     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.

thehouse           ervpinecone

    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 was housed for the longest by Rod Poole..


 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.

ervwithdiamond       livingroomandmodel
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.

taylorterumimarcus       kraigervlaabeja

There are many other important students of Erv's work like Gary David, Daniel Wolf, Glenn Prior, and Chuck Jonkey who we don't have pictures of. Above you have Marcus Hobbs who is responsible for the Wilsonic iPAd app, Terumi Narushima who is working on an introductory book (to be published by Routledge) on Wilson's work as a gateway to Microtonality, and Stephen Taylor who besides his hard work in making the documentary The Sonic Sky possible, has been involved in keeping everyone on top of making sure Erv is looked after. The last photo of yours truly at La Abeja, Erv's favorite Mexican Restaurant.



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