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Ervin Wilson, 1928-2016

Ervin M. Wilson, music theorist extraordinaire, and an inspiration to me, passed away on December 8, 2016. He investigated, discovered, proposed, or just plain came up with dozens of music theoretical concepts, tuning systems, mathematical constructs; each of which could develop into a set of hundreds of different tunings or other mathematical-musical structures. For more information on him and his life's work, go to http://thesonicsky.com/.  For access to his papers, go to http://anaphoria.com/wilson.html.  A wonderful man, who gave us so much, he will be dearly missed. 

Ervin Wilson, photograph taken in Los Angeles, 2007, by Catherine Schieve

I just finished a piece intended as a small memorial to him.  It's a rather complex piece, and I don't think it sounds like anything else I've written.  To start off, I developed a set of 24 different 7 note scales, all based on the Fibonacci series equation (2nd element back plus the 1st element back = the next element), but with different seed values, going from 2,13 through to 13,13, and back down from 13,1 to 2,1.  Each scale is 7 notes, and they all sound modal, but they all sound different.  I developed these scales using Marcus Hobbs' Wilsonic app.  The Wilson app, if you don't know it, is an app for iOS devices, which explores a couple of dozen of Erv Wilson's structures, and lets you play them in real time. I decided that I would use each of these scales in the piece.

For timbres, I would use the wonderful UVI World Suite sample set, that I just reviewed for Soundbytesmag.net last issue. (http://soundbytesmag.net/worldsuitefromuvi/)  For structuring the melodic material of the piece, I would use Dhalang MG, an iOS app that I also reviewed in the January 2017 Soundbytes (http://soundbytesmag.net/dhalangmg/).  Dhalang has a number of algorithmic generators.  For this piece, I used two: either my melodies would be generated by the "Particle" generator, in which a series of "particles" flow across the screen, following certain laws of gravitational attraction and replusion; or they would be generated by the "Matrix" generator, which implements Markov Chains.  Using the Dhalang generators controlling the World Suite timbres, with each melody tuned to one of the 24 scales, I generated 177 melodic fragments, ranging from a few seconds long up to a maximum length of 20 seconds.  These melodies were loaded, in 4 sets, into a sampling instrument (the UVI Falcon), and then using MusicWonk, I arranged for each "track" or "layer" of the piece to play each melody on that sampling instrument (up to 49 melodies in one instrument) just once over a 29 minute duration.  Each layer would have a different ordering of the available melodic fragments.  

Each "world" instrument has a whole world of emotional connotations associated with it.  Each tuning also has a certain "mood."  When combined with the algorithmically determined melodies, each in its own distinctive tempo, this meant that each of the 177 fragments had its own emotional world.  When these were combined (10 layers combined in this version) this produced a very wonderful collage like form, in which all sorts of emotional juxtapositions occur, making composite mixes of melodies, and emotional connotations, that I would never have predicted could exist, before the actual realization of the piece. 

If this is all complicated try this:
24 seven-note scales are used to tune
world-music timbres
which make 177 melodies controlled by algorithmic generators in Dhalang.
These melodies are recorded and assigned into a four different sampler instruments (with the UVI Falcon sampler).
This sampler is controlled by MusicWonk so that for each layer, each melody plays just once.
10 layers of this kind of ordering are made.
And a final mix of all 10 layers is then made.

Once I made the mix, (and I made several versions, with 8, 9, 10 and 12 layers), I listened to it intensely over a period of a couple of weeks.  I wanted to find out just what it was that I had made, and I wanted to see what thickness of mixing pleased me the most.  Eventually, I settled on the 10 layer version you hear here.  

I hope you enjoy the piece, and I hope that Erv would have been pleased with the piece, which, I think, extends his thinking into another area of sound exploration. 

Samples V: for Sampled Microtonal World Music Orchestra, in Memoriam Ervin Wilson. To listen click here:

Or if you can't see the Flash Player, you can download the piece here (68mb, 320 kpbs mp3).



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