I consider myself one of those composers who is never happy with the established order of things. So when Erv Wilson invited me into his world of numbers and symbols and sonic codes, I was entranced with the vast array of stars in his sky, the zillions of unexplored planets out there with jewels just lying on the ground. His mode of distribution was straight up and simple,… he was very old school. He drew his treasure maps by hand, (http://thesonicsky.com/erv-wilson- diagrams/erv-wilson-diagrams/) xeroxed them, and would mail them to whomever he thought would be interested. But he would leave it up to you to determine what to do once you get into the vicinity of each treasure site. Much of what was so unique about his approach to master pitch selection is reflected by his rejection of the notion of “The Truth”, (i.e. that there exists some ultimately superior scale or tuning system). He believed you don’t have to stay in any one system but should mine the resources of whichever ones you might need for a particular compositional purpose. Hence instead of handing people pre-drawn circles, he offered a larger context in which you draw your own circles. He advocated a process by which what you intuit can be systematized into a master set of musical pitches, then evaluated, changed and even discarded…. ultimately creating scales based on what you “feel” more than what you “think”. This now broadens a composer’s capacity to create color, novelty and interest. Ultimately the back and forth interaction between imaginative play and it’s systematization renders a dynamic flow of innovation that never gets stuck in a “way of doing things”.
Someone once told me Erv stole fire from the gods. I agree. Yet why would one believe such a thing? The light of the gods burns hot and cannot be held in the hand. For as soon as the hand opens to reveal the stolen prize, the fire immediately erupts, spreading itself into the room and beyond, revealing its infinite nature. Erv’s musical frequency structures contain this property of stolen fire. They are self-propagating yantras… the Scale Tree, Holograms, Pascal’s Triangle, The Coprime Grid, the Combination Product Sets (http://www.thesonicsky.com/photography/erv-wilson-diagrams/),… their numbers spill off the page as they go forth and multiply. Most everyone who met Erv and saw his work, musician or not, would sense the presence of that fire., feeling this intuitively without having to understand the work itself. All of us who have explored his structures were drawn to him and his material not because of some intellectual curiosity but due to this feeling of “the emerging unexpected” that gets triggered when in the presence of one who has stolen fire.
THE SONIC SKY WEBSITE
The website, www.thesonicsky.com, is dedicated to explaining the musical breakthroughs of Erv Wilson and the larger cultural narratives implied by his work. Wilson can be described as a “musical cosmologist” who, by creating/discovering brand new pitch fields. has cracked open a vast unexplored mother lode of new musical note relationships for composers to use freely.
Many of his dynamic tuning systems have the organic property of spawning an infinite number of previously unknown musical scales nested within each other like Chinese boxes. The video interviews and other content on this site attest to the broad impact of his work.