Barbara Hero with Her Tetraharp

On The Passing of Barbara Hero

Barbara Hero left us on August 9, 2021 at the age of 96. She gave us a unique approach to microtonality with a rigorous use to the Lambdoma as both a musical territory and her method toward healing with sound. It is hard to dispute that it might have been instrumental in her longevity. Her passing might remind us of microtonality’s history with religious and quasi-religious artefacts that attempted to reflect the cosmos or totality. When we pass beyond the dismissal of their sacred status, we encounter why they are considered sacred is anything but arbitrary. These figures are known to impose themselves in many contexts, spontaneously and with an  inexhaustibility of meaning. Often they are also symmetrically balanced symbolising the whole of possibilities. Such structures occurring within the numerical continuum are inescapable in the musical history of many cultures.

Lambdoma Weaving by Barbara Hero

While the Greeks had a limited Lambdoma based on fifths and octaves, it was only in the 20th century that we find it construction based on the sequence of whole numbers. In 1927 alone it appeared in the works of Meyer, Partch, and Novaro. In 1939 it appeared camouflaged in Katheleen Schlesinger’s The Greek Aulos as the common-tone modulations of the subharmonic series. Schlesinger might be considered Hero’s spiritual predecessor. Her involvement in Theosophy resulted in a continuing influence upon that religious school musical ideas.  For Barbara Hero too the lambdoma had an extra musical meaning which she worked with in a multi-octave span and keyboard of her own design. Her website  is still with us for the moment and we hope is preserved by her followers.