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  For access to his papers, go to  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 last issue. (  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 (  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).




New releases from the Kenneth Gaburo archive on Soundcloud

Philip Blackburn, composer, record produer, archivist, sound sculptor, and a few other things, has just released a set of 32 recordings from the Kenneth Gaburo archive.  There are interviews with Kenneth, and recordings of a number of pieces, and two recordings of radio programs produced on Kenneth's visits to Australia in the mid-80s. 


Recordings 4 and 31 are taken from a long interview I did with Kenneth in 1979, first on his own work, and then on his work producing Harry Partch's "The Bewitched."  Recording 35  "Choral and Electronic Compositions" is a recording of a radio program about Kenneth's music Paul Petran and I produced for ABC Radio back around 1986-87.  There's a recording of the Astra Choir performing Kenneth's "Ringings" as part of that.  Recording 28 is another ABC recording "Testimony and The Flow of [u]" which was part of "The Scratch Project" consisting of a lot of people phoning in to ABC Radio (produced by Andrew MacLennan and Virginia Madsden) with their responses to Kenneth's question about nuclear war.  I notice that since I was first informed of the archive's existence 2 days ago, there have been seven tapes of Composition Lessons of Kenneth with Philip Blackburn from the mid-80s added.  So the numbers given above might not be accurate.  This is definitely an archive in a state of development.  Well worth exploring the work and thought of one of the most interesting of the late-20th century experimental composers.



Antechamber 8 - a video of highlights from back in September

Back in September, I was very happy to be part of a concert organized by Simon Charles, called Antechamber 8, which was at the Footscray Commuity Arts Centre, as part of the Melbourne Fringe.  The concert featured the Phonetic Orchestra playing works by Jon Heilbron, and a work by Simon Charles for me and him to duet with on tuning forks and electronics.  Simon recently posted a 10 minute video of excerpts from the concert on Vimeo.  Here:

The personnel was Jenny Barnes, voice; Andrew Butler, piano/harmonium; Simon Charles, sax/electronics; Reuben Lewis, trumpet; Michael McNab, percussion; John Smeathers, electronics, and WB, tuning forks.  The first seven minutes of the video features the Phonetic Orchestra in works by John Heilbron, the last 3 minutes is the work by Simon for us playing tuning forks and electronics.  Enjoy


Two new reviews in

It's that time of the bi-monthly cycle again, and I now have 2 new reviews out in  The first one is of the marvelous sample set World Suite from UVI.  That's an incredibly comprehensive sample library of beautifully multisampled instruments from around the world.  Well worth checking out, and the price, for what you get, is ridiculously cheap.  Here's the URL to that review:

And there's also a review of Joel Kivela's marvelous microtonal composing software Dhalang MG.  This one is for Mac or iOS, but will "soon" be available for PC and Linux.  It's a really complex and deep multi-function program.  Again, very much worth having a look at.



Applebox Orchestra Realization for Pauline

On 8 January, a whole crew of folks gathered; in person, telematically, and by correspondence; at the Fridman Gallery in New York City and performed a Tribute to Pauline Oliveros.  All the participants made realizations of Pauline's "Applebox Orchestra" score, each one making a part with an Applebox, or other wooden box used as a resonator for their own choice of sounds.  It was a splendid event, even on streaming web radio, which was how I heard it.

I made a recording for it, and was delighted with it.  It consisted of 3 tracks of a set of Applebox sounds I made, using kitchen utensils, stationery, crockery, and whatever else I could find.  After the performance on 8 Jan., I realized I could do this process again (and again and again) until I got 10 tracks of Applebox instruments happening.  Pauline's score for Applebox Orchestra specifies up to 10 players of Applebox sounds.  I repeated the process - set up the Applebox, attach contact mics to it, place a wide variety of sound-making objects on the box, perform and record them.  After recording, go through it and top and tail each sound, normalise it if necessary and load it into a sampler.  Then sequence the samples (using MusicWonk), such that each one appears only once in the first 29 minutes of the sequence.  Record this sequence.  Repeat this process four times. (Recordings 1 and 3 are 3 tracks each, recordings 2 and 4 are 2 tracks each.)  Then mix the results, with a slightly different panning for each of the four recordings.

I'm delighted with the result.  I think all the sounds have their own sonic identity, and juxtapositions of various sounds make interesting complexes where the identity of each component sound is preserved.  So here it is.  Applebox Orchestra by Pauline Oliveros, realized in loving memory of her by Warren Burt.

You can listen here:



Or, if you can't see that flash player above, you can download the piece HERE (mp3, 68MB). Enjoy!