Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Working on The Wilson Archives
It is funny to think of one studying just the subject of tuning for over 20 years much less with one person, Erv Wilson. Such a subject while specialized is not inseparable from all the other aspects that go into music though. That is how it was possible and often the focus of discussion.
Much more than number games, once a scale is designed and what one understands what material is made available, one needs nothing more than ones ear to guide one into the territory one has developed.
Often I have been asked if I have been influenced by certain composers, but as in one case, I had not even heard their works until a little over a decade ago having absolutely no access to their work. Nor has much stuck since then either. Similarity can come about out of the nature of the material itself and what it enables one to do as well as what it wants to do. Say everyone in history had only done oils and a few pick up watercolor for the first time, different individuals are bound to discover and marvel at some of the things it can do. Possibly the real question is why one would want to use them like Oil since they already have the means to do so. Especially when using something as removed as glass.
Hopefully we can move on and see it as ‘sensitivity’ to the subject as opposed to an influence.
I have just returned from the US where the entire papers of this man were digitized. Myself organizing them into files of like subject while Terumi Narushima, my wife who is also working on a thesis on Erv’s Keyboard designs and strategies scanned the material. All this in the mere 17-day window we had to do it. Credit goes to Stephen Taylor also for prompting us to come to do this realizing that it needed to be done soon. Also he provided us with the workspace, even being our shuttle at times as well as diving in and putting in his full effort and advice. It would not have happened without him not to mention the others steps he has taken to help Erv’s well being. Jim French deserves much in this way too staying with him for extended stays beyond what anyone could be asked to do.
Others should be also mentioned as putting in their experience with the work in a few nighttime gatherings. These included Marcus Hobbs, Gary David, Jim French and Chuck Jonkey each who like Stephen and I and all of Erv’s students have developed their work in a singular and unique way that makes the idea of a Wilson “style” absurd. The visit also invoked Jose Garcia who I hadn’t seen in maybe 20 years as well as Marsha Mann telling Stephen what she remember of Erv.
Taylor requested, actually insisted I provide a proposed filing system in which all his could be organized and mapped. And after four goes at it, this is diagram is what I came up with (still in progress though). It reflects how the papers cross-reference themselves and not some personal preference on my part.
We ended up with over 355 files, some as many as a hundred pages and few less than a dozen. The files often were general and single documents scattered in different places. Fortunately only a few pieces that are a complete mystery yet these already are coming to light. So my work is still going on here and will take some time with the goal to make it available.
Erv stated that his work was like assembling a bird’s nest, finding the pieces and placing them in the right place when he found it. So maybe this is how his nest looks in the creative imaginative dimension he created it in and for.
He remains the one person in my life I must give the highest thanks to. I hope the finish product will be a testament to that thanks.