Monday, March 28, 2016

Diamonds, Lambdomas, and Mt. Meru: The Return of Sacred Objects to a Secular Landscape.

Wilson's Chart of the Mt. Meru/Lambdoma interface

Today, as never before,
we are witnessing an opposition
 not between art and life,
 but between sacral and secular spaces.
-Ilya Kabakov

In the process of my wife, Terumi Narushima working on her book on Erv Wilson's Tuning innovations, the subject of the Partch's Diamond and its origin have come up. What strikes myself is that how this structure seems to have been reawakened in not only Harry’s vision even if through Mayer, but the others to as close relatives. Spontaneously they appear in others such as Novaro (in the same year as Partch, 1927), but also Schlesinger too once one scratches the surface of her subharmonic scales sharing a common tone.  That all this rediscoverering would happen within a few brief years after 2000 years is uncanny and could be seen almost as if the structure had a life of its own. In its former context it was used to please the gods or to represent the celestial clockwork or even as a reflection of political structure.  This Lambdoma returns, but not in the context of an object to be worshipped, but as a something that nevertheless is once again in communication with our secular world. It is within this contact and communication that Partch deserves credit for placing his work and vision. His rituals do not worship these objects, but nevertheless places them within the conversation throughout his own aesthetic objects.

           Erv Wilson firmly explored many of the geometrical properties of various organisations and while publicly he would not attribute anything extraordinary about them, he would always point them out when he ran across them. One of the most common mathematical figures he would return to,  or maybe uncannily repeatedly returned to him was Pascal's triangle which was known in  India where it was discovered 1000 years before Pascal it was known as Meru Prastara.
  1. Mount Meru, the abode of the gods at the center of the universe in HinduJain, and Buddhist traditions
 His first notice of it was in its relationship with his combination product sets. Later he appears to be the first to investigate the additions of the diagonals of Mt. Meru beyond the one known to produce the Fibonacci series. Here he found scales that reflected the practices of various indigenous music that some now found a way to appear in their own rituals.

Wilson's scale tree within the tetrachord showing
 both the super-particular ratios between the notes as well as the two sums of the diagonals.

Later I was fortunate enough to catch and point out to Wilson that Novaro’s series coincided with a reseeded triangle. From this he saw how Mt. Meru was tied to both the Lambdoma and the Farey series. The latter is imbedded in his scale tree, his reinvention of the Stern-Brocot tree. All this represented in the chart shown.

This series starts with the numbers 0/1 and 1/0 from which he described as possibly divine numbers but would not say or define further. One might wonder like myself if they are the infinitely small and large respectfully.  Then is the 1/1 like the "mesocosm" between these infinities. Hence why I have preferred to call my music Mesotonal.

Our relationship though is not in worshipping these structures even though they are probably worthy. They indeed act as forces often universal and beyond our control, even more so to surpass. Attempts to play these megastructures have proven less satisfactory than the material that rest upon them. Thus here they communicate and inform us at a distance  and there is good reason to listen.


  1. As philosopher Walter Benjamin would say: it is not about worshiping the sacred, but profane, desecrate it. Only through the happiness of the material world can the Messiah come through a timebreak again and walk among us once more.

    1. No worship implied, nor need to desecrate which might be a banishment ritual under false pretenses.