DD—What course of study would you recommend for someone who was just becoming involved with tuning?
LH—Well, tuning, in the first place. And that means that you have to have an instrument—something that you can tune and detune with ease, and also fine-tune. And for that it maybe ought to have two methods of tuning: a rough-tuning thing and a fine-tuning method. And at least over two or three octaves. I would think, so you could find out the affect of octave distribution. And then I would say, once you have that sort of basic thing that will play, then you ought to have a good monochord, and a way of making on it any sort of mode or concatenation of intervals that you can think of, or that you want historically to pursue, or that you find in a recording and wish to record and analyze. I short, it has to be an "in and out" instrument or tool … Those, I think, are two fundamental things.
And then I would say a library of small but succinct works on the subject. I would start with Sir John Hawkins [A General History of the Science and Practice of Music], and then add Harry Partch [Genesis of a Music], and J. Murray Barbour [Tuning and Temperament], and maybe Rudolph Rasch's stuff, from Utrecht …the Lloyd/Boyle [Intervals, Scales, and Temperaments] with the caveat that there are a few things that I find disagreeable in there… by that I mean that I can't agree with them [Laughter]. That would be a sort of core library. Then I think, if you had to deal with keyboard instruments, you would need Klope's small book [Harpsichord Tuning, werkplaats voor clavecimbalouw, palelsweg 6, Gardern, Holland], which investigates the temperaments, as well as some basic Just Intonations, and with several caveats, the two Owen Jorgenson books [Tuning the Historical Temperaments by Ear, and The Equal Beating Temperaments] [Jorgenson is cavalier about "transposing" temperaments, "correcting" them, and so on; thus he is only usable if you know the originals, and not otherwise.—LH]
In Barbour, you have the Hellenistic tunings, although there are some wrong ones and a few misattributions, and there's one important one left out. Otherwise, that's pretty good. Then, the problem arises of the great Islamic flowering. That's a little hard to get in one concentrated form. In one version of it, the Ottoman, Mark Signell's book [Makam] is excellent. As for the Arabic, in general, and the so-called Persian, there are a number of sources, but I can't think of any main one I would point to. I have simply given up any source material for Indian Rags, for the reason that there's so much disagreement about it, and the fact that they don't seem to be tunings, but melodic enterprises. And according to how you go up or down, or what ornaments you use, we could get another name, but have the same tuning … so it's too confusing for me.
DD—There doesn't seem to be any way but aurally to learn that tradition.
LH—Right. So it's a mystification. And so I would not include anything in my library except the standard works …The Fox-Strangeways [The Music of Hindustan] is fun reading anyway, and it's filled with beautiful quotations and things, but it's not very informative on the matter of tuning. And for East Asia, ordinary music encyclopedias, and maybe Joseph Picken [in The New Oxford History of Music, "Ancient Music" Volume, and many other works] are the source. I don't know anything about African tunings, and I’m not sure that I want to…
The other thing, of course, that is stimulating to me, though I have yet to find any way of doing it, other than just struggle, is what I call "free style," in which you don't have a preliminary concatenation of tones or intervals but a free association of intervals that you know and associate as you wish for artistic purposes. And so far as I know, there's still not an instrument that's capable of doing that, either electronic or any other kind …you can splice together tapes, and I have done that—you know Arion's Leap is only spliced once. But that's because we would reach over here for this, then bow that over there… we managed to assemble that, and with one splice, and that was astonishing, I thought. But my God, it's only that long! I would love to hear an extended piece. I have sketches for extended pieces in the free style, but there's no way of doing it.
DD—I think it can be done with current technology… [And I did it —DBD]
LH—But within my lifetime? doubt it. After all these pieces have been extant for 25 years. That's a quarter of a century. And electronics haven't caught up yet.