DD—If you are going to call something Just Intonation how precisely in tune must it be?

LH—Well, you know that business of John Chalmers and I used to joke that the ideal tuning had a beat a century. [Laughter] Except we wouldn't live to notice it at this point.

DD—You wouldn't live long enough to find out whether you'd succeeded or not either.

LH—Yes, that's true. But I think as much as possible, and I’ve already told you that I view the fundamentals as the important thing. For example, we've had a lot of experience tuning very complex sounds in the gamelan and Bill and I concentrate on the fundamentals and he tunes by oscilloscope and only deals with the fundamentals and their relationships—the real ratios. The result is that these clouds of timbral effects are, as I told you at lunch, they're like the red pepper; you hear through them to the real thing, you see. They, in fact, add a certain glamour, but I wouldn't dream of allowing them to pervert a real tuning which, to me, is the fundamentals of the pitches. This I’m convinced of. For example, you get pianos in which you get twisted strings. Do you know those?


LH—No matter what you do, they're going to sound a little disharmonic, and the only thing you can do is to say, OK, that's it, when it's as close as it's going to come. You can't plunge into the abyss and wiggle around with a twisted string! Why do that? You sort of have to come up from all that and say it and do it—[makes gesture of turning tuning hammer]—boom, there it is. And what you're doing, of course, is to take an average of the—it's a stochastic average that you're taking—of the complexity of the thing. But it does even out to be a relationship, is what I’m saying. And close enough to a real ratio so that it's acceptable. You still hear it as distorted, not as a ratio, however, you hear a distortion in timbre. I don't see why you should accommodate that at all, because you can get the fundamental as that article mentioned, the real pitch. So putting up with nature as She is, which is distorted, I would stick to the fundamental things and forget the timbre. And, in fact, leave the timbre for a certain glamour, as a matter of fact. I have a pupil who is very subject not only to the latest documents in timbral studies, but every detail of how to build a percussion instrument, for example, and how to bring out this overtone or that overtone—you know this whole series of things. And he has been known to complain about one slab or one bonang or something like that. Look, I say, we're not heading for Deagan [leading U.S. manufacturer of marimbas and vibraphones, which have a uniformly "sweet" timbre as a result of the partials being realigned into a major triad—Ed.] where everything is on a scale that is totally boring. You might just as well have equal temperament—well you do have equal temperament, too—anyway you have every tone sounding like exactly the same other one and there's no resultant pleasure in sort of a cloud of confusion and interest around and above it. I’m perfectly willing to accept all that, and with pleasure, as a matter of fact. A coffee can is very rich in overtones. And still, if you hit an assemblage of coffee cans, anybody who has any melodic powers at all can make a quite beautiful passage despite the difference in timbre and tunings.

DD—Music is where you find it.

LH—Yes, exactly! And what you can make out of it if you've got a bad deal. But I wouldn't vote for a too-highly-adjusted timbre. I don't vote for that. I like variety there, in fact. Even within what is essentially a monochromatic situation, don't think it ought to be too smoothed out.

DD—Do you think that tunings in Just Intonation are going to penetrate into the musical mainstream within our lifetime?

LH—I doubt it, for the reason that I think we're living in a juggernaut and I’m not the slightest bit optimistic that it's going to go on, number one. And it gets bigger and bigger all the time, and more and more hectic and powerful and ignorant all the time. And the mainstream gets more conservative—no, that's not the right word—it gets more staid and unexplorative all the time. And the reason for this, I think, in part, David, is population pressure. If you've got a bunch of young musicians coming up under you, you're not about to go out on a limb anywhere, if you've got a salary coming in for something you have learned to do and that you can execute. And the result is that I don't think the establishment is going to change one damn bit, and it's going to be based probably forever, and will probably die out eventually, on the principle that it's a museum of romantic music and that it's an industrial orchestra. And that's about it. I don't think it's going to change at all. I don't think any bombshell is going to change it. Well maybe a big bombshell will change—


LH—That's true. It could ruin your whole day. But, no, I don't think so, for sociological reasons, largely. I think there would be plenty of establishment people, to use a silly but common word, who have the intelligence and interest to change it, but I don't think that population pressure and the dynamics of economics are going to permit it. That's the point. So I don't think it will be done at all. Still, there's this to look at; if unpolluted by other instruments, string orchestras, left to their own devices, play quite well in Just Intonation. if they play habitually. A good string orchestra will give you pretty good Just Intonation, if they play pieces that are written knowledgeably or simply enough so they can be properly played. Half of the problem here is composers, you know, who don't know that you can't land on a triad on the second degree of the diatonic scale and keep it in tune. They just don't know that. So half of your problem is composers who don't know what they're doing, firstly. But I don't think there would be just a few, I think there would be a fair number of intellectuals in the establishment who would be interested, but upon whom the pressure is so great that I think they are unable to do anything. It's like how many presidents have we had now who have just been operatives. They're not real presidents, they're simply company tools, so to speak.

 I think that the establishment has got so much pressure from world population and the demands of that population, the third world, and so on, that I don't think it's going to change. I think the main musical establishment, at least in the Northwest Asian ambit, is going to remain a romantic museum of industry. I see little chance of it doing anything else. However, I have always held out great confidence and belief in what I call the American way of concertizing, which is young people who make concerts together of their music and their friends' music; and then someone, as I keep reiterating, likes the smell of printer's ink, and puts out a journal, and then everybody gets to know it. And that's been steady, you know, since the turn of the last century—it's almost a century now that that pattern has been holding, and holding quite well. And I think that's where the life of American music lies, and yes, I think that group is interested and will continually get more interested in Just Intonation—definitely.

DD—Someone will find out it's useful for selling shampoo or toothpaste.

LH—The groups I’m speaking of have never devoted themselves to that.

DD—Well, certainly not, but there's—do you know Jim Horton?


DD—He has the opinion that what we're all doing is unpaid R&D for the entertainment industry.

LH—But of course we are. That's why Schoenberg said that all popular musicians ought to be taxed for the use of the material that they steal from us 35 years later. At that time it was 35 years, it's more recent now. But he maintained that they should be taxed absolutely. I think he was right, probably. Incidentally, John Cage was asked by—was it Coke?—back in the forties, if he would like to make a commercial, and he named them a sum, and what he proposed was a commercial with Coke bottles—either blowing them or playing them, you see, and writing a piece and that sort of thing. They thought that was hilarious and not to be thought of. I just saw one. So there it is, and how many years is that? That's more than 35 years, you see.

DD—Unduly slow.

LH—Yes, unduly slow, yes. Schoenberg was of the opinion, beside public taxation of pop musicians, he was also of the opinion that all serious, creative artists ought to cooperatively own means of production. He recommended that we all own, say, a printing press, or at least blueprinting, which at that time was the thing, cooperatively, and do that together. I’m sure that today he would have advocated that we all own at least a cassette company and so on, all cooperative. That the means of production be available as cooperative. And he meant it more or less like people are actually doing now. There are a host of small companies putting out composers' and friends' works both as printed material and as aural evidence.