HEROES OF TUNING
In this new Heroes section I want to shine a light on people who are relatively unknown ordinary folk whose natural way of living has produced incredible works and feats of courage, people whose accomplishments are beautiful and self-evident to all those who encounter them. Prolonged hard work, astonishing acts of courage, and humility define the true Hero.
Buzz Kimball builds and plays unusual instruments, many of which he invents himself. It is a special privilege to commission this new section by introducing the American instrument designer and composer Buzz Kimball. Those of you who have not yet had the treat of knowing this gentleman are in for a tour of his body of work which will surely delight and surprise you...
Paul Rubenstein is a music educator. He teaches music classes at public schools. Students work to build electric guitars and amplifiers from scratch with their own tuning designs, creating even the electromagnetic pickups by hand, and then compose and perform musical pieces on their new instruments. These activities have inspired confidence in kids to accomplish anything, while sparking interest and providing motivation to study the subjects of math and physics. He grounds what is often abstract subjects in concrete and useful real world topics that are tangible and relevant. Paul also teaches adults as well in open workshops for people to get their hands dirty.
Rubenstein’s instrument gallery
Ivor Darreg invented the electronic keyboard synthesizer in 1937.
Although the brilliant designer Bob Moog invented the modern analog keyboard synthesizer in the late 1960s, defining the standard feature set of the contemporary analog keyboard synthesizer, many are surprised to find that he was not the first person to build one, nor was it his contemporary, west coast instrument creator Don Buchla, nor was it the University of Umbleygoop’s Model V5 Erohenorium that cost a million dollars, filled an entire room, ran for no more than thirty minutes at a time, and was available to only three academics none of whom had any musical experience. Nope, Ivor Darreg (1917-1994) did it. He was living in San Diego and playing in a band that needed an oboeist. But they couldn’t find one. Never a man who let anything stand in his way, Ivor invented and then knocked together not just the first electronic keyboard synthesizer ever, but a microtonal one to boot. It still works and I have played it. It sounds just like a real oboe.
One of the most important musical visionaries of the 20th Century, Ivor passed on a few years back with hardly a notice. With no teeth and a long shaggy beard, most people seeing him would think he was a homeless person, which was something sometimes almost true in his life. During the course of his life, he invented and built hundreds of new instruments. He discovered and played hundreds of scales never heard before. And he was the first person in history with the background and experience to be able to state a truth that has been vigorously denied and assaulted even since but never disproven:— “There are no bad scales.”
Xenharmonic is a useful word invented by Ivor. He explained it, “This writer has proposed the term xenharmonic for music, melodies, scales, harmonies, instruments, and tuning-systems which do not sound like the 12-tone-equal temperament.” Thus usefully allows us to distinguish the large category of scales that sound similar to 12 tone equal temperament (such as scales used for western common practice music), from those that do not.
Although few can lay claim to even a fraction of his life accomplishments, Ivor never tooted his own horn or called attention to the fact that he invented the synthesizer. Ivor never complained about things that he needed to get started or obstacles that stood in his way preventing him from accomplishing his dreams. His poverty and poor health didn’t stand in his way at all. Instead of making excuses, Ivor Got Things Done, which made him a real man’s man. This is why Ivor is a Great Artist, a superb human being... and a first class hero of tuning.
Ivor Darreg on 15 tones per octave
Ivor Darreg on 13 through 19 tones per octave
Ivor Darreg on 19 tones per octave