Boo part to Daphne

Bamboo Marimba Part from "Daphne of the Dunes"
(click on music score for audio excerpt)

I don't remember how I came to end up on the Boo (Bamboo Marimba, properly) but for the 15 years that I performed in the Partch Ensemble the Boo and I were pretty much inseparable. I came to Partch's music with a background as a percussionist, and Harry's percussion parts are accessible to anyone who reads conventional music notation with regard to meter and rhythm. Each instrument, however, has its own unique assignment of 'pitches' to the staff, so that a slightly different notation or tablature must be learned for each instrument. The picture above is from the second page of the Boo part to Daphne, and serves as a good example of what the individual parts looked like. Harry rarely, if ever, copied out individual parts. Instead, he had extra copies of the score printed, and then he cut each instrument's line out of the score and pasted them onto plain white paper, which he then "bound" with twine. The red numbers at the beginning of each line were used instead of measure numbers, so at rehearsals it was always "Start at the third bar of Line 20". Instead of traditional meter signatures at the beginning of measures, he included them in the diamond above the staff. If a simple quarter note base was used, he omitted the bottom number; hence line 14 contains measures of 4/4 and 7/4. Later, at line 21, he uses the 16th note denominator in 31/16.

The Boo notation places the notes within a two octave range of 'white notes', i.e. B-C-D-E-F-G-A-b-c-d-e-f-g, which is only 13 separate lines or spaces on the staff. The Boo has 64 tubes, or pitches, to play on, so that once you have located the 'C' row of tubes, you must then take note of the number under the note head, telling you which 'C' tube to strike; in the case of the lower 'C' row, one of 6 tubes! Where the number is followed by a horizontal line, that number tube continues even if the row changes. In the example shown above, at the beginning of line 16 the first two notes are on the 'C' row, which is the bottom row on the Boo, the right-hand six tubes. For two-thirds of that measure you play notes going up the right side of the Boo, two notes at a time. The patterns 2-1, 3-2, 3-2, 4-3 fall easily into a right-left (RL to us drummers) pattern. Harry's instrumental parts, though difficult, would always 'lay well' after practice.

There are two places where you will notice slurs (curved lines) under two notes. In the first measure of line 16, the 1-2, 1-2 near the end of the measure indicates a glancing stroke that connects from a tube on one row to a tube directly below it (a grace note in musical parlance). In the second passage, at line 21, the first two notes of each grouping are slurred (or tied). This was Partch's indication of a double stroke (two strikes in a row with the same hand); in this case, what works for the first 5 notes is RRLRL. In this, and similar passages, the note groups are 5-5-7-9-5 (adding up to 31) for each measure. Partch's note patterns on the Boo easily fall into place with the double-sticking. This type of odd-number grouping paired with double-stickings can be found on most all of his tuned percussion parts, and became an integral part of his rhythmic fabric - and big-time fun to play. [JMS]