Fresh Picks
The Meadows Guide to Partch Recordings, Videos and Books

Seriously: when I started the Meadows in 1996, there was almost nothing to list here. Now, just a couple of years (and a couple of major projects) later, virtually everything Partch wrote and recorded is available, a good portion of it for the first time. It is, without hyperbole, astonishing. My purpose on this page is to include everything you could possibly need for a complete study and portrait of Partch's work and life. I am including, at the end of the page, my recommendations for those new to Harry's music and works.

I am also, for the first time, including links to online sources, primarily Amazon. I honestly don't want anyone to think I've sold out, and there is no reason that you have to follow the links -- you still have access to all the information here. But there are a couple of valid reasons to order there, beyond the convenience:

  1. On virtually all the recordings, Amazon already has a number of the tracks available for streaming audio -- you can hear bits of the pieces without over-taxing my resources on our server.
  2. If, for some reason, enough people purchase items, I may one day see a couple of dollars in credit from Amazon to help defray the costs of running this "pro bono" bit of the aether we love as Corporeal Meadows.
Not to mention that Philip Blackburn of innova and Joseph Dalton of CRI have given their blessings (thanks, buds). So read through all this stuff, write to picks@corporeal.com if you need assistance, and have a universe of great moments listening, watching and reading all about Harry Partch. You can hop directly to the sections from these links: It's a big page, but it's all for you -- don't whine.
Contents maintained by Jon Szanto
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Partch Recordings

The Harry Partch Collection: Volume 1 [Composers Recordings Incorporated (CRI) CD 751]

The Eleven Intrusions are among the most compelling and beautiful of Partch's compositions, the main product of a lonely, isolated period he spent in Gualala California. They are short instrumentals, often with poetry intoned by Partch. Plectra & Percussion Dances are three relatively unrelated works that Partch wrote in a brief period after his successful production of Oedipus. Though they draw on Greek themes, they are Partch's first major works for a larger ensemble that are more instrumental (as opposed to theatrical) in conception. Ulysses at the Edge was originally written for (though never performed by) the great jazz trumpeter Chet Baker whom Partch met through mutual friends in Illinois in the mid-1950s. It is a lively work in which Partch, once a homeless man, relates to another wanderer, Ulysses.

Contents:

  • Eleven Intrusions (1949-50)
    • Study on Olympos' Pentatonic
    • Study on Archytasí Enharmonic
    • The Rose
    • The Crane
    • The Waterfall
    • The Wind
    • The Street
    • Lover
    • Soldiers - War - Another War
    • Vanity
    • Cloud-Chamber Music
    Principal vocals: Harry Partch (Recorded 1950-51 Gualala, California)
  • Plectra & Percussion Dances - Satyr-Play Music for Dance Theatre (1952)
    • Castor & Pollux
    • Ring Around the Moon
    • Even Wild Horses
    Gate 5 Ensemble (Sausalito), Horace Schwartz, conductor (Recorded 1953, Sausalito, California)
  • Ulysses at the Edge (1955) Gate 5 Ensemble (Evanston) (Recorded 1958, Evanston, Illinois)
Meadows note: One of the bonuses of this disc, along with Volume 2 and 3 in the series, is that the liner notes are by noted Partch scholar, Dr. Bob Gilmore. They are extensive, insightful, and add greatly to the value and experience of this important collection.

Order CRI Volume 1 from amazon.com


The Harry Partch Collection: Volume 2 [Composers Recordings Incorporated (CRI) CD 752]

Living as a hobo from the mid-1930s until 1943, Harry Partch traveled on cross continental trains, occasionally working at fruit picking in orchards on the Pacific coast and at W.P.A. jobs. The Wayward is a collection of four works written during this period which together ultimately led to Partch's recognition in the New York music world in the mid-1940s.

U.S. Highball is an autobiographical account of thoughts and experiences of a solitary hobo on a long journey. San Francisco is a haunting musical memory of the cry of newsboys on a foggy night. The Letter is a setting of a letter Partch received from a hobo pal in 1935. Barstow is a setting of a hitchhiker graffiti that Partch copied down from a railing along the highway near Barstow, California.

Dating from 20 years later, And on The Seventh Day Petals Fell in Petaluma represents a high point in Partch's instrumental writing, involving virtuosic writing for twenty-two Partch instruments. Petals was also the first Partch composition recorded for a "commercial" label (CRI in 1967).

Contents:

  • The Wayward:
    1. U.S. Highball - A Musical Account of a Transcontinental Hobo Trip (1943, rev. 1955)
      Thomas Coleman as "Mac"
      Gate 5 Ensemble (Evanston), Jack McKenzie, conductor
      (Recorded 1958, Evanston, Illinois)
    2. San Francisco - a Setting of the Cries of Two Newsboys on a Foggy Night in the Twenties (1943, rev. 1955)
      Harry Partch, voice & instruments, with Danlee Mitchell and Elizabeth Gentry
      (Recorded 1958, Evanston, Illinois)
    3. The Letter (1943, rev. 1972)
      Harry Partch, voice and instruments with ensemble
      (Recorded 1972, Encinitas and San Diego, California)
    4. Barstow - Eight Hitchhiker Inscriptions from a Highway Railing at Barstow, California (1941, rev. 1968)
      The Harry Partch Ensemble, Danlee Mitchell, music director
      (Recorded 1982, Oakland, California)
  • And on The Seventh Day Petals Fell in Petaluma (1963-64, rev. 1966)
    The Gate 5 Ensemble directed by Harry Partch
    (Recorded 1964, Petaluma, California)
Meadows note:

Order CRI Volume 2 from amazon.com


The Harry Partch Collection: Volume 3 [Composers Recordings Incorporated (CRI) CD 753]

Corporeality was a key component to Partch's aesthetic. He often intended his music to be one part of a greater artistic experience that also involved drama, film, dance, or even gymnastics. As such, the four works on this disc display Partch's theatrical and collaborative abilities.

The eloquent and affecting The Dreamer That Remains was Partch's last work. It was commissioned by the patroness Betty Freeman for her film on Partch which was directed by Stephen Pouliot. Rotate the Body in All Its Planes was a spin-off of the "Tumble On" sequence in Partch's large-scale theatre piece Revelation in the Courthouse Park. It was premiered at the National Collegiate Gymnasts Championship in 1961. Windsong was also written for film, the soundtrack to a film by Madeline Tourtelot in which Partch saw the Greek myth of Daphne and Apollo. (A later version of the work was named Daphne of the Dunes). Finally, somewhat akin to a Broadway musical, Water! Water! is perhaps Partch's most lively and lighthearted work. It pokes fun at many targets, especially the rush of audiences for water at the interval; thus the subtitle: "An Intermission with Prologues and Epilogues."

Contents:

  • The Dreamer That Remains - A Study in Loving (1972)
    Harry Partch, intoning voice and narrator
    The Harry Partch Ensemble, Jack Logan, conductor
    (Recorded 1972, San Diego, California)
  • Windsong (1958)
    All instruments played by Harry Partch
    (Recorded 1958, Chicago, Illinois)
  • Rotate the Body in All Its Planes - Ballad for Gymnasts (1961)
    Freda Pierce, solo soprano
    Chorus and instrumental ensemble conducted by John Garvey
  • Water! Water! - An Intermission with Prologues and Epilogues (1961)
    Cast, Chorus and Gate 5 Ensemble (Urbana)
    John Garvey, conductor
    (Recorded 1962, Urbana, Illinois)

Meadows note:

Order CRI Volume 3 from amazon.com


The Harry Partch Collection: Volume 4 [Composers Recordings Incorporated (CRI) CD 754]

The full-length work The Bewitched is satire at its most grand. Partch's dance drama stars a witch and includes choruses of "the bewitched" including a college fraternity and a basketball team among many others. The composer's own detailed synopsis and commentary (reprinted in the CD booklet) is at least as enjoyable as the prologue and ten scenes. Partch conceived and wrote the work in California, 1952-55, and this recording was made at the University of Illinois' Champaign-Urbana campus in 1957.

Contents: The Bewitched - A Dance Satire (1954)
Cast, chorus and ensemble conducted by John Garvey
(Recorded 1957 Champaign-Urbana, Illinois

Meadows note:

Order CRI Volume 4 from amazon.com


Harry Partch: Enclosure II [innova 401: 4 CD set]  

This 4-CD collection of archival Partch recordings includes works from the 1930’s and ‘40’s, a Partch lecture on just intonation, interviews with Partch and his comments on a variety of topics, a newly recorded performance of excerpts from his 1935 hobo journal Bitter Music, and a sound documentary featuring Partch at the piano and reminiscences by his friends.

Contents: (all tracks feature Harry Partch speaking or performing unless otherwise noted)

  • I am Harry Partch (r. 1950-51)
  • By the Rivers of Babylon (137th Psalm) (1943 revised version; r. 1945)
  • Texts and Music: A Wagnerian Wrestling Match (r. 1954)
  • Ten Li Po Lyrics (1930-33; r. 1947)
  • The Use of English in Serious Music (r. 1970)
  • Barstow (Eight Hitch-hiker’s Inscriptions from a Highway Railing at Barstow, California) (1943; r. 1945)
  • San Francisco (A Setting of the Cries of Two Newsboys on a Street Corner on a Foggy Night in the Twenties) (1943; r. 1945)
  • Life is too precious to spend it with important people (r. 1970)
  • U.S. Highball: A Musical Account of Slim’s Transcontinental Hobo trip (1943; r. 1946)
  • While my Heart Keeps Beating Time (1929; r. 1995) – Philip Blackburn, voice; Liz Schmidt, piano
  • San Francisco II (1943; r. 1955) — Illinois Performers’ Workshop Ensemble
  • I’m going to start right off by giving you some sounds (r. 1966)
  • Two Settings from Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (1944; r. 1945)
  • Dark Brother: Final Two Paragraphs from Thomas Wolfe’s ‘God’s Lonely Man’ (1942-43; r. 1945)
  • A Quarter-Saw Section of Motovations and Intonations (r. 1967)
  • Extracts from Bitter Music (1935-36; r. 1992) — Warren Burt, voice; Sheila Guymer, piano
  • Yankee Doodle Birds (r. 1970)
  • Y.D. Fantasy: On the Works of an Early American Tune (1944; r. 1945)
  • O Frabjous Day! (1954; r. 1954)
  • You are charged with being guilty. Are you drunk or not drunk? (r. 1953)
  • Ring Around the Moon: A Dance Fantasm for Here and Now (1949-40; revised version 1953: r. 1953)
  • Bless This House (1961; r. 1961)
  • Harrys Wake: audio bio-drama featuring Partch at the piano (r. 1966) and comments from friends at a memorial meeting (r. 1974)

Order Enclosure II from amazon.com


Harry Partch: Enclosure V [innova 404: 3 CD set]

Enclosure Five, the second audio installment of this multi-media biography of Partch, is a 3-CD set focussing on Partch’s works inspired by ancient Greece. It includes important works published here for the first time, reissues of out-of-print recordings, and new performances. With this issue, virtually the entirety of Partch’s recorded ouevre is publicly available for the first time. Taken with the rest of the Enclosures Series and the Harry Partch Collection on CRI, we can now begin to assess Partch’s whole output.

Contents:

  • Ulysses Departs from the Edge of the World - (1971 Orion LP, Jack Logan, trumpet)
  • Revelation in the Courthouse Park - (1960, Gate 5 Records, Issue F)
  • Spoken introduction to King Oedipus (KPFA-FM, 1954)
  • King Oedipus - (1952, Mills College premiere with W.B. Yeats libretto)
  • Johann Krieger: Menuet (1950, Partch + Ben Johnston)
  • Come Away, Death (from December, 1942) - (1997, Didier Aschour and Vincent Bouchot)
  • By the Rivers of Babylon (137th Psalm) - (1961, Gate Five Records)
  • Spoken introduction to The Bewitched (1959, WNYC)
  • The Bewitched (1980, WDR-Köln)
Meadows note:
  • The reissue of Ulysses is in an arrangement by Jack Logan (and approved by Partch) playing the trumpet part originally intended for Chet Baker;
  • King Oedipus was the culmination of Partch’s Speech-Music period. It is presented in the original version using the translation by W.B. Yeats. Although Partch considered this his most important work (it took 19 years to write) and an excellent performance (featuring the incomparable Allen Louw as Oedipus and Rudolphine Radil—pupil of Mahler—as Jocasta), it was never released because of a permission dispute;
  • The Bewitched (A Dance Satire) is a live recording from a 1980 performance in Cologne, West (then) Germany featuring an extraordinary ensemble (produced by Kenneth Gaburo for the Berlin Festival, with Danlee Mitchell, music director and Isabelle Tercero as The Witch).
  • Partch’s own spoken introductions to two of the works are included as well as an extensive booklet.

Order Enclosure V from amazon.com


Newband: Partch, Cage, La Barbara, Drummond [Mode 18]
Newband - Dean Drummond, Artistic Director

This is the first of three available recordings by Newband (current custodians of the original Partch instruments), the ensemble led by Dean Drummond. This first CD contains only one short Partch composition, the Two Studies on Ancient Greek Scales and it is not the original Partch composition but a transcription for flute and one of Drummond's instruments, the zoomoozophone. The arrangement was done before Newband had the original instruments; now the Studies are represented in their original (preferred) form on CRI Vol. 2. You might be interested in the other music on this CD, but knowing his antipathy for the man and his compositional style, Harry is probably rolling in his grave being paired with John Cage -- two iconoclasts with little, if anything, in common.

Meadows note: I don't currently have an online link; it is available from Newband directly.


Newband Plays Microtonal Works by Partch, Pugliese, Drummond, Rosenblum, Monk [Mode 33]
Newband - Dean Drummond, Artistic Director

I happen to like this one better. This disc contains, again, just one Partch work -- Daphne of the Dunes. Newband sets forth with a clean performance and quality recording of the piece; objectivity is impossible for me, having played this piece many times with the Partch Ensemble, and I can hear little things to tweak, but this is recording represents the piece well.

The rest of the disc is a mixed-bag of contemporary works, and it's the least likely candidate that catchs my ear the most: Drummond's arrangement for zoomoozophone and cello of Thelonious Monk's 'Round Midnight. Not set in a smoky bar, but in a very alien environment, with the z-phone wafting like vapors. No saxophones in sight...

Meadows note: I don't currently have an online link; it is available from Newband directly.


Dance of the Seven Veils [Music & Arts 931]
Newband - Dean Drummond, Artistic Director

This last Newband CD also only contains one Partch piece, Castor & Pollux. So far, the best performance of this piece remains out of print, on the old "The World of Harry Partch" LP (which Drummond played on); the performance from the 50's on CRI Vol. 1 is somewhat inept and muddy, and this Newband performance, while clean and clearly recorded, lacks fire. Of the two available, though, I'd take Newband's.

Dean Drummond himself is growing as a composer, and the longer he has the Partch instruments the more the music seems to actually come from them instead of being laid on them. The title track is a nice blending of the original instruments with some newer ones, and it might catch your fancy; post-Impressionistic scenes inspired by author Tom Robbin's Skinny Legs and All.

Order Dance of the Seven Veils from amazon.com


Harry Partch: 17 Lyrics of Li Po [Tzadik 7012]
Stephen Kalm, intoning voice; Ted Mook, tenor violin

Cellist Ted Mook and baritone Stephen Kalm present, for the first time, all 17 Li Po settings that Harry revised over a period of thirty years. This is Harry at his most intimate (the first Gate 5 recording containing some of these was entitled "Thirty Years of Lyrical and Dramatic Music"). The amount of work involved in preparing these 17 settings was enormous, and Ted obviously cared about the project very much. Ten of these 'songs' are included on Enclosure Two, with Harry Partch (adapted viola) performing with vocalist William Wendtland. The differences between the two are significant.

The quality of this recording is, of course, far superior, and it appears that, technically speaking, the Mook/Kalm performances are more accurate (judging by the intonation between cello and voice). Whether accuracy is the ultimate benchmark is left to the listener. I simply offer this thought: Stephen Kalm possesses a lovely voice, in a Western European art-song style. While listening to this recording I keep conjuring images of the pristine salon culture and blue hair that Harry abhorred and avoided. For me, and for this reason, it just doesn't work, and I say this after an initial warming to their performance; maybe I was just happy to hear all 17. I am now spouting ambivalence, but it is a difficult call: the CD has a place in a collection for completeness, but I have a hard time offering support for the effort, noble as it may be.

Meadows note: The booklet with the CD wins, hands down, the award for the worst combination of color choices and microscopic type-setting -- it is nearly impossible to read!! I therefore recommend, if you would like to peruse the lyrics to the Li Po settings, you see our page entitled Lyrical Partch, which has the poems write there on your CRT.

Order Li Po from amazon.com


Just West Coast - Microtonal Music [Bridge 9041]
John Schneider (guitar) with Amy Schulman

This CD includes both the Two Studies on Ancient Greek Scales (adapted for guitar and harp) and the only recording of the first version of Barstow, for guitar and voice. Also contained are microtonal pieces by Harrison, Young and Cage.

I know that for John Schneider the Barstow project was a long labor of love, and that he went to incredible lengths to resurrect this version, including having a guitar custom adapted/made for the piece. I also know that he listened to Harry perform the piece. I know this from a wonderful article he wrote about the experience. So I recommend it, but with some hesitations (not including my long-standing problem with transcriptions).

This was recorded pretty soon after John had resurrected the piece, and I don't think he had enough time to "inhabit" the character of the lives contained theirin. It lacks the sense of waiting in the high desert at a guardrail for a ride: sad, desperate, lonely, giddy people that Harry filled in the cracks with fantasy. There is not enough dirt, little sweat. But, again, that may be me, overly familiar as I am. Your mileage may vary...

Order Just West Coast from amazon.com


Revelation In The Courthouse Park [Tomato Records R2 70390 - 2 CD set]
American Music Theater Festival, Artistic Director: Eric Salzman
Music Director and Conductor: Danlee Mitchell

Certainly one of Partch's major contributions, "Revelation" is a large music-theater work based on the Bacchae of Euripides. This recording was the culmination of the 1987 production in Philadelphia at the University of the Arts Great Hall. I will tell you (having taken part in the production and recording) that the difficult logistics involved in, and the small amount of time allocated, to record the piece don't show up nearly as much as I expected. There are some ragged spots, but this is one of the best sounding recordings of one of the 'large' works. You can experience Partch's 'orchestration' at it's meaty fullest, and the work itself has many very strong moments. An excellent booklet is included, with libretto, background on Partch, the piece, the instruments and very colorful photos.

The only bad news is it will be very difficult to find; if I can find a resource for copies of this, I'll post it here and on the main Meadows page.


Partch Videos

Enclosure I [innova 400: VHS-video, NTSC format]

Four historic short color films made by Partch in collaboration with Madeline Tourtelot. This 74-minute VHS videotape (NTSC/U.S. format) includes a 12-page booklet containing Partch’s own written introductions to these films.

  • Rotate the Body in All Its Planes (1961): a study of graceful, dance-like gymnastics movements with specially composed music by Partch (9 minutes).
  • Music Studio—Harry Partch (1958): Partch takes the viewer on a tour of his Chicago music studio, and demonstrates his microtonal instruments. Includes his description of how the soundtrack for Windsong was made. Check out Partch’s hand-painted window curtains and studio decorations! (17 minutes).
  • U.S. Highball (1958; completed 1968): Partch and his ensemble perform a dramatized account of riding the rails during the Depression on a transcontinental hobo trip to Chicago (24 minutes).
  • Windsong (1958): the ancient Greek legend of Daphne and Apollo, transported to Lake Michigan. Partch’s soundtrack for this film later became known as ‘Daphne of the Dunes’ (17 minutes).

Order Enclosure I from amazon.com


Enclosure IV [innova 404: VHS-video, NTSC format]

Enclosure Four includes a 1971 film version of Partch's major dramatic work, Delusion of the Fury, the ritual drama that established his international reputation and guru-like status. Produced by Chicago filmmaker Madeline Tourtelot, the 75-minute work shows Partch's hand-built orchestra of instruments performing an African and Noh-inspired story in some of his most compelling music in his mature style.

The video continues with the first release of The Music of Harry Partch, a 1968 San Diego KPBS-TV documentary featuring an outdoor performance of another Partch favorite, Daphne of the Dunes.

Meadows note:

Order Enclosure IV from amazon.com


The Dreamer That Remains: A Study in Loving [New Dimension Media, Inc: VHS-video, NTSC format]
Stephen Poulliot, director; Betty Freeman, producer

I said it to many people over the years: the closest thing I've ever found, to give someone an idea of what it was like being around Harry Partch, is the documentary The Dreamer That Remains. This wonderful film has not been easily obtainable in the past, but it is one of the only glimpses at Harry near the end of his life. Part music-drama, part story-telling documentary, this is a warmly-hued look at Harry. Probably not as objective as a musicologist (or psychologist) might like, but there it is. Lovingly crafted by Stephen Pouliot, it also stands as a place of honor for Betty Freeman, for all of the support she gave to Harry over many years.

In the months since both Philip Blackburn and Bob Gilmore have published their respective books on/about Partch, the chapters that detail the time surrounding the making of this film make for harrowing reading, with many details that a lot of us involved in the shooting and recording weren't aware of. That said, I can't recommend this film highly enough. If you are serious in your interest in Partch, you must have it.

Oh, and that shadowy person in the photo from the set, in the funny big "O", is yours truly many, many years ago...

Meadows note: Dreamer can still be ordered, $34.95 + 5.00 shipping (last I knew) through CRI (though I think it is still 'owned' by New Dimension Media, Inc. Contact for CRI would be:

By email, get a hold of Mr. Fred Scott (orders, etc) at:
fscott@composersrecordings.com

By snail mail, etc:

Composer's Recordings, Inc.
ATTN: Fred Scott, Business Manager
73 Spring St. Suite 506
New York, NY 10012

phone 212.941.9673
fax 212.941.9704


Partch Books

Genesis of a Music: An Account of a Creative Work, Its Roots and Its Fulfillments
by Harry Partch
Da Capo Press, 1979 (second edition reissued in paperback)

Harry Partch is legendary as the quintessential American experimentalist and instrument inventor. He broke away from the European tradition of tonality, tonal structure, and instrumentation to such an extent that Jacques Barzun, intellectual historian, could say, "I happen to think that only in music have truly new directions been found, and that these are two and only two: electronic music and the 43-tone works and instruments of Harry Partch." Partch invented a 43-tone scale, thereby providing a definitive model for microtonality, and he invented the instruments to play his music in that scale. This book can be read as both manifesto and explanation of his theories of tuning and instrument-building. The first version of this book was written in 1947, then enlarged to a second edition in 1972 which was published by Da Capo Press in 1974. This book is a reprint of that edition. 517 pages, photos, illustrations. Size 6" x 9". Da Capo

Order "Genesis of a Music" from amazon.com


Harry Partch: A Biography
by Bob Gilmore
Yale University Press, 1998

Bob Gilmore has written a superb biography of Harry Partch, one of the most original composers, instrument builders, and theorists of the 20th century. This book, based largely on interviews with Partch's associates and research in Partch's archives, is the first to tell the complete story of Partch's life, including his youth in the southwestern United States, his early musical education, his interest in speech intonation and rhythm, his immersion in hobo culture during the depression, and his relationships with the artworld. The book also tells the story of Partch's interest in intonation and instrument-building.

Order "Harry Partch: A Biography" from amazon.com


Enclosure III [innova 402: 5-lb artbook]
by Dr. Philip Blackburn
Winner of a 1998 Deems Taylor Special Citation

A full-length portrait of an unconventional life, Enclosure Three (ISBN: 0-9656569-0-X) is a luxury limited-edition (800 copies, the first 200 autographed), 528-page, lavishly-illustrated, hardcover art-, bio-, scrapbook of Partch. It is the first biography of one of America's most original and influential artists told through over 1,000 facsimile documents in his own words: 330+ photos; essays; sketches; scores; correspondence with AnaÔs Nin, W. B. Yeats, Edmund Dulac, John Cage, Lou Harrison, Martha Graham, Alwin Nikolais, Bruce Goff, Kenneth Anger, and Ben Johnston.

Partch's life touched many of the central characters in American twentieth century art, literature, theater, architecture, film, dance and music. For Partch fans and neophytes alike, Enclosure Three contains essential source material for all those interested in unusual lives, Depression-era Americana, cultural history and creative educational approaches.

Contents: (include the following satires, writings, and commentaries by Partch himself)

  • A Modern Parable 1 and 2
  • The Umbilical Chord Still Vibrates
  • On G-String Formality
  • KPFA lecture series
  • Manual on the Maintenance and Repair of — and the Musical and Attitudinal Techniques for — Some Putative Musical Instruments
  • Some Old and New Thoughts After and Before ‘The Bewitched’
  • Drawings from ‘Bitter Music’ and ‘End Littoral’
  • Bach and Temperament
  • The Kithara
  • Barstow
  • Musicians as “Artists”
  • No Barriers
  • The Ancient Magic
  • A Somewhat Spoof
  • Toward a Ritual Music Consciousness
  • Verbal Scenarios for ‘Cry From Another Darkness (Delusion of the Fury)’, ‘The Dreamer That Remains’, ‘The Bewitched’, and other incomplete works

Meadows note: This book is the twin-child of Bob Gilmore's biography; the two work in tandem as one to fill out a portrait of an artist in a more complete manner than may have been accomplished previously. To see Partch's words flow, year after year, as he struggles, nay, mud wrestles with his muse and his demons, is extraordinary. I have a small homage to Enclosure III elsewhere on the site, but it is hard to do a work like this any justice at all. Of what will sure to be, at some point, legendary value.

Order Enclosure III from amazon.com


Bitter Music: Collected Journals, Essays, Introductions, and Librettos
by Harry Partch (ed. and with introduction by Thomas McGeary)
University of Illinois Press, 1991

Bitter Music presents Partch's ideas about the place of music in society, his work as a composer, his compositions, and his unique instruments. The anthology opens with "Bitter Music," a journal Partch kept while he wandered the American West as a transient during the Depression. Partch himself had thought the journal was lost. Deeply personal, it provides important biographical information on a formative period in his life and hints at the insecurity that pervaded his career, the institutional support he enjoyed one year and the economic hardship he endured the next. An important work of American Depression literature, the journal is unique for its inclusion of musically notated speech and folk and popular music. A second journal, "End Littoral" records a hiking trip along the rugged California coastline.

The anthology also offers twelve essays detailing Partch's provocative analysis of the relation of music and the composer to society. Two are published here for the first time; the others appeared in often obscure or ephemeral publications between 1941 and 1972. Included as well are twelve extended discussions by Partch of his own compositions, in the form of introductions or program notes, of which ten are published here for the first time. The anthology concludes with librettos or scenarios for six of his major narrative or dramatic compositions.

While they have a good deal going, order "Bitter Music" from barnesandnoble.com
or
order "Bitter Music" from amazon.com

The Meadows Recommendations

Making recommendations isn't easy, and what I list below I'll probably feel different about tomorrow; however, if Partch's work is all new to you then you can start with the following. Try listening to clips from the amazon.com links if you aren't sure if you'll like a particular piece, and for a different opinion than mine you can read a broad survey/review (reproduced here on-site) that Adrian Corleonis wrote for Fanfare Magazine. Listed roughly in order of importance:

Recordings

  1. CRI Harry Partch Collection Volume 2  This release combines versions of Partch's important 'cycle' The Wayward, and most notably U.S. Highball. USH is the chronicle of a transcontinental hobo trip on the rails, and must be considered one of the most significant American artworks yet (see the page The Garlic Highball for a little more background). Additionally, And on the Seventh Day Petals Fell in Petaluma, an all instrumental work, shows a mature, complex style of writing for his very full 'orchestra' near the end of his compositional life, and this music late became part of the fabric for the great Delusion of the Fury.
  2. Enclosure II: Harry Partch  This 4-disc set is an investment, but you will come much closer to knowing what this man was about after perusing the contents. Less a collection of music than an audio scrapbook, EII contains many sections of Partch himself speaking on music and life, along with historic archival recordings, many with Partch himself as a performer, accompanied by a wonderful and in-depth set of liner notes and photos. A couple things on here don't do it for me, but it is still a collection that pretty well changed my life when I heard it.
  3. CRI Harry Partch Collection Volume 1  The first pieces on this disc, Eleven Intrusions, are some of Partch's most effective and haunting setting of text to music. Composed (primarily) in the loneliness of the Northern California coast, and recorded with the composer and a few associates, these seminal pieces are the inflection point from Partch's early speech works towards a larger music theater form -- unforgettable stuff. The Plectra and Percussion Dances combine sprightly instrumental writing with a sly and satirical wink at vocals and vocalists. As with CRI Vols. 2 and 3, great notes by Partch scholar Bob Gilmore.
  4. From there, it's all up to you. I will say that once Enclosure VI is released, which is the masterpiece Delusion of the Fury, no home should be without one. The Newband releases contain much good music, and if you can sit still, the recordings featuring Partch's large scale theater works (Revelation in the Courthouse Park, The Bewitched, King Oedipus, among others) would be a logical progression and contain some powerful phrases. I haven't even picked out for you the ones I played on...

Videos

Of the three, The Dreamer That Remains is the only document on earth that can give you a flavor of what composer Harry Partch was like; part documentary, part music-drama piece, it is worth tracking down. Enclosure I is interesting both for the film version of U.S.Highball as well as a glimpse of Partch at work, earlier in his life, in Music Studio. And if you've ever wondered what Delusion looked like, it's on Enclosure IV.

Books

For the only strict biography (and well-done at that), the Gilmore book is the way to go, though Harry's life wasn't exactly a bowl of kiwi fruit; for one of the most unusual and affecting looks at a creative life, Enclosure III, while a big investment, is unsurpassed in terms of cataloguing the bits and pieces of a life -- a rare document. Partch's own book, Genesis of a Music is part theoretical exposition, philosophical treatise and catalog of works and instruments; absolutely essential if you want to investigate the just intonation foundations of his compositions.


I hope this helps, but feel free to write to picks@corporeal.com if you have other questions; I'll do my best to answer (if I don't get swamped). Listed below are links to some online resources for tracking some of the items listed above, along with a direct search link to Amazon (click on the logo to go to their home page) - if you find it there you'll be helping, with your purchase to support organic gardening and reforestation right here on Corporeal Meadows.

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