Harry Partch

Biography

Born: June 24, 1901; Oakland, CA   Died: September 3, 1974; San Diego, CA  
The child of former missionaries, composer Harry Partch grew up in a musical family, and at an early age taught himself to play the guitar, harmonium, clarinet, and other instruments. During his early school years in Arizona and New Mexico he had some rudimentary music lessons, which he found unexciting and conventional. He wrote a considerable amount of music as a youth, but set it all afire in a pot-bellied stove around 1930.
Read more /> Partch's intensive studies in music history and intonation led him to reject conventional Western tunings and musical techniques. He devised a 43-note octave, and started adapting and building instruments to perform the new kind of music he was envisioning. Employment was hard to come by in those years, and Partch spent the Depression wandering the United States as a hobo, doing occasional odd jobs. Those experiences are reflected in his early works Barstow -- 8 Hitchhiker Inscriptions from a Highway Railing at Barstow, California (1941) and U.S. Highball -- A Musical Account of a Transcontinental Hobo Trip (1943).

Over the next three-plus decades, Partch created dozens of new reed, string, and percussion instruments using a variety of materials including found objects like artillery shell casings, Pyrex jars, bottles, and old fuel tanks. Many of the works he wrote for this ensemble are ambitious theater pieces that incorporate dance, mime, costumes, and ritual: Oedipus, The Bewitched (A Dance Satire, 1955), Revelation in the Courthouse Square, and Delusion of the Fury (1969), perhaps his best-known work. Partch never held a formal teaching post, although he was employed as a researcher at various times at the Universities of Wisconsin, Illinois, and California. He supported himself through foundation grants, and the publication, performing, and recording of his works, working for much of that time out of an abandoned shipyard in Sausalito, California. The Gate 5 Ensemble (named after one of the gates at the shipyard) was created to perform his works, and Gate 5 Recordings made many of them available on record.

Partch's book Genesis of a Music (1949, revised 1974) details Partch's theories and methods, and describes many of his works in detail. The idiosyncratic list of influences Partch cites includes "Christian hymns, Chinese lullabyes, Yaqui Indian ritual, Congo puberty ritual, Cantonese music hall, and Okies in California vineyards, among others." Hints of all these, and many more besides, can be found in Partch's unique music. Read less

There are 29 Harry Partch recordings available.

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Works

Formats & Featured

Harry Partch


MOST POPULAR WORKS
Instrumental Tunings: Harmonic Canon I as in Revelation; Petals; Chromelodeon two sets of reeds; Revelation
Dissonances and Consonance: Coda to Oedipus; Coda to Revelation
June 11, 1935 - Santa Rosa, California
June 12 - Federal Shelter, Stockton
06/13/10
06/14/10
June 16 - Harrington Ranch, San Joaquin Delta
06/17/10
07/04/10
07/14/10
07/16/10
07/19/10
July 20 - Heading North, Between Sacramento and Redding
July 24 - Federal Shelter, Portland
July 25 - Blue Ox Lodge, Seattle, Washington
07/27/10
07/29/10
07/30/10
August 7 - Between Grants Pass and Klamath Falls, Oregon
08/15/10
October 22 - Nearing Monterey
October 24 - Leaving Big Sur
October 25 - Near Slate's Hot Springs
10/26/10
10/27/10
10/28/10
10/29/10
October 30 - Big Creek
November 12 - Santa Barbara
11/14/10
November 15 - Leaving Santa Barbara
November 16 - Ojai
11/17/10
November 23 - Los Angeles
11/28/10
12/04/10
December, 1935
February 1, 1936 - San Bernardino
Exordium: The Beginning of a Web
Act I: Treats with Death and with Life Despite Death: Chorus of Shadows
Act I: Treats with Death and with Life Despite Death: The Pilgrimage
Act I: Treats with Death and with Life Despite Death: Emergence of the Spirit
Act I: Treats with Death and with Life Despite Death: A Son in Search of his Father's Face
Act I: Treats with Death and with Life Despite Death: Cry from Another Darkness
Act I: Treats with Death and with Life Despite Death: Pray for Me
Act I: Sanctus: An Entra'cte
Act II: Treats with Life and with Life Despite Life: The Quiet Hobo Meal
Act II: Treats with Life and with Life Despite Life: The host Kid
Act II: Treats with Life and with Life Despite Life: Time of Fun Together
Act II: Treats with Life and with Life Despite Life: The Misunderstanding
Act II: Treats with Life and with Life Despite Life: Arrest, Trial and Judgement (Joy in the Marketplace!)
Act II: Pray for Me Again - A Strange Fear!
I. Olympus' Pantatonic
II. Archytas Enharmonic
III. The Rose
IV. The Crane
V. The Waterfall
VI. The Wind
VII. The Street
VIII. Lover
IX. Soldiers - War - Another War
X. Vanity
XI. Cloud Chamber Music
WORKS
Instrumental Tunings: Harmonic Canon I as in Revelation; Petals; Chromelodeon two sets of reeds; Revelation
Dissonances and Consonance: Coda to Oedipus; Coda to Revelation
June 11, 1935 - Santa Rosa, California
June 12 - Federal Shelter, Stockton
06/13/10
06/14/10
June 16 - Harrington Ranch, San Joaquin Delta
06/17/10
07/04/10
07/14/10
07/16/10
07/19/10
July 20 - Heading North, Between Sacramento and Redding
July 24 - Federal Shelter, Portland
July 25 - Blue Ox Lodge, Seattle, Washington
07/27/10
07/29/10
07/30/10
August 7 - Between Grants Pass and Klamath Falls, Oregon
08/15/10
October 22 - Nearing Monterey
October 24 - Leaving Big Sur
October 25 - Near Slate's Hot Springs
10/26/10
10/27/10
10/28/10
10/29/10
October 30 - Big Creek
November 12 - Santa Barbara
11/14/10
November 15 - Leaving Santa Barbara
November 16 - Ojai
11/17/10
November 23 - Los Angeles
11/28/10
12/04/10
December, 1935
February 1, 1936 - San Bernardino
Exordium: The Beginning of a Web
Act I: Treats with Death and with Life Despite Death: Chorus of Shadows
Act I: Treats with Death and with Life Despite Death: The Pilgrimage
Act I: Treats with Death and with Life Despite Death: Emergence of the Spirit
Act I: Treats with Death and with Life Despite Death: A Son in Search of his Father's Face
Act I: Treats with Death and with Life Despite Death: Cry from Another Darkness
Act I: Treats with Death and with Life Despite Death: Pray for Me
Act I: Sanctus: An Entra'cte
Act II: Treats with Life and with Life Despite Life: The Quiet Hobo Meal
Act II: Treats with Life and with Life Despite Life: The host Kid
Act II: Treats with Life and with Life Despite Life: Time of Fun Together
Act II: Treats with Life and with Life Despite Life: The Misunderstanding
Act II: Treats with Life and with Life Despite Life: Arrest, Trial and Judgement (Joy in the Marketplace!)
Act II: Pray for Me Again - A Strange Fear!
I. Olympus' Pantatonic
II. Archytas Enharmonic
III. The Rose
IV. The Crane
V. The Waterfall
VI. The Wind
VII. The Street
VIII. Lover
IX. Soldiers - War - Another War
X. Vanity
XI. Cloud Chamber Music


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