Archive for August, 2009

Harry Partch

August 7, 2009
with Cloud-Chamber Bowls/ photo by Fred Lyon

with Cloud-Chamber Bowls/ photo by Fred Lyon

I’ve long loved the work of Harry Partch. At first, I had trouble finding his work. Then I found the 3 LP set of Delusion of the Fury. This included a booklet showing photos of his various instrument creations. One LP disc had samplings of various instruments. You could listen to the instrument being played and match it to the photo of the instrument.

Then I found a lot of Harry Partch music at my local public library. Some of this was on CDs and some on (somewhat) scratchy old LPs. Since then, I’ve tracked down more of his music, until I think I’ve heard most of what he recorded. I’m always searching for more.

I’ve read the biography of Harry Partch by Bob Gilmore. It helped me to get a better sense of his life. I’ve read some of Partch’s own writings and am trying to read more. I know that there are at least two books of those, probably still in print. I’ll try to track them down.

His nephew Virgil Partch was one of my favorite cartoonists. He was a really wild artist and often very funny. I’ll probably write more on him someday.

They both have a certain “surreal sensibility” in common (whether they knew of or believed in surrealism or not).

Partch’s music seems very influenced by “world music” before it was common or fashionable. There are often oriental or African overtones. He used unusual tunings and combinations of instruments.

In one of my musical projects, we design and build our own instruments at times (in “the Space Band”). We hope to take this further eventually. So Partch’s work’s a direct inspiration on some of the music I play. It’s but one inspiration among many, true, but not to be discounted.

Writing this makes me want to listen to his music. I’ll add it to my list of things to do soon.

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