The Quality of Vitality: Music by Harry Partch

By John Loffink (published in Surface Noise No. 5 & 6, Winter & Summer, 1982, revised April 1998)

(c) copyright 1982 and 1998 by John Loffink


Part 1

Perhaps the most common scenario of the modern creative composer/musician is that of the artist, independent from academic, commercial, or public support, producing and releasing on vinyl (with limited personal finances) his/her own music. This is done in spite of apathy from the general populace. While such a scenario is probably all too agonizingly familiar to persons reading an alternative magazine such as this, I feel inclined to present the following quote by Harry Partch from his book GENESIS OF A MUSIC to give a bit of perspective:

"The point is…whether in our schools of serious music we shall confine ourselves to finer and still finer degrees of perfection in the "interpretation" of past treasures, whether we shall go on devouring or unconsciously absorbing vibrating frankfurters (Partch's accurate description of radio) to the point of melomaniacal satiety at which our appetite vanishes, or whether some few of us will chuck the music school, turn off the radio, and go into the kitchen and cook ourselves a nourishing meal."

As it turns out, what Partch himself cooked up was not a mere nourishing meal, but a genuine feast! The item that puts this in perspective is that the statement was first published in 1949, a full two and a half decades before any significant number of other artists realized similar philosophies independently, creating the current alternative music boom.

The albums of his own music that Partch released on the independent GATE 5 label from 1953 to 1962 were only a "symptom" of his musical endeavors. Harry Partch, born in 1901, began to seriously write music at the age of fourteen. Yet in the years that followed, years that included a quartet, a symphonic poem, and many short pieces, discontent with the orthodox Western musical culture grew within him until, at age twenty-eight, he burned all of his scores in a large iron stove, achieving emancipation from the old ways. Partch was now free to delve into musical theories to suit his own, human needs and by the late 1920's he realized that this would require the construction of new instruments to bring those ideas to fruition. Fortunately, Partch was familiar with woodworking and common tools.

Partch's musical metamorphosis is not so surprising when considering the influences he cited: Christian hymns, Chinese lullabyes, Yaqui Indian ritual, Congo puberty ritual, Cantonese music hall, and Okies in California vineyards. Most of these dated from his preteens, from second-hand sources such as his parents, former missionaries to China, and Edison cylinder records. All of these influenced Partch's desire for a corporeal music, as opposed to abstract (the basis of Western music) which arises from pure form.

Through intuition Partch decided it was the spoken word that was the most fitting mode of expression for him. Though he realized music of past cultures had recognized this kind of music, Partch wrote music for harmonized spoken words for his own satisfaction, not to pick up where other cultures had left off. These works included parts for new instruments in a new scale (with fourty-three tones per octave) as a vital part of this music. From 1930 to 1933, Partch composed three works for intoning voice and adapted viola. "Seventeen Lyrics by Li Po" adapted writings of the eighth-century Chinese poet. "Two Psalms" used Biblical psalms. "The Potion Scene" drew from Shakespeare. These works were performed from 1932 to 1934 for many small groups and clubs in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York.

A grant-in-aid from the Carnegie Corporation of New York let Partch travel to the British Museum, Dublin, Italy, and Malta in 1935. Upon his return, however, he discovered a jobless America, and found himself taking dishwashing jobs and such. Partch's personal "Great Depression" lasted until 1943, and in that time he often found himself in the company of hobos, an experience which was to profoundly influence one of his works from the early forties, "The Wayward." The piece was divided into four parts: "Barstow - Eight Hitchiker Inscriptions from a Highway Railing at Barstow, California," "U.S. Highball - A Musical Account of a Transcontinental Hobo Trip," "San Francisco - A Setting of the Cries of Two Newsboys on a Foggy Night in the 'Twenties," and "The Letter - A Depression Message from a Hobo Friend." Made possible by a Guggenheim Fellowship grant in 1943, "The Wayward" was composed for intoning voice, Adapted Guitar 1, Kithara, Chromelodeon, and Adapted Viola.

In 1949 Genesis of a Music, a book by Partch on microtonal music including his own, was published. It was enlarged and reissued by Da Capo Press in 1974, and recently reissued in 1997 without the original plates. After a half dozen short works, Partch composed in 1949 through 1952 "Plectra and Percussion Dances." It consisted of three parts totaling about sixty minutes: "Castor and Pollux," "Ring Around the Moon," and "Even Wild Horses." With this work, and to a lesser extent "Oedipus - A Music-Dance Drama" (1951-1954), a work lasting seventy-five to eighty minutes, Partch's music began giving more emphasis to complex rhythmic sections of instrumental music. By this time Partch had as many as fifteen original instruments with which to compose. Two shorter pieces, "Two Settings from Lewis Carroll" and "Ulysses at the Edge," were written in 1954 and 1955 respectively.

"The Bewitched - A Dance Satire" (1955) was Partch's next major work. Titles of the ten scenes (plus prologue and epilogue) include "The Romancing of a Pathological Liar Comes to an Inspired End," "A Court in Its Own Contempt Rises to a Motherly Apotheosis," and "The Cognoscenti Are Plunged Into a Demonic Descent While at Cocktails." The lengthy satire (around seventy-five minutes) premiered at the Festival of Contemporary Arts of 1957 by the University of Illinois Musical Ensemble. The ensemble was trained by Partch especially for the performance, and included clarinets, piccolo, and cello in addition to Partch's instruments. Though the vocal presence was strong, it was the polyrhythmic instrumental sections which dominated. "The Bewitched" was Partch's first work to directly combine dance-theater with his music. The instruments were placed on risers in the set, to be part of the actual performance, as opposed to being separated from the dancers and singers.

In 1958 Partch wrote "Windsong" as a score to a film about the myth of Daphne and Apollo by Madeline Tourtelot. This was rewritten in 1967 for dance to become "Daphne of the Dunes."

"Revelation in the Courthouse Park - After The Bacchae of Euripides" was another major theater-song piece, though performed outdoors. At first Partch thought of updating the Euripides work to an American setting, but in the end he decided to alternate between Greek and American scenes. "Revelation" was performed at the University of Illinois in 1961. Three shorter works followed all in 1961. "Rotate the Body in All Its Planes" was written for an exhibition of gymnasts. A setting for a poem by Vincenzo Prockelo was created in "Bless This Home." "Water! Water! - An Intermission with Prologues and Epilogues" was an unfinished farce.

"And on the Seventh Day Petals Fell in Petaluma" (1963-1966) consisted of one minute verses of duets, trios, quartets, quintets, and one septet. It is the most concise of Partch's works, and so probably the easiest of his works to assimilate. Rhythms and polyrhythms are stripped to their barest, if still complex, essentials.

"Delusion of the Fury --- A Ritual of Dream and Delusion" was Partch's last major work, another theater piece ranging seventy-five to eighty minutes in length, and by far his most successful. Act I was based on an eleventh century Japanese tale, and Act II was based on an African folk story. All of his instruments (except the Adapted Viola) were used at some point in the work. Ideally, musicians while not performing become actors or dancers, all in costume, another manifestation of corporeality. Most of "Petaluma" was integrated into the highly complex "Delusion." It was the last of his works before his death in 1974 if one discounts some music created for his film biography, "The Dreamer that Remains" (1972).

While recognition of Partch's musical inventiveness never became significant until the fifties (it is certainly something he never strived for), his influence has been steadily growing since. The facet of his music that has been most pervasive is not his ideas on corporeality and the combination of theater-music, nor even the construction and use of new instrumental resources. Partch's greatest impact has been to stimulate the exploration of non-standard scales, microtonal intervals, whose possibilities have barely been touched upon even today.

There are three main types of microtonal scales. One is equal temperament, where the octave is divided into equal steps of various numbers, with nineteen, twenty-two, thirty-one, and fifty-three divisions (notes) offering the best overall possibilities. A scale of twelve equal divisions is, of course, the common Western scale in use today by 99.9% of all musicians. A scale of twenty-four tones is the quartertone system which includes the ordinary twelve scale within it. This is used by some 20th century classical composers. Equal tempered is the scale most easily achieved by analog synthesizers and refretted instruments such as guitars. As was been shown by the late Ivor Darreg, the most ardent explorer and publicizer of this field, each non-12 scale has its own "mood," and as such provides new avenues of expression for the creative composer.

Well temperament is basically a compromise between equal temperament and just intonation. Not every interval is represented exactly, but neither are the steps between notes equal in value as in equal temperament. Some keys might be perfectly in tune while others may be mistuned from the perfect ratios.

The other main type of scale is just intonation; this is the sort that Partch explored extensively and delineated in his music. Here exact harmonic ratios determine the unequally spaced note values. After unity (the same note in duet) the simplest harmonic ratio between two tones is the octave (2/1), followed by the fifth (3/2 - closely approximated on the twleve-tone system). However, many other important ratios are not analogous to notes found in twelve-tone or any equal temperament system. Whereas an equal tempered scale only approximates certain select harmonic ratios, in just intonation the ratios are exact and chords, for example, are sharp and clear as opposed to the "fuzziness" of equal temperament. The ratios can be taken as far as one wants, becoming more dissonant as they become more complex. With a few exceptions, Partch stopped at divisions of eleven. Partch used a total of fourty-three tones per octave, though with just intonation it was not necessary for every instrument to contain every note, but only those most suitable. Just intonation usually requires that new instruments be built for its exploration; such scales on fretted instruments are difficult, and analog synthesizers (which can achieve equal temperament with a simple control voltage processing device) need modifications to the actual keyboard circuitry.

If one considers the amount of music composed for the Western twelve-tone scale, and realizes that there are three or four other equal tempered scales that are just as valid harmonically, the potential for these scales becomes obvious. Consider also that "mediocrity" is a concept determined mostly by excessive repetition; that every "banal" melody you have ever heard was classified so by its unoriginality. With either type of microtonal scale, new melodies and harmonies are inevitable. Yet it remains that these scales have been completely ignored by the majority of "progressive" and "experimental" musicians of today. Whether this will continue to be so is unknown, but I believe that this resource can provide new opportunities for musicians who wish to retain tonal and harmonic elements in their music, yet who are dissatisfied with the possibilities of the twelve-note scale that engulfs us all. For as Partch wrote:

"Music, 'good' or not 'good,' has only two ingredients that might be called God-given: the capacity of a body to vibrate and produce sound and the mechanism of the human ear that registers it. These two ingredients can be studied and analyzed, but they cannot be changed; they are the comparative constants. All else in the art of music, which may also be studied and analyzed, was created by man or is implicit in human acts and is therefore subject to the fiercest scrutiny - and ultimately to approval, indifference, or contempt. In other words, all else is subject to change."


Part 2

Harry Partch (1901-1974) did not divide the octave into 43 unequal steps, and build instruments to play that scale, on a whim. His ideas on music began intuitively in the mid-20's and soon coalesced into the principle of corporeality vs. abstraction. Only out of this arose his need for a broader selection of tones within the octave.

Corporeal music, according to Partch, arose from vocal and verbal music of the individual. It did not grow from pure form. Most music of ancient cultures, folk music, poem recitations, drama and some popular music were identified with this term. Abstraction, meanwhile, was identified with music arising from non-verbal forms -- songs with words meant to convey not meaning but only mood, and all purely instrumental music. European and European-influenced classical music was, of course, the greatest example of abstraction, of music conveyed on a mental or spiritual plane. As an illustration of the tremendous gap between the musics, I offer the following by William P. Malm from Music Cultures of the Pacific, the Near East, and Asia (Prentice-Hall, 1967):

"One of the first admirable aspects of Arnhem Land music is its meaningfulness to the culture. Music is used throughout an aboriginal's life to teach him what he must know about his culture, about his place in it, and about its place in the world of nature and supernature. As a baby he is encouraged to dance and sing about everyday tasks. At puberty he learns his first karma songs -- about the totemic plants and animals of his clan and the history and mythology of the group -- which belong to his lineage and have specific melodic formulas and modes that distinguish them from other groups' songs. In the bachelors' camp he learns more light-hearted songs which are the basic entertainment media for the band. When he marries and enters further group responsibilities, however, it is the karma songs that are the central part of his education and his source of strength in times of trouble. HIs maturation can be measured in the esoteric knowledge he has acquired through song, and as an old man he knows that his honor is based partly on his mastery of the secret sacred songs of the band."

This is an excellent example of corporeality. Indeed, Partch's striving for it was largely inspired by the music of ancient, near-ancient, and non-European cultures. This led to the Monophonic concept, the inidividual's spoken words. As speech was the basis for his early works, Partch found the twelve tones available in the ordinary octave to be far too limiting and inaccurate for music such as this. So a greater range of tones was needed, tones which would naturally be applicable to the expressiveness of the human voice. These tones Partch found in just intonation. The octave is the simplest such ratio after unison, and is found in music of all cultures. After that other ratios of frequencies give natural consonances which are pleasing because of the way the ear and brain perceive sound. Though unequally spaced, unlike the ordinary 12 note equal tempered scale, these could easily be determined mathematically. Partch did this, realizing the possible excessiveness such a system could promote by limiting himself to 43 tones. This may sound like alot compared to the ordinary twelve, but the ear can and does distinguish that many tones readily.

So, Partch had a radical and involved theory of tonality that might pique the curiosity of the musical "elite." But even within the avant-garde Partch was essentially a loner, for the artist stubbornly demanded stressing content as the determining force in his work, not form. For instance, John Cage, one of Partch's most noted contemporaries, was by the1940's & 50's "composing" works whose arrangement was decided by repeated flipping of coins -- by chance. If the European classical masters had been merely preoccupied with form, then the modern avant-garde was entrenched in it. Electronic music and music concrete of the fifties only furthered the study of abstraction by taking away the limits of acoustical instruments and producing sounds which had no physical representation. By the seventies jazz and rock music had created their own experimental offshoots. While less theoretical and more intuitive than the classical avant-garde, these too almost exclusively emphasized music as a mental or spiritual stimulus and not a physical one. The music is offered as an influencer of mood or mental state. There is no "content" in the music itself, as in corporealism, that will teach the listener to better understand and react within the real world. Story-telling is possibly the oldest method of teaching in human history, so mixed-media and text-sound pieces that use story-telling are largely the only works to approach corporealism.

Only two progressive rock groups practicing corporealism come to mind: Genesis (Gabriel era) and Gong (Allen era). Genesis released in the early seventies the albums Trespass, Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot, and Selling England by the Pound which emphasized lengthy songs with involved narratives. In concert lead singer Peter Gabriel would often dress up in costumes of characters in the stories. This culminated in the two lp set The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, which detailed the problems of adolescence through surrealistic adventures. Also from the early seventies, Daevid Allen's space rock/jazz group Gong released a trio of albums in the "Radio Gnome Invisible" series, The Flying Teapot, Angel's Egg, and You, for which they gave elaborate concert presentations. Gong told the adventures of Zero the Hero, who attempts to achieve "oneness" in spite of the temptations of materialism, cheap sex, drugs, religious programming, etc. Musicians in other fields have, sadly, been less popular (in terms of audience size) and less well-documented. Mention should be given to two performing groups organized by the Interval Foundation: Catalyst and The Sound and Movement Choir (both now defunct). As with Partch, these groups integrate dance, sculpture, and music into a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Basically, corporeal music gives the listener more than just the feeling that it is entertaining or uplifting or whatever: it provides encouragement and instruction in dealing with the world as we know it. This is not to say abstract music is without its benefits (a topic I think beyond the scope of this article), only that it has been by far the emphasis of new music from the twenties to this very day.

Partch's own realization of corporeality eventually led him to create four large theatre works, each without intermissions and 75-80 minutes in length. Not only were dance, sculpture, drama and music combined, but (ideally) each participant would contribute to all aspects of the performance and break out of "specialization." Partch's instruments were not separated from the stage, but were an integral part of the set. Musicians, in costume, were given the following guidelines:

"The vision of player and instrument together must be beautiful. Those who play the large insruments especially are very conspicuous in studio or on stage. Bends are frequently necessary, and should be at the knees. Footwork must be dexterous because of the large areas to cover. The musician must always present pictures of athletic grave."

In addition, musicians were encouraged to dance and take part in the drama when not occupied with a musical part. Partch admitted, however, that "specialization" of artists (a dancer is only a dancer, a musician is only a musician, etc.) was a contraint he was not able to conquer.

The following views on Partch's lps are limited in scope because, as Partch himself noted, the records contain only the transcription of the musical content of his work, merely one aspect of his theatre-music pieces. Alas, it seems sound recordings (and films) will have to suffice for Partch enthusiasts, as performances of his works are very rare. After Partch's death his instruments were left in the care of long-time friend Danlee Mitchell, at San Diego State University, with only enough funds to keep the instruments in repair. (A performance of Partch's ensemble in late 1979, directed by Kenneth Gabura, cost the government of West Germany $100,000 to sponsor.) Later, the instruments were moved to New York under the care of Dean Drummond whose NewBand have performed many of Partch's works. There is, however, enough musical innovation and involvement in Partch's music alone to satisfy the most demanding listener.

The Music of John Cage and Harry Partch features Partch on side A. It includes eight short (1-2 1/2 minutes) pieces from "Eleven Intrusions" (1949-1950). These are poem recitations with Partch's voice accompanied by guitar (sometimes violin) and some of his earliest stringed and percussion instruments. In keeping with Partch's philosophies the subject matter of the poetry reflects everyday concerns, with titles such as "A Midnight Farewell." The dry tone in which Partch recites these pieces belie their humorous and sentimental intent. In "I am a Peach Tree" he intones: "I am a peach tree, and I have lots of things to eat." He then breaks into brisk guitar chords and Tiny Tim-style yodeling. "The Street" gives directions for a streetcar and makes brief comments on people observed on the street. Musically, "The Waterfall" is the most elaborate with some limber tuned percussion foretelling later works. Side A finishes with "The Dreamer that Remains," a 10 1/2 minute soundtrack for a film portrait of Partch. This 1972 work, Partch's last, was scored for fifteen instruments, chorus, and narrating/intoning voice. It combines elements of his earlier and later works, with poetry being counterbalanced by frantic rhythmic sections. Intriguingly, Partch uses more Adapted Viola in "Dreamer" than he ever did elsewhere. However, I must admit this is my least favorite of Partch's lps, and that it would have been much less interesting if not for the extensive liner notes of Partch's life and ideas.

From the Music of Harry Partch also includes extensive liner notes and photos which explain a great deal about Partch's music and instruments. "Castor and Pollux -- A Dance for the Twin Rhythms of Gemini" formed the first section of "Plectra and Percussion Dances" (1952). "Castor and Pollux" is divided into two sections, then further subdivided into four parts each. The first three parts of each section are duets between the various instruments. The fourth part of each consists of the three previous parts played simultaneously for a complex tutti effect. Partch would use a similar structure later for "And on the Seventh 'Day Petals Fell in Petaluma." As for a subjective description of Partch's ensemble pieces, imagine if the lost continents of Atlantis or Mu were to resurface in a remote corner of the world. Imagine a civilization with a highly developed culture extending back thousands of years without the impact of modern technology and homogenization. Their music might sound like Partch. Rhythmic vitality and complexity is the key ingredient in his work, tuned percussion serving to give it a very organic feel. "The Letter" (1943) formed the last section of "The Wayward." This is a semi-humorous piece with Partch reading an unexpected letter he received from a hobo pal. He is accompanied by guitar, Kithara I, and Diamond and Bass Marimbas. "Windsong," a score to a 1958 short film modernizing the myth of Daphne and Apollo, is excerpted here. Partch described the music as a "collage of sounds," as he translated the quick cuts of the film into sudden shifts in the music. In "Cloud-Chamber Music" (1950) the Cloud Chamber Bowls are joined by other instruments in a brief piece that emphasizes their tonal qualities, not rhythmic possibilities. Partch plays a folkish-sounding tune by the Zuni Indians of New Mexico on Adapted Viola. The last two sections of "The Bewitched," a work discussed further on in this article, ends this album.

The World of Harry Partch collects three of his best short pieces. "Daphne of the Dunes" (1967) is a side-long update of "Windsong" written for dance. The melodic segments are given more emphasis than usual for a Partch piece, and harmonically this is one of his best with arpeggiated glides/cries of the Harmonic Canons evoking our sympathies. Meter changes almost measure by measure, with one section in 31/16 meter; another (polymetric) section consists of 4/4-7/4 over 4/8-7/8! Needless to say, while being very physical, Partch's music isn't something you can easily tap your foot to. What's most important is that it works. Partch was not one to introduce musical complexity merely for its own sake, another factor that separated him from his contempories. Not only are the rhythms complex, but they are performed at a frantic pace unequaled by any music I've hard (save perhaps the inhumanly fast player piano pieces of Conlon Nancarrow!). This is characteristic of most of Partch's works, though I think "Daphne" is one of the most successful and exhilerating. "Barstow -- Eight Hitchhiker Inscriptions from a Highway Railing at Barstow, California" was composed in 1941 as part of "The Wayward." It offers such statements as "Go to 538 East Lemon Avenue for an easy handout" and "Looking for millionaire wife..." This charismatic piece is successful due to the contrasting of Partch's intoning voice with others in the ensemble and to increased instrumental emphasis. Last is "Castor and Pollux" in a more modern performance than From the Music of Harry Partch, with greater vigor and fidelity. The World of Harry Partch is an excellent introduction to his works that comes highly recommended.

The Bewitched is a dance-satire, in Partch's words, "in the tradition of world-wide ritual theatre," created in the period 1952-1955. The performance recorded for this double album was held at the Champaign-Urbana campus of the University of Illinois School of Music in 1957. Consisting of a prologue and ten scenes, this recording lasts nearly 76 minutes. One of the best examples of his realization of corporeality, Partch gave a detailed transcription of the action with the opening "Argument":

"We are all bewitched, and mostly by accident: the accident of form, color , and sex; or prejudices conditioned from the cradle on up, of the particular ruts we have found ourselves in or have dug for ourselves because of our individual needs. Those in a long-tenanted rut enjoy larger comforts of mind and body, and as compensation it is given to others who are not so easily domesticated to become mediums for the transmission of perception, more frequently. Among these are the lost musicians. The present-day musician grows up in a half-world between "good" music and "not-so-good" music. Even when he has defnitely made his choice between the two, he is still affected by the other, and to that extent he is dichotomous and disoriented. His head is bathed in an ancient light through a Gothic window while his other end swings like a miniature suspension bridge in a cool right-angle gale. The perception of displaced musicians may germinate, evolve, and mature in concert, through a developing at-one-ness, through their beat."

The ten scenes which follow the lengthy "Prologue" give ten intriguing examples of "unwitching" of various subjects. The music on this album is uneven, Partch's uniqueness being diluted by the inclusion of clarinet, bass clarinet, and piccolo along with his instruments. The vocal stylizations of the "Witch" lead singer and the chorus are not outstanding, but do provide much phrasing of melodies. Overall, this is the most melodic of his pieces, but the intense rhythms and unique instrumental colorations again shine through.

And on the Seventh Day Petals Fell in Petaluma consists of thirty-four one-minute verses. The first twenty-three are duets and trios, while the rest are quartets and quintets formed by overdubbing consecutive pairs of the earlier verses, with the final verse a septet consisting of verses twenty-one through twenty-three. Done as a study for "Delusion of the Fury," this is both the most concise and abstract of Partch's works. The rhythmic and polyrhythmic ideas stated here have not been equaled by any other music I've ever heard.

Delusion of the Fury is, for me, Partch's masterwork. The invaluable Columbia release includes an extra lp with Partch describing each of his instruments followed by an excerpt demonstrating it. Like "The Bewitched," "Delusion of the Fury -- A Ritual of Dream and Delusion" is a 75-80 minute dance-theatre piece combining his "trinity: sound-magic, visual beauty, experience-ritual." The first segment is a tragedy based on a Japanese tale from the eleventh century, the second an adaption of a farcical African folk story. The action is again accomplished through mime, as the vocals are mostly "gibberish," in Partch's words, and an improvement over those in "The Bewitched" which were rather haughty at times. Chorus sets the tone for passive, brooding passages in Act I. Sections of complex percussive rhythms with string glissandi provide contrasts. The sound of wood, glass and metal give an organic base for strange Chromelodeon (adapted harmonium/reed organ) chords. Development of themes is frantic, more rapid than most ears are accustomed to. Act II is lighter though equally complex. One hilarious section mates wildly-buzzing Drone Devils with Buga-gubi and Castor & Pollux. Other segments are equally in keeping with the act's farcical tone. "Delusion of the Fury" is an extremely demanding work to listen to, but in the end its depth of content will by far outweigh the instant musical gratification one gets from hearing amore abstract work such as "Petals" or "Daphne of the Dune," or any abstract piece of music, for that matter.

The impact of Harry Partch continues to grow. Microtonal scales, while hardly in common use even among progressive/experimental artists, have shown themselves to be a vital part of New Music that will continue to grow in acceptance. Corporealism seems to have a more uncertain future, given the paucity of artists endeavoring to understand it, though the potential is definitely there, in forms as different from Partch's work as his was from his contemporaries. In his book, Genesis of a Music, Partch wrote:

"The work is not offered as a basis for a substitute tyranny, the grooving of music and musical theory into another set of conventions. What I do hope for is to stimulate creative work by example, to encourage investigation of basic factors, and to leave all others to individual if not idiosyncratic choice. To influence, yes; to limit, no."


Harry Partch Discography (compiled 1982)

Music of John Cage and Harry Partch (New World Records NW 214, 1978)

From the Music of Harry Partch (Composers Recordings, Inc, SRD 193, 1964)

The World of Harry Partch (Columbia MS 7207, 1969)

The Bewitched (CRI SD 304, 1973 double lp)

And On the Seventh Day Petals Fell in Petaluma (CRI SD 213, 1967)

Delusion of the Fury (Columbia M2-30576, 1971 double lp + demonstration lp boxed set)

The lps referenced above are long out-of-print, but cds of Harry Partch's music can be bought from Wayside Music, P.O. Box 8427, Silver Spring, MD 20907-8427, or the Just Intonation Network.

Go to The Instruments of Harry Partch

back to the Harry Partch page