The Story Of Harry Partch
A documentary by Darren Chesworth
Format: avi | Size: 699mb
"I was a sort of unofficial consultant for a very good documentary film on Partch, The Outsider: the story of Harry Partch, directed by Darren Chesworth, first screened on BBC4 in 2002. Good film treatment of Partch and his work being rare, this 58-min documentary deserves a wide circulation. It includes much footage of Partch, together with interviews with Philip Glass, Gavin Bryars, and most (though not all) of the main Partch heavies: Philip Blackburn, Betty Freeman, Danlee Mitchell, Stephen Pouliot, John Schneider, Jon Szanto and myself." —Bob Gilmore, author Harry Partch: a biography
Harry Partch (1901-1974) holds a unique place in music from the United States. Partch rejected the tradition of equal temperament in Western music, and devoted his life to creating a system of just intonation he referred to as 'monophony,' which eventually grew to consist of 43 tones per octave (or gamut). To realize this music, he adapted and invented an array of new instruments and developed new systems of notation.
Partch was born in Oakland, California and grew up in the southwestern United States. The son of former Presbyterian missionaries to China, Partch's earliest musical experiences were the hymns and Chinese songs his mother performed and the abundance of musical instruments and records in his household. In his teenage years he began to write music and accompanied silent films on piano and organ. He moved to California in 1920 and spent many years studying music theory and history, primarily in public libraries; one of his most significant discoveries was Hermann von Helmholtz's On the Sensations of Tone (1863). Throughout the 1920's Partch experimented with modifying instruments and developed his treatise Exposition of Monophony.
In 1930, Partch destroyed almost all of his previous music and began to compose and perform his first 'monophonic' works. He went to England in 1934 on a Carnegie grant to research the history of tuning, and in the process met a number of writers and artists including Arnold Dolmetsch, Edmund Dulac, Ezra Pound, and William Butler Yeats. He returned to the US a year later in the midst of the Great Depression, and spent the next nine years as a hobo, travelling across the country by rail and recording his experiences, all the while continuing to compose and build new instruments. Partch's life as a transient ended when he received a Guggenheim fellowship in 1943; from 1944 to 1947 he was associated with the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Back in California, Partch published his treatise Genesis of a Music in 1949, worked with composer Ben Johnston, and presented large-scale 'corporeal' performances with his Gate 5 Ensemble, also recording them on his Gate 5 record label. In the late 1950's, he produced two more large-scale works at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and collaborated on three films with Madeline Tourtelot. From 1962 he spent the rest of his life in California, with his final 'corporeal' work Delusion of the Fury (1965-1966) receiving its first and only performance in 1969. Practically all of Partch's music is available on the CRI and innova labels, and has also been recorded on Bridge, Nonesuch, and Tzadik. —Art of the States
- Wikipedia entry
- Corporeal Meadows, the official Partch site
- Harry Partch: Twelve Intrusions (May 1, 1956)
- Evenings on the Roof with Peter Yates: Harry Partch Series #4
- Delusion of the Fury [excerpts] (1965-1966)
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