Wednesday, November 5, 2014

HOBO SAPIENS: The Life & Chimes of Harry Partch by D.J. Carlile

Harry Partch, musician, composer, instrument-builder, hobo, visionary and crank, once referred to himself as "a philosophical music-man seduced into carpentry."  He wrote music of mythic stature for instruments designed and built with his own hands.  And the titles of these hypnotic, exotic pieces echo his mythic-modern intent titles like Daphne of the Dunes, Castor & Pollux, Ulysses at the Edge, The Bewitched, Revelation in the Courthouse Park, and Delusion of the Fury.
This is a music that probably never will be vastly popular though, given half a chance,  it just-might-maybe-ought-to could be.  Abstract and obsessive in its rhythms, it requires a concentration and surrender on the part of the listener that are foreign to the common experience of music as it is manufactured and consumed today.  Partch's music lays down its groove and slithers as it moves.  It is not likely to ever be relegated to "background music" or "easy listening" in the way that certain compositions of Mozart or Bach have been. All the Plonks and bonks, thumps, quiverings and shimmerings, thrummings, strummings, twangs and thwacks, skittering riffs and stuttering crescendi can remind one of a Javanese gamelan at its most intense, perhaps on overdrive.  Its melodic beauties bear resemblance to the more exotic exfoliations of classical Chinese music.  At the same time, it falls easily upon the ear and its rhythms are catchy.  Partch's relative obscurity seems, in great part, due to proprietary schisms among the posthumous caretakers of his legacy.

Partch playing the Quadrangularis Reversum

Born in Oakland, California, on the 24th of June, 1901, Harry was the third child of Christian missionaries who had fled China at the outset of the Boxer Rebellion. His elder brother Paul had been born in 1891 in Zhejiang Province and his older sister Irene in 1899 in Shantung.  As an infant in the cradle, Harry was exposed to an intriguing mix of Christian hymns and Chinese lullabies sung to him by his devoutly religious mother.
By 1904 the Partches had moved to Arizona, where the father Virgil was stationed as a Chinese Inspector for the U.S. Immigration Service.  Virgil understood and spoke Mandarin fluently, but the Chinese laborers coming in illegally from Mexico to work on the railroad mainly spoke Cantonese.  This was a minor problem, however, for his main job was to help enforce the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1902 a restrictive new set of laws designed to limit the influx of Chinese fleeing the social disorder and lack of employment in their homeland.  Virgil was posted in Benson, a whistle-stop about 50 miles east of Tucson.
The Partch household was full of books and music.  Literature and music-making helped allay their sense of isolation in a town of 300 persons and eleven saloons.  Harry would remember that "there were more books in Chinese, accordion folded, with ivory thongs... than there were books in English." By age 6, Harry was playing the family pump reed organ, mandolin and cornet.  His mother taught him to read music.  On the shelves in his father's library there were many volumes on religion, philosophy and Greek mythology.  As Bob Gilmore has written in his excellent biography of Partch:  "Virgil instilled a love of Greek writers in both his sons.  It is rather easy to imagine Harry as a young boy eavesdropping on Paul who was ten years older reading, picking up on the enthusiasm and excitement of his father and older brother, before he was able to read them for himself."  [Gilmore: Harry Partch, A Biography; Yale University Press 1998, p.29]
In a 1974 interview with Vivian Perlis, Partch said that his fascination with and absorption in Greek myth was because it  "ignored nothing that was basic to the human psyche."  His obsession with the Oedipus myth (which consists of father-killing and mother loving) and Euripides' The Bacchae (a tale of Dionysiac abandon vs. repressive law,  plus dismemberment of a son by wild women and Mom) led to a pair of major theatrical works in his career:  A setting of the W.B. Yeats version of King Oedipus and Revelation in the Courthouse Park (a.k.a.  "Dion Isus" or "Revels and Revelation").  The darker aspects of the Mother-Son relationship are, in Partch's adaptations, focused less on the incest motif than on the son's destruction through rejection and overweening pride.  There is probably some resonance here with the story of Harry's circumcision, an event that he regarded as a rite of passage that put an abrupt end to his childhood  "at an earlier age than normal" [Gilmore, p.23] When he was about eight years old while his father was out of town Harry's mother, a devout Christian woman, took her son to the doctor without telling him the purpose of the visit.  And she had the doctor circumcise the boy then and there.

In a filmed interview near the end of his life, Partch recalled "[a] woman obsessed with controlling her son, and taking that little skin off gives her control.  My father was not circumcised, my brother was not, and they were naked in front of me constantly.  But my mother decided I was going to be different.  I was going to be a modern child who was going to be cleansed, as it were, by having a little piece of skin cut off.  It wasn't that I didn't object to this humiliation so much as that I was then different from everybody else.... And I resented that."  The very act and the fact that his mother didn't tell him about it beforehand, nor her reasons for having it done, made for an intense love-hate relationship between the two until her death in 1920.

Virgil & Jennie, wedding photo (1888)
In 1910 Virgil Partch was transferred to Phoenix, then in 1913 to Albuquerque, New Mexico.  As a teenager, Partch worked as a bell-hop in a local hotel and as in-house musician for the town's silent-movie theater.  The father Virgil turned away from his earlier vocation and became an aggressive atheist while the mother Jennie remained religious, following a series of denominations from Christian Science to New Thought... "anything that flew through the wind," Partch would later say of it, "That became pretty annoying." He found her spiritual zeal to be exasperating and demoralizing.  Money was scarce and Harry helped augment the income of a disintegrating family situation.  He also took on the job of delivery boy for a pharmacy, often bicycling into the red-light district of Albuquerque to deliver prescriptions.  He remembered one of the prostitutes offering him his first cigar, which he smoked "all the way through without getting sick."  The job at the silent-movie house had an added benefit besides the paycheck:  the gangs of Mexican-American boys who hung out on the streets at night, watching to beat up any hapless Anglo boys that wandered across their path, left Harry alone when they saw him.  They knew that if they happened to hurt his hands, there would be no music for the movies next day.

Partch's high school graduation photo
Virgil fell ill in early 1919 and had to quit work.  His condition quickly deteriorated and he died on March 21.  Three months later, June 20, Harry graduated from Albuquerque High School and his life of wandering began.  In the summer of 1919, he and his mother moved to Los Angeles a city just beginning to bestir itself as some kind of a metropolis.  On November 28, 1920, Harry later remembered, "I had a date to meet my mother at a certain street intersection in Los Angeles. She did not appear, and when I phoned the school where she was teaching I was informed that she was dead."  She had died of a skull fracture when hit by a streetcar on her way to meet her son.  Harry, at 19, now an orphan, had to arrange for the funeral.
When his mother was still alive, he had enrolled at the University of Southern California.  Three months after her death,  he began studies at the USC School of Music.  He attended concerts of the LA Philharmonic downtown and, during the summer, at the newly-constructed Hollywood Bowl.  He supported himself working at the Los Angeles Times as a proofreader.  In 1922, he spent four months in Hawaii, visiting his sister and her husband.  "I was a daredevil 20-year-old and I went swimming in that savage surf on the Windward side, all the way from Haleiva to Wananalo..." he said in 1971, "I wrote counterpoint, fugues, in between getting tossed about on the north shore waves, trying to body-surf in waves that I am sure a merciful god never intended bodies to be in."

Sometime between 1915 and 1920, Harry discovered or admitted to himself that he was more attracted to men than to women.  The strife and dissension between his parents had soured him on the prospect of marriage as any kind of desirable situation and his distrust of women in general had certainly been sparked at age eight by that trip to the doctor's office with his mom.  He'd been bullied by his schoolmates for being "a sissy."  He would later describe his adolescence as "an unhappy time."
Upon his return from Hawaii, he knocked around California from La Jolla to Santa Rosa to San Francisco, proofreading, teaching piano, and working at a book on his philosophy of music.  By 1927 he was in Sacramento, proofreading this time for the State Printing Office.  "I resented this adventureless existence," he recalled in 1960, "punching timeclocks, even soft beds and regular meals.  So in 1928 I quit the job... and started out on the fruit harvest.  This was my first real hoboing, and it came at a time when jobs were fairly easy to find.  I followed the harvest most of the rest of that season."  By the end of that year he had also finished the first draft of his book on "the universe of tone," called Exposition of Monophony, wherein he developed a complex microtonal scale of 29 tones.  Eventually, by 1935, he would expand this to 43 tones to the octave.  Overtones and undertones abound in the music of Harry Partch.  It shimmers and fluctuates. And everything is flowing away, in constant change.

The word that Partch most often uses to describe the pitch resources of his system is fabric.  This word, with its connotations of texture, emphasizes the system's internal coherence, that it can be woven further into an expanding fabric of relationships in tonal space.  Partch's music sidesteps the "crisis of tonality" that led to Arnold Schoenberg's 12-tone or "serial" system in the earliest years of the century (1906 et seq.)  This rigid system or  set of "rules" did nothing more than push harmonic language further beyond the breaking point.  In a letter of 1952, Partch wrote:  "I do not always achieve the just intonation which I hold as desirable the clear choice of consonance or dissonance.  Someone has said that ideals are like stars.  We can't touch them but we look to them for guidance."  His music evolved out of what has been called "ancestral memory," hearkening back to the music of Ancient Greece and non-Western cultures "archetypical melodic patterns, archetypical scales... purely intuitive." [Gilmore,  p. 69]

Western music is a closed system "...analogous to a circle on which are marked 12 equally spaced points.  The generative process of Partch's scale, in contrast, resembles the division of a whole into proportionally smaller parts two halves, three thirds, and so on, with the thirds in turn being divided in half.  The process is by definition theoretically infinite, bounded only by the limits of what is perceptible."  [Gilmore, p. 64]

By 1933 after a brief stint as a merchant seaman, a year in New Orleans, and then a return to California Partch found himself in New York City.  It was on the East Coast that he completed Seventeen Lyrics of Li-Po, his first major composition to receive public performance.  He next applied for a Guggenheim grant in order to make a musical setting of W.B. Yeats' translation of Sophocles' King Oedipus.  He wrote to Yeats, detailing his approach to the text, and in January 1934 Yeats wrote back, granting him "permission with pleasure" to embark on the project.  Finally receiving a grant from the Carnegie Corporation, Partch traveled to London (where he spent hours at the British Museum researching the history of intonation) and then Dublin to meet with Yeats.  He spent a week in Dublin where the old poet, then in his 70's, was rather overwhelmed by Partch's theories, but enthusiastic about the prospect of his play "done entirely this way... with this type of music, ... [it] might really be sensational,"  (or so Yeats opined).  Then both Yeats and an actor from the Abbey Theatre read parts of the play aloud while Partch made notes on their spoken rhythms and inflections.

After some time back in London, where he designed a 3-octave organ (with 43 tones to the octave) and had it built and shipped back home, he traveled to Rapallo, Italy, where he touched base with Ezra Pound whom he found to be "a most difficult man."  Pound, like Partch, had a deep appreciation of Chinese literature and had done some composing himself.  In 1921 Pound had written an opera based on the life of the outlaw poet (and titled) François Villon, but his musical activities were sporadic and eccentric.  He and Partch did not strike up a friendship.  From Rapallo, Partch went on to Malta where he continued to work at his book on Monophony.

Upon his return to the USA, Partch found the country in the throes of The Great Depression. By late Spring of 1935 he began his long period of hobo travels.  "I took my blankets out under the stars beside the American River (the river of gold!), carried my notebook, kept a journal, and made sketches," he recalled in his later book Genesis of a Music.  He lived "in transient shelters and camps, hobo jungles, basement rooms, and the open road" for the next eight years.  He cleaned ditches, hoed weeds, and worked the grape harvest in California, the tomato fields and apricot orchards of Arizona.  He also took the occasional proofreading job work that he found fairly undemanding and relaxing, freeing his nervous energies for the rigors of composition.

Bitter Music
(1935-36 his hobo journals) and U.S. Highball (1943for Voice and Adapted Guitar) were the works that bookended this wandering period.  The hobo life with its freewheeling morality allowed him a degree of both joy and heartbreak in emotional matters.  One brief love affair with a road construction worker one of a convict work-gang on an unfinished mountain road left him troubled for a long time after... "out of the cold reaching blackness an endless anguish descends," he wrote of it. When he was in his sixties, upon seeing a photo of his clean-shaven younger self from about this time, (ca. 1933)  posed with his Adapted Viola, Partch growled: "Typical L.A. fag."
Partch with Adapted Viola, 1933

By early 1939 Partch was trying to settle down in Los Angeles, staying for a time at the YMCA on South Hope Street that most ironically-named of skid-row streets in downtown LA.  He worked through the summer and autumn of that year for the Federal Writers' Project, composing blurbs and the text of brochures for national parks and state tourist bureaus.  Then, he quit the job in January 1940 and headed out on a soul-searching photo-trip through the deserts of the Southwest the Salton Sea, Fort Yuma, the Colorado River, Needles, Picacho, Painted Canyon and Laguna Salada Shadows.
In February, as he was hitch-hiking in the Mojave Desert just north of Barstow, California, he began to read the inscriptions on the highway railing. The first one to catch his eye read:  "It's January 26.  I'm freezing.  Ed Fitzgerald.  Age 19.  Five feet, ten inches.  Black hair, brown eyes.  Going home to Boston, Massachusetts.  It's 4:00 and I'm hungry and broke.  I wish I was dead.  But today I am a man." Partch found this to be "eloquent in what it fails to express in words."  A little over a year later, in Big Sur, California, he completed Barstow: 8 Hitch-Hikers' Inscriptions for Voice and Adapted Guitar (revised in 1954 for Voice, Adapted Guitars, Surrogate Kithara, Chromelodeon and Diamond Marimba).  In 1942 he wrote that this piece was akin to "the songs of the medieval troubadours... Barstow is simply 'speech music,' or a music based on speech... [combining] a harmonic music with the pristine concept of melodic word forms."

Partch's 1941 studio at Anderson Creek, CA
The ensuing decade found Partch traveling from California to Chicago then to Ithaca and New York.  As he made his way across the country, sometimes hitch-hiking, mostly by rail, he kept a notebook wherein he jotted "fragments of conversations,... writings on the sides of boxcars, signs in havens for derelicts, hitch-hikers' inscriptions, names of stations, thoughts."  A year and a half later, this notebook became the basis for U.S. Highball:  A Musical Account of Slim's Transcontinental Hobo Trip for Voices, Adapted Guitar, Chromelodeon and Kithara.  The completion of this piece coincided with the award of his first Guggenheim Fellowship in April, 1943.  From Chicago to Ithaca to Vermont to Boston, Partch touched base with Henry Cowell, Otto Luening, Virgil Thomson, Douglas Moore, Henry Brant, Quincy Porter and Nicolas Slonimsky all heavy-hitters in the contemporary American classical music scene, circa 1940-50. Brant helped to recruit an ensemble of musicians for Partch's upcoming New York debut.

By the time he got settled in  New York City, he was ready for a League of Composers concert to put him on the musical map of the avant-garde.  His Guggenheim Fellowship was renewed for another year and the concert was held at the Carnegie Chamber Music Hall at 7th Avenue and 57th Street: April 22, 1944.  Paul Bowles (1910-99) reviewed it in the Herald-Tribune and there were other mostly favorable notices in the NY Times, Modern Music and P.M. Magazine.  Composer Lou Harrison (1917-2003) later to become a close friend was the reviewer for Modern Music.

Close-up of Partch's Chromelodeon
U.S. Highball, Barstow, Y.D. Fantasy and San Francisco were the concert's offerings;  the Fantasy on "Yankee Doodle" (for Soprano, 2 Tin whistles, Tin Oboe, Chromelodeon and Flex-a-tone) was greeted enthusiastically and had to be encored.  Lou Harrison, another Californian moonlighting on the East Coast, noted that San Francisco, with its newsboy street-calls, contained  "about the foggiest and dampest music I have ever heard.  I got homesick."  In its epic scope, running nearly half an hour, U.S. Highball was considered impressive but rather too long. "[It] is unique in 20th Century music," as Bob Gilmore has written of it.  "It combines heady evocation of the isolation of long journeys on autumn nights with snatches of drunken hobo ribaldry in an America peopled by police and by vagrants who appear and disappear like ghosts." [Gilmore, p. 152] This piece would remain one of Partch's lifelong favorites among his compositions.

But nothing substantial came of his exposure in New York.  The musical establishment, for the most part, greeted the music with both hostility and incomprehension. His friends Howard Hanson and Douglas Moore were both directors of music schools, but they didn't offer him any position.  This was due, no doubt, to their own ambivalence about his theories and  "their own faculties, who were definitely hostile," Partch later wrote. [Gilmore, p. 157] Luckily, a friend of Moore's, the pianist-composer Gunnar Johansen, was artist-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and he suggested that Partch come to Madison to work on his book Genesis of a Music, thus preparing it for submission to the University of Wisconsin Press. And so it went. In 1949 the book was published by the University Press in an edition of one thousand copies.  And Partch moved back to California.

By 1951 Harry was back at work on King Oedipus for a forthcoming production at Mills College in Oakland. Rehearsals were underway by October, soon after the beginning of the Fall semester, and there was a "preview performance" in November accompanied with an informal talk by Partch.

Partch playing the Marimba Eroica
During rehearsals he constructed the Marimba Eroica (originally called the Hypo-Bass Marimba), a huge instrument of acoustical profundity designed for the Oedipus drama. 
King Oedipus
was a hybrid sort of a spectacle for ear and eye, both a hearkening-back and a looking-forward, or conversely, hearkening forward and looking back. As Aristotle once commented: "The knowledge of opposites is one." (Or, as Cyril Connolly has rephrased it in The Unquiet Grave:  "I believe in two-faced truth, in the Either, the Or and the Holy Both.")  The spirit of the universe works, lurks and moves in mysterious ways, looking both ways.

Based on a model of the Ancient Greek instrument that he'd seen in London, Partch had constructed a huge Kithara with 72 strings so large and sculpturally impressive that its player had to stand on a riser behind it. Likewise immense was the massive Marimba Eroica. These enormous instruments on stage, along with ritualistic dance-drama and  pitched vocalizing, saturated  the audience with a sense of something both very old and very new. Percussive dance music, sustained low notes from the Chromelodeon, wailing choruses, aggressive thwacks on the Marimba Eroica, and drooping glissandi from the cello played off against intoned passages and sections of freely spoken dialogue to create a theatrical experience the likes of which had never been seen before  or perhaps at least not seen or heard in a couple of thousand years.

Greek vase depicting a musician playing the kithara
Partch's ideas about spectacle, music, acting, dancing and singing all contained in one narrative are in some ways an expansion or extension of Richard Wagner's concept of "Gesamtkunstwerk' (i.e. "the total work of art") where there could be a synthesis of vocal and instrumental music, dramatic and lyric poetry, acting, dancing and all the visual arts (painting, sculpture, etc.).  In such works as King OedipusThe Bewitched and Delusion of the Fury,  Partch achieved this with superb concentrationfor, instead of hiding the orchestra under a hood or shell (as Wagner calls for), Partch put his instruments right up on the stage as part of the action, as sculpture with sound.

King Oedipus played to sold-out houses in March of 1952 at Mills College.  All the Bay Area media covered the event, as well as Time magazine, Theatre Arts, and the New York Herald Tribune.  The critic for the San Francisco Chronicle praised Partch's music, writing that "his score fragmentary, subdued, elusive vastly enhanced the menace... and bewildered, ominous tension of the tragedy."  Yet despite the adulation and excitement, Mills College did not offer Partch any kind of appointment or position on their faculty.  A possible second production of Oedipus at Columbia University on the East Coast fell through due to lack of funding.

"His instruments ...  as sculpture with sound"
Harry Partch sometimes fretted over the malnutrition he'd experienced during his hobo days, and he would go on strange, restricted diets like orange juice only or pablum and water to shore up his delicate health.  He was irascible and moody at times.  Composer Lee Hoiby (1926 - 2011) who was a student at Madison and a pianist who'd learned to play the Chromelodeon and Kithara around 1945, remembered:  "In a way, he was really very much like those bums that he hung out with as a hobo:  excessive whiners, blaming the world for their self-inflicted misfortunes.  When things were going well musically, he would never show artistic delight; he would just stop complaining.  It was as though for him art didn't elevate, it merely pulled us up out of the mire briefly to a tolerable level."  Hoiby also recalled that Partch was open about his homosexuality:  "And considering the repressive atmosphere of the period we were all pretty nonchalant about it." [Gilmore, p. 160]

During the  Summer of 1952  Partch composed three independent pieces that would eventually be collectively entitled Plectra and Percussion Dances.  These were:  Castor & Pollux (A Dance for the Twin Rhythms of Gemini),  Ring Around the Moon (A Dance Fantasm for Here & Now) and, thirdly,  Even Wild Horses (Dance Music for an Absent Drama), a setting of excerpts from Arthur Rimbaud's A Season in Hell (in French).  This last piece dealt with the poet's exile years in Africa and utilized rhythms from Afro-American and Latin American music.  Partch commented on his use of popular idiom here:  "...[T]he samba, the naniga, the conga, are metamorphosed , developed into something different from their starting moods ... and all become infused with an altered character as they move toward the child-like and explosive words of Rimbaud." Castor & Pollux consists of 4 movements entitled "Insemination," "Conception," "Incubation" and  "Delivery"; three successive two-minute duets culminate in a sextet wherein each of the preceding duets are played simultaneously in a riot of polyphony. These works occupied him from mid-June to August 31; the Plectra and Percussion Dances mark a turning point and are the first of his major works to be mainly instrumental in conception and execution.

Around this time choreographer-dancer Martha Graham (1894 - 1991) was visiting Northern California and she and Harry had a "very congenial" meeting.  They had first met nearly a decade before in NYC and they now seriously discussed the possibility of a collaboration.  Throughout the rest of the year, letters and phonecalls went to and fro between Oakland and New York City, but Graham could not come up with sufficient funding to move Partch and his instruments to the East Coast.  By the end of January 1953 it was  clear that it was not going to happen.  Graham and Partch remained cordial, but, alas, never got to work together on their "dream project."

Meanwhile, the Guggenheim funds had run out, and Partch had been evicted from his rented cottage while the instruments were in semi-secure storage at Mills College.  Partch was sleeping in his Studebaker.  A new studio and living space came about through the generosity of artist Gordon Onslow Ford and his wife Jacqueline who moved him into their large house;  and they then found a property for Partch in the abandoned shipyards in Sausalito, just north of San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge.  The Sausalito shipyards had been a beehive of activity during the war, but after 1945 many of the buildings had been abandoned or taken over by private owners.  The shipyard originally had five gates and the sign GATE 5 was still visible when Partch moved his instruments into the building near that entrance.  A check arrived from Martha Graham ("as compensation for the difficulties she had caused him") and Douglas Moore had secured an award for him from the National Institute of Arts and Letters.  These financial windfalls plus the generosity of Bay Area friends and supporters allowed his move into GATE 5 by February 1953.  The philosopher Alan Watts and poet Maya Angelou were his neighbors in this bohemian community that was  "...the nearest thing in the U.S. to a fishing village on the Italian Riviera," as Watts described it once.

It was here that the Gate 5 Ensemble (a loose collection of Bay Area musical mavericks) was founded and Partch began to produce recordings on his "Gate 5" label.  He also appeared on Pacifica FM station KPFA in Berkeley, where Alan Watts and poet Kenneth Rexroth were also hosting their own shows.  Partch gave a series of nine talks wherein he discussed and demonstrated his theories and compositions.  The premiere recording of Plectra and Percussion Dances was completed in June and by September, Partch had the first pressing 500 copies on vinyl in his hands and ready to ship. Reviews of the record in the S.F. Chronicle, the Oakland Tribune, Good Listening and High Fidelity were generally quite favorable and the first edition sold out.  KPFA sponsored a complete performance of Plectra and Percussion in Berkeley in November of 1953 the first public performance of any of his music since the King Oedipus at Mills.  Thanks to the success of the Plectra recording, the ensuing public performance, plus a new contract with BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated), Partch felt his creative juices stir.  He composed his Two Settings of Lewis Carroll ("Jabberwocky" and "The Mock-Turtle Song"), the first of which O Frabjous Day was presented at Young People's Concert Series in Mill Valley.  This performance was broadcast by KPFA on March 28, 1954.

He then began to think about a new production of King Oedipus.  Due to the intransigence of the Yeats estate, he could not obtain rights to the text this time; and so he set about re-writing the libretto and revising the music to fit the new words.  He expanded the instrumentation as well, adding the newly constructed Kithara II with its 72 strings arranged in 12 six-string hexads; this instrument was mainly built of redwood and stood nearly seven feet high, making it an imposing onstage presence.  A studio performance of the "new" Oedipus at Gate 5 in June was broadcast by KPFA on July 16 and this was successful as a purely audio experience.  A full production was mounted on September 11 and 12, 1954, as part of the Sausalito Arts Fair.  Presented outdoors at Shell Beach, the show had a backdrop by Gordon Onslow Ford with both musicians and singers in full costume.  It was enthusiastically received by audiences and critics alike.
Partch playing the Cloud Chamber Bowls

In the wake of this success, Partch began composing a new dramatic work a dance piece with singing called The Bewitched.  Gilmore has noted that this was "the most substantial of the works from his years at Gate 5."  The work's theme is centered on the "unwitching" of human beings from their mundane existences.  Partch wrote:  "We are all bewitched, and mostly by accident:  the accident of form, color and sex; of prejudices conditioned from the cradle on up.  Those in a long-tenanted rut enjoy larger comforts of mind and body, and as a compensation it is more frequently given to others who are not so easily domesticated to become mediums for the transmission of perception."  While King Oedipus had been an inventive re-imagining of an ancient play out of Western culture, The Bewitched was closer in its effects to Japanese Kabuki theatre than Greek drama.  Here's an example of its very strange scenario:

"Dancers: Mr. Death, Miss Transfiguration, and any number of background houris," reads the heading of Scene 9 ("A Lost Political Soul Finds Himself Among the Voteless Women of Paradise"). "The mood in Paradise is static, suspended somewhere between ineffable joy and exquisite melancholy. Several beautiful women stand here and there on the stage, immobilized... Death and Transfiguration dance back-to-back throughout... he with a black frock coat with a white carnation, and white leotards, she in a transparent Moorish veil and virtually naked beneath.  'Where am I ?' says Mr. Death, obviously suffering from trauma.  The Witch is abstruse. The antiphony of her Chorus... engenders a high, witching deathlike wail. 'Yah Yoo Yuh!' (O Death where is thy sting?) Darkness descends...."

Most of 1955 was devoted to finding a venue for The Bewitched.  In July, he composed Ulysses at the Edge of the World for trumpet, string bass and 3 sets of bamboo drums (Boobams).  This was originally written for jazz trumpeter Chet Baker who had expressed interest in working with Partch, but he never performed the piece.  Our loss and his as well.

In the meantime, there was no venue for The Bewitched not S.F. State, nor UC Berkeley, not Mills College, nowhere.  Maya Angelou was a first candidate for the part of The Witch, then folksinger Odetta; but Maya had other obligations and Odetta had to drop out due to concert commitments.  The cultural scene in the Bay Area, which later became known as "the San Francisco Renaissance," was percolating with poetry, music, philosophy, painting, dance and theatre television, radio and cinema too.  All of which was stimulated by a group of writers that would come to be known as "The Beats."  Foremost among these were Allen Ginsberg, Kenneth Rexroth, Jack Kerouac and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, whose City Lights Bookstore in North Beach became a nexus for their activities.  Partch never felt himself to be part of this scene and was frankly critical of the jazz-and-poetry scene:  "Poetry-cum-jazz:  I've heard a few very simple things I like, but mostly, it seems to me, both poetry and jazz need a little more cum.  They should be more with it.   When poets are jazzmen and jazzmen are poets we'll be closer to an art."

A little before this time, in April and May of 1954, Partch had been corresponding with San Francisco filmmaker Kenneth Anger during rehearsals for the Oedipus production.  Anger wanted to use the record (vinyl LP) of Plectra and Percussion Dances as the soundtrack music for his film Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome,  but Partch eventually refused permission.  Anaïs Nin (1903-1977) who appeared in the film, described it as " extension of the masquerade.... reality and madness mingled.... Those who began with a sensual attraction ended by devouring each other...."  Partch had an aversion to his music being used out of its original context, but, as Gilmore notes:  "It seems more likely that the subject matter of Anger's film alarmed him."  And too, Partch was possibly uncomfortable with Anger's homosexual reputation since he was generally "discreet" about his own sexuality in those days.  "His artistic isolation was such that he felt distant from even the radical elements of the San Francisco counterculture."  [Gilmore, p. 227]

While visiting Southern California at the end of 1955, Partch learned that the Gate 5 property had been sold and that all his belongings, instruments and all, had been put in temporary storage.  He spent the following year traveling around Mexico, New Mexico, and then Illinois where, at the invitation of friends, he settled in for some time at the University at Urbana.  He found a living space, sent for his instruments and began lecturing and performing.

In October of 1956 Partch began to correspond with Alwin Nikolais of the Henry Street Playhouse in NYC about a projected staging of The Bewitched in Urbana at the Festival of Contemporary Arts for March of 1957; this would be sponsored by the Fromm Music Foundation and the University of Illinois School of Music.  Nikolais, eleven years younger than Partch, had a high reputation in the avant-garde dance world;  his Masks, Props and Mobiles had made a splash in 1952 with its use of the titular "external substances" to extend and enhance the body's movement on stage.  Months went by with no direct communication between the two as Nikolais began choreographing to a tape of the score.  However, it soon became apparent that composer and choreographer were not exactly on the same page.  Partch was annoyed that his narrative line  (e.g. Scene 9, above) was not being followed.  "He has thrown out all satire rejected all human situations," Partch wrote to a friend about Nikolais, "His technical imagination seems tremendous, but his conceptual poverty is nothing less than appalling."  And Nikolais would write to Partch:  "[Your] notes ... throw me right back to literal situations of undergrads, chorus girls ... basketball teams, boys chasing girls and situations ... not at all within the realm of my capabilities.  My concern is with the semantical vertical statement, not the horizontal narrative line of the playwright."  Partch replied:  "The literal motivation is as much a part of the work as one of the instrumental sounds, whether it occurs as words integrated with the music or not.  I am as incapable of functioning in your 'poetic' way as you're incapable of functioning in my 'narrative' way."

Despite the mounting acrimony and misunderstanding between composer and choreographer, the show made the light of day at the Festival and was met with great enthusiasm by media and public alike.  But Partch was disgruntled.  He felt that his artistic vision had been tampered with, to say nothing of outright subverted.  "Most reviewers hailed the production as one of the crowning successes of the festival."   But Partch regarded the premiere of The Bewitched as a failure, indeed "the greatest failure of his career."  [Gilmore, pp. 250, 253]

Reflecting on the Bewitched controversy a quarter of a century later, one of Partch's friends recalled:  "He was so possessive of his artistic creations that notwithstanding the manifest impossibility that any one person could be artistically skilled, let alone genius-endowed in all areas of a complex multimedia art work, Partch yet was unwilling, even unable, to collaborate." [op. cit. p. 252]

In the Spring of 1957  Partch left Urbana in a huff, relocating to Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, on June 1st.  The head of the music department supplied him with a spacious studio and he began to plan a film version of U.S.Highball which would consist of a live studio performance on film, intercut with location footage of highways, boxcars, freight trains, steam engines, the desert, the clouds and mountains all in black-and-white, plus abstract animated art in color to be created by Onslow Ford.  He wrote a script and sent it out to various filmmakers.

Partch with Tourtelot (1958)
Chicago filmmaker Madeline Tourtelot was one of the earliest and most enthusiastic respondents and so Partch flew up to Chicago to meet her.  This was his first journey by airplane.  She screened her two completed films for him as well as rushes from a new film in progress.  Some weeks earlier, she and a sculptor-friend had amused themselves shooting black-and-white footage of each other cavorting among the sand dunes on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan.  Partch saw elements of the Greek myth of Daphne and Apollo in this footage and proposed that he would compose music for the finished film.  This became Windsong and its soundtrack was revised a decade later as Daphne of the Dunes.  In this piece, Partch utilizes the percussive aspects of the ensemble to represent Apollo and the strings, plucked and bowed, to symbolize Daphne.  Both characters are assigned a particular pitch center: 16/9 (F) for Apollo and 3/2 (D) for Daphne. The two pitches, like the characters in the myth, never achieve consonance or unity and the story is thus expressed as "musical drama."  Partch later noted, "The film technique of fairly fast cuts is ... translated into musical terms.  The sudden shifts represent nature symbols ... for a dramatic purpose:  dead trees, driftwood, falling sand, blowing tumbleweed, flying gulls, wriggling snakes, waving grasses."
The completed 18-minute film was premiered on WTTW - TV in Chicago on March 19, 1958, where an interview with Tourtelot and Partch served as an introduction to it. As soon as he completed his work on Windsong, Partch resumed his preparations for the U.S. Highball film.  Danlee Mitchell, one of the students who had played in the ensemble for The Bewitched at Urbana, showed up, eager to work with him again.  Partch, happy to see him, laid out the recording of the U.S. Highball score and invited him to play in the ensemble.  At Mitchell's instigation, five other student-musicians from the Urbana Bewitched came to join the effort at the end of their school year.  Soon enough, a 25-minute recording of the score was ready for purposes of the film as well as release on LP.  Fiscal disarray and health problems delayed further work on the project, but in September of 1958, a ten-inch disc (as opposed to the standard 12" LP) was finally released.  BMI devised a new contract for Partch, generating more income for him, and, while preparing a brochure on the composer and his music, they suggested a new production of The Bewitched in New York.

Partch was immediately on board with this idea.  This would give him the opportunity to supplant Nikolais's "poetic" version of the piece with his own personal vision.  So, with copies of Madeline Tourtelot's two films in hand Windsong and Music Studio, her documentary on the making of Windsong's soundtrack  Partch went to New York to drum up support for his new, improved, and authentic Bewitched.   Anaïs Nin, familiar with his Gate 5 recordings through Kenneth Anger, was one of the group of filmmakers, writers and composers at a private screening in Manhattan.  She was immediately enthusiastic about the new project and lent Partch her Greenwich Village apartment for a lengthy stay.  By the end of 1958, Partch had found a simpatico choreographer, Joyce Trisler, and funding from Columbia University.

The production opened on April 10, 1959, at the Juilliard Concert Hall to mixed reviews.  "Incantational ... the flavor of the piece takes on a demonic voodoo air.  Further, rhythmic counterpoint ... as given out by bizarre or unfamiliar instruments invariably takes on a quality of secret rites danced in dark places. " (N.Y. Herald Tribune) And then, "[There was]... considerable musical variety in spite of the unavoidable monotony of the orchestra as a whole... [and the] smarty-pants humor ... [is] without either theatrical content or continuity." (N.Y. Times)

In May, Partch was awarded a grant from the University of Illinois Graduate School for a new work to be presented at the university.  This would become Revelation in the Courthouse Park, an adaptation of Euripides' The Bacchae set in contemporary America.  Scenes from Euripides alternated with Partch's contemporary re-tooling of them.  The Dionysus character, called Dion, is a movie star-cum-rock'n'roll singer modeled after Elvis Presley.  Mom (Agave) falls under the spell of a "godlike" Dion (Dionysus), much to the disgust and distress of her young adult son, Sonny (Pentheus).  The young man is eventually  destroyed by his unhealthy attachment to his spiritually and mentally deranged mother.  The music was an eclectic collage, combining Partch's ritualistic rhythms with brassy maching-band numbers, up-tempo pop songs, show tunes and faux revival-style hymns.

Danlee Mitchell regarded the work's impetus as a personal allegory, Sonny and Mom being symbolic recreations of the love-hate tensions between Partch and his own mother.  Jennie Partch's devotion to Christian Science then Unity and then New Thought Christianity run parallel to Agave's crazed surrender to Dionysus in the Euripides play.

was performed twice on April 11, 1961, at the Festival of Conteporary Arts.  Response was mainly favorable and critic Peter Yates called it "one of the most fully conceived, spiritually and technically independent dramas of the twentieth century ... another in the succession of American musical shows which are neither light opera nor grand opera."

The critical and popular success of this production led to a commission for a new work to be performed on campus the following year.  Partch now had official status and a salary without any teaching responsibilities, allowing him to concentrate on the new project.  So, in May 1961, he began writing the scenario for Water! Water! (subtitled "An Intermission with Prologues and Epilogues").  This was 90 minutes of music theatre the closest he ever came to writing a Broadway-style musical where farcical episodes and screwball silliness exist merely to frame the central non-event, i.e. the drinks at intermission.  The cast of characters included Her Honor (a Lady Mayor), a disc jockey, an alderman, a jazz musician named Arthur (with his jazz combo), a coven of ancient water witches (led by Wanda the Witch) and the ghosts of Native American runners (who dance a "rain dance" and play on empty liquor bottles to honor the deluge coming for the white man's world).

By Autumn he was deep in preparation for Water! Water! and had to forego a collaboration with jazz giant Gil Evans (1912 - 88) in New York.  Evans had been listening to the 1958 recording of U.S. HIGHBALL and wanted to perform the piece himself with his band and then record it for MGM's new Verve label.  He urged Partch to come to NYC so they could get the sessions underway, but the detail-obsessed composer could not (or would not) spare the time away from his current work at hand. 

Water! Water!
finally premiered in March 1962 at the University of Illinois.  Efforts to move the production to New York were of no avail, though it did play a single performance in Chicago on March 17.  The work was recorded a few days after that. It was around this time that Partch started drinking heavily in an effort to drown his aggravation and impatience with university strictures and the limitations of student performers.  As soon as Water! Water! was done with, he began to plan his departure from Illinois.

He arrived in Marin county, California, in mid-September of 1962.  He settled in Petaluma, a small town about 35 miles north of San Francisco.  And on the Seventh Day Petals Fell in Petaluma, composed March-April 1964, was his first new work upon returning to the West Coast. This is one of his few pieces that does not rely on a text or program, although it has "subtextual" layers of extramusical significance.  Petals was premiered at UCLA in May 1966, by which time Partch had relocated to Southern California.  Between 1964 and 74, he lived at different times in Van Nuys, Del Mar, San Diego, Venice and LA.  This last decade of his life was filled with revival performances (notably U.S. Highball and Castor & Pollux in Venice) and the composition and production of his last great stage-work, Delusion of the Fury.  The score for this was completed in March of 1966 and it was scheduled for a concert performance at UCLA's Royce Hall in May of that year.

Partch in his Petaluma studio, 1963

In the autumn of 1965 he built two new instruments at his studio in Venice Cone Gongs (fashioned from the nose cones of airplane gas tanks) and the Harmonic Canon III (a redwood soundbox and 44 strings with a movable bridge under each string).  Plagued with headaches and an ulcer, he was still consuming large quantities of alcohol, sometimes becoming a belligerent and vituperative drunk at social events.

                   Close-up of Eucal Blossom w/ tonality ratios
A fully staged, complete production of Delusion of the Fury did not materialize at UCLA until 1969 and meanwhile, Partch continued to create new instruments.  The Eucal Blossom a bamboo marimba arranged in three columns of tuned sections that seem to grow out of a eucalyptus stem was invented and constructed in 1967, eventually ending up in the Delusion ensemble.

In September of '68, thanks to the fund-raising efforts of his agent at BMI, Partch and his ensemble were invited to perform a pair of concerts at the Whitney Museum in New York.  The New York Times, the Village Voice, The New Yorker and Newsweek all covered the event and for the first time, Partch was receiving truly national attention and acclaim.  Newsweek called him an "American visionary and stubborn individualist" who had created "his own musical world out of microtones, hobo speech, elastic octaves and percussion instruments made from hubcaps and nuclear cloud chambers."  The music was described as "richly erotic, primitive, fresh and stirring..." while the Village Voice commented, "...maybe an artistic genius."

Following the final concert, Columbia Records (now Sony Classical) recorded Barstow, Castor & Pollux and Daphne of the Dunes in sessions that lasted into the early morning hours.  The ensuing LP, entitled "The World of Harry Partch," was produced by John McClure who had overseen that label's series of stereo recordings by Igor Stravinsky, as well as producing many of Leonard Bernstein's finer efforts on vinyl with the New York Philharmonic.

Upon his return to California Partch moved (again) into a new apartment, this time in Culver City, just west of downtown LA and south of UCLA.  A studio nearby was rented for the instruments when they arrived back from NYC.  Full-scale preparations for Delusion of the Fury got underway.  Danlee Mitchell, on sabbatical from San Diego State University, organized and led the rehearsals; Virginia Storie was the choreographer and her husband John Crawford designed the sets.  The work is subtitled "A Ritual of Dream and Delusion" in the score, and Partch was keen to achieve a synthesis of musicians, dancers and mimes into tribal theatre beyond what he had done with The Bewitched.  Gilmore notes that it "... is perhaps the most richly detailed and complex of all his scores" and "the most self-contained of all his achievements, allowing us to experience a heady state of disorientation a state of change, of a kind parallel to that undergone in ritual experience." [op. cit. pp. 334 and 349]

Scene from Delusion of the Fury

Delusion of the Fury
played four sold-out performances at the UCLA Playhouse in January of 1969.  John McClure was there to record it for Columbia Records and, at the last minute, Madeline Tourtelot made a film of it.  As they packed up after the production, a truck was stolen and several scores, one master tape, tools and materials, along with personal effects simply vanished along with the vehicle.  And Partch, despite the resounding success, found that he was out-of-pocket to the tune of nine thousand dollars (roughly 20 grand in today's dollars) and he was feeling depressed.  He wrote to John McClure:  "I won't do this again." For several weeks after the production, Partch worked with Tourtelot to edit and post-synchronize her film;  they even did some "re-shoots" to cover lapses and gaps in her "live" footage.  By mid-March this was completed and, with Danlee Mitchell's help, Partch moved to Encinitas, just north of San Diego.

In May of '69, "The World of Harry Partch " hit the record stores and Partch was fairly pleased, calling it "a good record."  (And it is a Good Record, well-worth owning and hearing repeatedly, if there's a copy of it out there left to be found.)  He began extensive correspondence with McClure about editing and mixing the master tape of Delusion.  McClure inquired about Tourtelot's film but Harry was not enthusiastic.  "I do not see how editing can save Madeline's film," he wrote, "How do I tell  her?"  He was now likewise unhappy with the "academically static modern dance" aspects of the production as well as its "costume treachery."

Revisions for a new edition of Genesis of Music occupied him for the next year and, despite bouts of arthritis and heavy drinking, he got it done and sent off to the publishers.  The Harry Partch Foundation was set up by friends to give him tax-deductible status for contributions; and despite his often paranoid bad temper and alcoholic inertia, a new studio was located and rented for him.  In September of 1971, the Columbia recording of Delusion of the Fury (a 2 LP boxed set with a lavish color booklet) was finally released.  For once, Harry was totally delighted with the result although he did grouse that there was no listing of individual members of the ensemble.

In the new preface to his book he had written:  "The truly path-breaking step can never be predicted, and certainly not by the person who makes it.  He clears as he goes, evolves his own techniques, devises his own tools, ignores where he must. And his path cannot be retracted, because each of us is an original being."

By 1972 Partch began to impress the people who encountered him as "...a schizoid mixture of an old-style gentleman, rugged and proud but also charming, and a cantankerous old drunk." [Gilmore, pp. 367-8]  Stephen Pouliot, a grad student at USC film school, planned a new documentary on Partch to be called The Dreamer That Remains;  Pouliot became a fixture in the composer's declining years.  By the end of '72, Partch's attachment to Pouliot had become so obsessive that it was increasingly difficult for the young filmmaker to deal with it.  Once, while sleeping in the next room, Pouliot was awakened to the sound of Harry's voice in his bedroom speaking to himself in two voices, arguing whether or not the filmmaker needed to be destroyed or blotted out, one voice pro, the other con. Indeed, though there was to be no sexual connection, Partch had become enamored of the tall, handsome and soft-spoken Pouliot, telling him, "You are the last of my loves."  The two artists did manage to complete their project.  The film showed Partch in his workshop, building his instruments, and was accompanied by Harry's voice-over from taped interviews along with his music as a soundtrack score.

Partch on the set for The Dreamer That Remains
After some dispute over the film's final edit, The Dreamer That Remains had a "sneak preview" at the Unicorn Cinema in La Jolla.  Partch thought that Pouliot's final product was "beautiful film art" and said so in a letter to a friend three days later.
Jonathan Cott interviewed him for Rolling Stone magazine (April 11, 1974, pp. 32 -38 with photos) and he was visited by Hungarian composer Gyorgi Ligeti (1923 -2006) who proposed a performance of his works at the Holland Festival in Europe.  But his health was declining and he was even unable to visit Amherst College in Massachusetts in June, where they awarded him an honorary Doctorate in Music.  As the year progressed, he deteriorated further, suffering a series of minor strokes.

In the Spring of 1974 Danlee Mitchell begain rehearsals for a revival of The Bewitched at San Diego State University. In July, the new edition of Genesis of Music finally appeared and Partch happily and tenderly inscribed copies for his friends.  But he continued to drink heavily and, as the summer ended, he died alone at home on 3 September, 1974.  Acute cardiac failure was the stated cause on his death certificate.

The new production of The Bewitched went on as scheduled and a "Harry Partch Film Festival" took place at the San Francisco Museum of Art less than three weeks after his passing.  But since then, schisms among the caretakers of scores, manuscripts, instruments and memorabilia have kept Partch's considerable legacy pretty much in the dark.

After Harry's passing, his musical instruments were bequeathed to Danlee Mitchell in San Diego.  Mitchell, Jon Szanto and others of the Delusion ensemble organized concerts and made three West Coast tours before mounting a splendid revival of Revelation in the Courthouse Park in Philadelphia in 1987.  This production was recorded by Tomato Records for release on vinyl LP and compact disc (with a nicely informative booklet).  Earlier, at the 1980 Berlin Festival and in Cologne, The Bewitched had been revived and well-received, marking the first European performance of anything by Partch.  Cooperative efforts led to more performances back in the U.S.A. and the lack of shared materials became less of an issue by the 1990's.
In 1991 Dean Drummond and Newband performed The Wayward at the Bang On A Can Festival in New York City, for which Mitchell loaned out the instruments.  The instruments then stayed on the East Coast when the loan was made permanent. In this event, Drummond helped found the Harry Partch Institute (1999) at Montclair College in New Jersey, finding a home for all things Partch instruments, scores, workshops, rehearsals, performance, curricula and yearly concerts.

On the West Coast in 1991, a group calling itself "Just Strings" came together to perform the works of Lou Harrison and Harry Partch.  In the beginning, basing their models on Partch's originals, they had replicas built of the Kithara, the Adapted Viola and Adapted Guitar, but as they continued to tour with lectures and concerts, more instruments were built and added to the ensemble and new members learned to play them. In 2004 they gave the West Coast premiere of Partch's Bitter Music (1940) in Los Angeles at REDCAT (the Roy & Edna Disney / CalArts Theater).

In 2005, upon the completion and addition to the group of the 12th Partch instrument, they began performing under the name "Partch."  During 2007 they performed Harry's music in Albuquerque; Santa Cruz, California; Oakland and Los Angeles.  In 2009 they gave another West Coast premiere in LA;  this time it was Partch's Eleven Intrusions (1950) for voice and various instruments which they took on tour.  Their 2006 performance of Castor & Pollux  (with choreography by Liz Hoefner) was released on the DVD  "Enclosure 8: Harry Partch."  In June of 2011, at REDCAT,  they performed Castor & Pollux, excerpts from the Li-Po Lyrics, Ulysses at the Edge, "Potion Scene" from Shakespeare's R. & J., the two Lewis Carroll settings, and Barstow, along with a screening of Madeline Tourtelot's Music Studio. Their 3 disc set of Bitter Music was released in the Fall of 2011.

Thanks to musicians like these Josh Aguilar (Trumpet), Erin Barnes (Diamond Marimba and Spoils of War),  Matt Cook, T.J. Troy and Emil Richards (Booobams, Bass Marimba),  David Johnson (Cloud-Chamber Bowls, Chromelodeon),  Michel Kudira and Tara Schwab (Kithara),  Andrew McIntosh (Viola),  Barry Newton (Bass),  Argenta Walter (voice) and John Schneider (Guitar, Viola, Canon) the music  of Harry Partch is now, in the second decade of the 21st Century, being heard with more and more frequency.  The group "Partch" is now the resident ensemble of MicroFest, Los Angeles' yearly festival of microtonal music.

On June 14, 2012, at REDCAT, "Partch" presented a two-and-a -half hour concert of excerpts from Partch's Bitter Music his "diary of eight months spent in transient shelters and camps, hobo jungles, basement rooms, and on the open road," as he described it. This work was long considered to be lost, but it turned out that the text had been microfilmed before Partch destroyed its pages in 1950. 

Written in 1935 - 36, the diary predates Kerouac's On The Road by two decades and is an American odyssey from another era.  Prose meditations are foremost in this work, interwoven with musical outbursts and interludes along with many pen-and-ink drawings of people and places that Partch encountered. When he burned the diary pages, Partch had kept the drawings aside. (In the recently released  3-CD recording on Bridge Records, a 48-page booklet brings drawings, text and music together for the first time in over sixty years.) Here in these rambling rants and meditations, his meetings with Yeats in Dublin are given equal weight with stories of hobo pals such as the young Kain Tuck and Pablo of the "face like a mandolin." Religious trippers, hunger and hitch-hiking are also touched upon more than once. The drawings were projected on the REDCAT big screen and the musical selections were performed by Garry Eister (voice and piano), Richard Valitutto (piano), David Johnson (chromelodeon), Erin Barnes (kithara), and T.J. Troy (voice),  along with John Schneider (baritone, adapted viola, adapted guitar) who also narrated the whole shebang, effectively channeling the voice of Harry Partch in the diary excerpts.  The concert ended with Partch himself in a voice-over from 1969, recalling the composition of Bitter Music and regretting having burned his diary.  Then there followed a recently discovered and long-lost setting of Barstow (1942) in its second version for voices, chromelodeon, kithara and adapted guitar, bringing the evening to a fitting and witty conclusion:  "Why in the hell did you come anyway?!"

It may be hoped that by 2026, the 125th Anniversary of his birth, Harry's music will be heard even more and more throughout the land, from sea to shining C.

"...[I]deals are like stars.  We can't touch them but we look to them for guidance."

Guest post by D.J. Carlile, this one on Harry Partch, one of the most interesting―if not one of the greatest―composers of the 20th century.

 Many thanks for the kind permission to reblog the article to