Partch, Harry, 1901-1974

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1901-06-24
Death 1974-09-03
Americans
English, French

Biographical notes:

Biography

Harry Partch was born in Oakland, CA on June 24, 1901; both his parents had been Presbyterian missionaries in China who endured the Boxer Rebellion. By the age of 20, he had moved through parts of the Midwest and East Coast, then back through Northern and Southern California before settling in San Diego in 1964. He began his early musical training playing clarinet, harmonium, viola, piano, and guitar and composing music using a tempered chromatic scale normal in Western music. He became frustrated with the musical tuning of Western music and subsequently destroyed all of his early works.

Interested in dramatic speech, Partch began to build his own instruments to reflect the musicality of speech and substantiate the intoning voice. His first instrument built in 1930 was the "Monophone", later known as the "adapted viola". Soon after, he was awarded a grant which allowed him to study the history of tuning systems in London and to try to gain permission to write an opera based on W.B. Yeats's translation of Sophocles' OEDIPUS THE KING. However, his grant money was depleted by the 1930s and he returned to the United States and to travel around on trains, as a hobo. He recorded his experiences in a journal named BITTER MUSIC (late 1930s) and subsequently composed BARSTOW (1941), a piece originally recorded for voice and guitar; the latter was transcribed several times throughout his life as his instrument collection grew. Additionally, he composed U.S. HIGHBALL (1943), a musical memoir reflecting his train riding memories.

After receiving a Guggenheim Foundation grant in 1943, he returned to completing OEDIPUS, recording from his own translation. In 1949, he published GENESIS OF A MUSIC, an account of his own music with discussions of music theory and instrument design, explaining his concept of the fusion of all art forms with the body as its central focus. He later wrote the 'dance satire' THE BEWITCHED, REVELATION IN THE COURTHOUSE PARK and DELUSION OF THE FURY, the latter recorded by Columbia Records in 1969. In the fall of the same year, Partch taught a course at UCSD.

Harry Partch is known for his experimental and conceptual compositions involving the 43-tone scale and his customization and design of musical instruments using raw materials such as retuned reed organs, glass bowls, bamboo stalks, liquor bottles, and car light bulbs.

He died on September 3, 1974 in San Diego. The majority of his instruments and papers are housed at the Alexander Kasser Theatre and Sprague Library of Montclair State University in New Jersey.

From the guide to the Harry Partch Music Scores, 1922 - 1972, (University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.)

Harry Partch was born on Jun 24, 1901 in Oakland, California. Partch is renowned as one of the 20th century’s most innovative American classical composers. He was one of the first composers in that century to extensively work with microtonal scales, which he wrote exclusively for his custom-made instruments that he built himself.

Both of Partch’s parents were Presbyterian missionaries that lived in China and fled that region of the world after the Boxer Rebellion. His family relocated to Oakland, California where Partch was born. Partch’s parents continued to live as missionaries, which resulted in the family relocating numerous times throughout Partch’s childhood, often in small remote towns located in Arizona, California, and New Mexico. In these small, isolated parts of the country Partch was exposed to various cultures and their music. Partch began to compose music at an early age using standard western tunings. However, he became frustrated by the limited structure of these tunings and began to develop his own methods of tuning which he performed on instruments that he created himself. Partch composed numerous operas, concertos, and various other musical projects using his tunings and instruments exclusively. In the late 1950’s Partch started his own record label, Gate 5 Records, to release recordings of his works and to generate income. Near the end of his life Columbia Records made recordings of his work which resulted in his music being exposed to a wider audience. Partch died on September 3, 1974 in San Diego, California.

From the guide to the Harry Partch Collection, 1956-1962, (University of Arizona Libraries, Special Collections)

Born in Oakland, CA in 1901, Harry Partch was an American composer, theorist, instrument designer and performer. He is best known for the work he did with just temperment: developing a 43 tone octave scale, writing pieces to showcase it, and building instruments upon which it could be played.�?  His musical knowledge was largely self-taught and his interest in intonation emerged out of microtonal experimentation conducted on string instruments. Many of his thoughts on the matter are outlined in his 1947 treatise, Genesis of a Music .

By the early 1950s, he had established the Gate 5 Ensemble and record label and begun a musical partnership with fellow composer Ben Johnston that would take him to the University of Illinois in 1956, where Johnston was then teaching. While at Illinois, Partch premiered his large stage work, The Bewitched, as part of the Festival of Contemporary Arts and also composed and had performed the stage works Revelation in the Courthouse Park and Water! Water! He returned to California in 1962 where he completed his last project, the text and music for a film, The Dreamer that Remains before his death in 1974.

From the guide to the Music and Performing Arts Library Harry Partch Collection, 1914-2007, (The Sousa Archives and Center for American Music)

Born in Oakland, CA in 1901, Harry Partch was an American composer, theorist, instrument designer and performer. He is best known for the work he did with just temperment: developing a 43 tone octave scale, writing pieces to showcase it, and building instruments upon which it could be played.�?  His musical knowledge was largely self-taught and his interest in intonation emerged out of microtonal experimentation conducted on string instruments. Many of his thoughts on the matter are outlined in his 1947 treatise, Genesis of a Music .

By the early 1950s, he had established the Gate 5 Ensemble and record label and begun a musical partnership with fellow composer Ben Johnston that would take him to the University of Illinois in 1956, where Johnston was then teaching. While at Illinois, Partch premiered his large stage work, The Bewitched, as part of the Festival of Contemporary Arts and also composed and had performed the stage works Revelation in the Courthouse Park and Water! Water! He returned to California in 1962 where he completed his last project, the text and music for a film, The Dreamer that Remains before his death in 1974.

From the guide to the Harry Partch Estate Archive, 1918-1991, (The Sousa Archives and Center for American Music)

Loading...

Loading Relationships

Information

Permalink:
http://n2t.net/ark:/99166/w6d79jkm
Ark ID:
w6d79jkm
SNAC ID:
73881939

Subjects:

  • Ballets--Scores
  • Sacred songs with instrumental ensemble--Scores
  • Duets
  • Songs with adapted viola--Scores
  • Monologues with music (Voice with instrumental ensemble)--Scores
  • Harmonic canon and bass marimba music--Scores
  • Harmonic canon and marimba music--Scores
  • Operas--Vocal scores
  • Vocal duets
  • Songs with guitar
  • Songs with instrumental ensemble--Scores and parts
  • Sacred monologues with music (Instrumental ensemble)--Scores
  • Monologues with music (Vocal duet with instrumental ensemble)--Parts
  • Songs with instrumental ensemble--Scores
  • Suites--Scores
  • Part songs, English
  • Songs (Low voice with instrumental ensemble)--Scores
  • Motion picture music--Scores
  • Chamber orchestra music--Scores
  • Songs with viola
  • Music--Manuscripts--Facsimiles
  • Songs (high voice) with instrumental ensemble--Scores
  • Sacred songs with instrumental ensemble
  • Vocalises with instrumental ensemble--Scores
  • Quartets (Clarinet, marimbas (2), violoncello)--Scores
  • Vocal duets with instrumental ensemble--Parts
  • Psalms (Music)--137th Psalm
  • Ballets--Excerpts--Scores
  • Songs (Medium voice) with guitar
  • Vocal quartets, Unaccompanied
  • Music Composition
  • Part songs, English--Scores
  • Microtonal music--Scores
  • Instrumental ensembles--Scores
  • Instrumental ensembles--Excerpts--Scores
  • Instrumental music
  • Songs with instrumental ensemble
  • Monologues with music (Vocal duet with instrumental ensemble)--Scores
  • Vocal duets with instrumental ensemble--Scores
  • Dance music--Scores
  • Ballets--parts
  • Songs with viol
  • Film
  • Vocal duets with instrumental ensemble
  • Musical intervals and scales
  • Choruses, Secular (Mixed voices) with chamber orchestra
  • Musical instruments
  • Monologues with music (Instrumental ensemble)--Scores
  • Songs (Low voice) with instrumental ensemble
  • Graffiti--Musical settings
  • Chamber music--Scores
  • Manuscripts
  • Septets (Citaras (2), harmonic canon, cloud chamber bowls, marimbas (2))--Scores
  • Opera--Scores
  • Monologues with music--Scores
  • Composition (Music)
  • Psalms (Music)--23rd psalm
  • Vocal quartets, Unaccompanied--Scores
  • Dance music
  • Vocal music--History and criticism
  • Choruses, Secular (Mixed voices) with chamber orchestra--Scores
  • Choruses, Secular (Mixed voices, 3 parts) with instrumental ensemble
  • Songs (High voice) with instrumental ensemble
  • Hitchhiking--Songs and music
  • Musical temperament

Occupations:

  • Collector
  • Arrangers
  • Composers

Places:

not available for this record