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Harry Partch (1901-1974)

Harry Partch, composerHarry Partch was born in Oakland, California. His parents had been Presbyterian missionaries in China who had endured the Boxer Rebellion. Two years after his birth, they moved to Arizona to homestead, but never for long in any one place; after age fourteen, in fact, Partch never stayed more than three years in any single residence. He roamed all over: Hawaii at age twenty, the Midwest and East and back to Northern and Southern California. At age twenty-nine, Harry Partch gathered up fourteen years of music he had written, based on what he called the "tyranny of the piano" and the twelve-tone scale, and summarily burned it in a big iron stove. American music wasn't really American but was only a facsimile of European convention and fashion. Serialism was only another step along this path, a path Partch wasn't interested in taking. He felt he was only an imitator of the tradition he found dumped on him, without ever questioning the ideas that lay beneath it or its ability to express the confluence of oceanic, non-Western minisounds he heard in the world around him. For the next four and a half decades, most of the time working in virtual obscurity, Partch devoted his entire life to the production of those sounds. A true maverick or visionary in the eyes of contemporary students, Harry Partch was derided by musicologists for most of his life, often called “The Don Quixote of Music.” Only very late in life did he acquire a belated but significant international reputation as both a major musical composer and as an innovative genius. When he died in 1974, he had built around thirty instruments and had devised complex theories of intonation and even of performance to accompany them. His legacy has crested problems equally complex. It has constituted, in music circles, almost a national debate. The message of Harry Partch, for musicians and nonmusicians alike, is that there are still choices to be made and independent paths to pursue. On several occasions near the end of his life, Partch contended that he did not want people to consider his work the only worthy destination but rather one viable direction deserving serious scrutiny among many.
-  John Beal

COMPOSITIONS                                                            Partch  Links     ~ ~ ~     Works by Genre    ~ ~ ~    Partch on Partch
Seventeen Lyrics by Li Po (1930-1933) for adapted viola & intoning voice
 Two Psalms (1931)
        The Lord is My Shepherd (1931) for adapted viola & intoning voice
        By the Rivers of Babylon (1931/41);  originally for adapted viola & intoning voice kithara & chromelodeon
                added in 1955
The Potion Scene [from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet] originally for  adapted viola & intoning voice (1931);
                chromelodeon, kithara, bass marimba, marimba eroica & two high female voices added, 1955
The Wayward [texts by Harry Partch]
    Barstow (1941/1954/1967) originally adapted guitar & voice; rewritten for two voices, surrogate kithara,
                chromelodeon, diamond marimba & boo in 1955
    San Francisco (1943) for two baritones, adapted viola, kithara & chromelodeon
    The Letter (1943) for intoning voice, kithara, harmonic canon,surrogate kithara, diamond  marimba,
                bass marimba (There was an earlier version which has been lost)
    U.S. Highball (1943/1955) originally for voice, adapted guitar, kithara & chromelodeon; rewritten in 1955
                for "Subjective" Voice (Tenor-baritone), one or more "Objective" voices  (mostly) baritone, kithara,
                surrogate kithara, two harmonic canons, chromelodeon, diamond  marimba, boo, spoils of war,
                cloud chamber bowls, bass marimba, & bloboy
Yankee Doodle Fantasy (1944) for soprano, tin flutes, tin oboe, flex-a-tones & chromelodeon
Dark Brother (1942-3) [text from Thomas Wolfe: God's Lonely Man] for intoning voice, chromelodeon,
                adapted viola & kithara; bass marimba was added later
Two Settings from Joyce's Finnegan's Wake (1944) for soprano, kithara & two flutes
      Annah the Allmaziful
"I'm very happy to be telling you about this..." (1945) [text from broadcast transcription of glider pilot Warren
                Ward --- for soprano, baritone, kithara & Indian drum; score has been lost
Two Studies on Ancient Greek Scales (1946) originally for harmonic canon; bass marimba added later
Eleven Intrusions(1949-50)
        No. 1 Study on Ancient Greek Scales
        No. 2 Study on Ancient Greek Scales
        No. 3 The Rose [text by Ella Young] for intoning voice, guitar & diamond marimba
        No. 4 The Crane [text by Tsuryuki-Waley] for intoning voice, guitar & diamond marimba
        No. 5 The Waterfall [text by Ella Young] for intoning voice, guitar & diamond marimba
        No. 6 The Wind [text by Ella Young/Lao-tze] for intoning voice, harmonic canon & bass marimba
        No. 7 The Street [text by Willard Motley] for intoning voice, harmonic canon & bass marimba
        No. 8 Lover [text by George Leite] for intoning voice, soprano, two adapted guitars, cloud chamber bowls
                   & bass marimba
        No. 9 Soldiers---War---Another War [text by Ungaretti] for intoning voice, harmonic canon, adapted guitar,
                diamond marimba cloud chamber bowls & bass marimba
        No. 10 Vanity [text by Ungaretti] for intoning voice and three adapted guitars
        No. 11 Cloud-Chamber Music [with Cancion de los Muchachos from the Zuni Indians] for intoning voice,
                adapted viola, two adapted guitars, kithara, diamond marimba, cloud chamber bowls, bass marimba,
                deer-hoof rattle & chorus of musicians
Ring Around the Moon (1949-1950) [text by Harry Partch] for baritone, harmonic canon, two adapted guitars,
                kithara, chromelodeon, diamond marimba, cloud chamber bowls, bass marimba, marimba eroica, cymbal
Oedipus (1950/1952-4/1967) [text from play by Sophocles; first version: libretto adapted from William Butler
                Yeats; 2nd & 3rd versions: libretto by Harry Partch] for bass (Oedipus), bass-baritone  (Tiresias and
                the Herdsman), low soprano (Jocasta), tenor-baritone (Chorus Spokesman), chorus of six sopranos,
                clarinet, bass clarinet, adapted viola, adapted cello, two adapted guitars, double bass, kithara,
                two harmonic canons, two chromelodeons, cloud chamber bowls, gourd tree, cone gongs, diamond
                marimba, bass marimba & marimba eroica
Castor and Pollux (1952) for kithara, surrogate kithara, harmonic canon, diamond marimba, cloud chamber
                  bowls & bass marimba (two players)
Even Wild Horses (1952) [text from Rimbaud's A Season in Hell] for baritone, adapted viola, adapted guitar,
                kithara, four harmonic canons, chromelodeon, diamond marimba, bass marimba, cloud chamber bowls,
                spoils of war, Japanese temple bell
Two Studies from Lewis Carroll (1954)
The Mock Turtle Song for singing-intoning voice, surrogate kithara & spoils of war
O Frabjous Day! (The Jabberwock) for intoning voice, harmonic canon & bass marimba
Ulysses at the Edge (1955) for alto saxophone or trumpet, baritone saxophone, diamond marimba, boo, cloud
                chamber bowls & speaking rhythmic voice
The Bewitched for solo soprano (the Witch), piccolo, clarinet, bass clarinet, cello, kithara, two harmonic canons,
                koto, surrogate kithara, chromelodeon, cloud chamber bowls, spoils of war, diamond marimba, boo,
                bass marimba, marimba eroica, chorus of musicians & approx 10 dancers
Windsong (1955) for film by Madeline Tourtelot; rewritten as Daphne of the Dunes
Daphne of the Dunes (1967) for dance...for kithara, surrogate kithara, four harmonic canons, chromelodeon,
                diamond marimba, boo, spoils of war, bass marimba, cloud chamber bowls, adapted viola, gourd tree
                & cone gongs plus pre-recorded tape of harmonic canons, kithara, diamond marimba & boo
Revelations in the Courthouse Park, after The Bacchae of Euripides (1960) [a "double-tale" which alternates
                between The Bacchae and a modern parallel, set in the "Courthouse Park" with text by Harry Partch.
                The cast doubles between parallel characters.] for baritone, tenor baritone, soprano, contralto, chorus
                of eight women, chorus of four men, Cadmus, Tiresias, the Herdsman, the Guard, who must speak
                rhythmically, Band (2 piccolos, 3 trumpets, 2trombones, tuba, snare drum & bass drum 2 guitarists,
                4 twirlers & majorettes, 8 clog dancers (4 men, 4 women), 4 tumblers), 2 kitharas, 3 harmonic canons,
                double bass, crychord, 2 adapted guitars, adapted viola, 2 chromelodeons, bloboy, spoils of war,
                diamond marimba, boo, marimba eroica (2 players), cloud chamber bowls & cone gongs (2 players),
                bass marimba (2 players), drone devils (jaw harps), pre-recorded tape
Rotate the Body in All Its Planes (1961), music for an exhibition of gymnasts for most of the instruments used
                in Revelations in the Courthouse Park
Bless This Home (1961) [text by Vincenzo Prockelo] for intoning voice, oboe, adapted viola, kithara, harmonic
                canon & mazda marimba
Water! Water! (1961) [text by Harry Partch] although this large music theatre work was performed three times
                during 1962, Partch considered it an unfinished work
And on the Seventh Day Petals Fell in Petaluma (1963-66) for adapted guitar, 2 kitharas, surrogate kithara, 5
                harmonic canons, 2 chromelodeons, bloboy, koto, crychord, diamond marimba, bass marimba,
                marimba eroica, boo, cloud chamber bowls, spoils of war, gourd tree, cone gongs, mazda marimba,
                zymo-xyl, drone devils, gubagubi
Delusion of the Fury - A Ritual of Dream and Delusion (1965-66) [2 acts performed without a break: Act I based
                on an 11th century Japanese story - historical, legendary & intensely serious, Act II based on an
                African folk tale - highly farcical] for tenor-baritone, soprano, bass, numerous dancers/mime actors,
                instrumental ensemble: adapted guitar, 2 chromelodeons, 2 kithars, surrogate kithara, 5 harmonic
                canons,  bloboy, koto, crychord,diamond marimba, quadrangularis reversum, bass marimba,
                marimba eroica, boo, eucal blossom, gourd tree, cone gongs, cloud chamber bowls, spoils of war,
                zymo-xyl, mazda marimba, ugumbo, waving drums, Bolivian double flute, mbira, ektara, rotating drum,
                belly drums, gourd drum, 6 bamboo claves, 4 eucalyptus claves & rhythm boat
The Dreamer That Remains - A Study in Loving (1972) [text by Harry Partch] for narrating/intoning voice,
                chorus, fifteen instruments

WORKS BY GENRE                                                            Partch  Links     ~ top of page ~
[under construction]



Soloist(s) w/Orchestra

Chorus w/Orchestra



Solo Instrument





PARTCH  LINKS                                                            Works by Genre      ~ top of page ~
The Bewitched - Dance Satire by Harry Partch (New World Records)
The Dreamer: Harry Partch's Corporeal Musical Spirit (Jack Logan, Ph. D.)
The Dreamer That Remains: The Music of Harry Partch (Kate Light, Gadfly Online)
Harry Partch and Freighthopping (Cabinet of Cabarets)
Harry Partch and the Sociology of Composition (Tom Rodwell, Perfect Sound Forever)
Harry Partch, "Barstow" (jodru, ANABlog)
Harry Partch: Delusion of the Fury (Waggish)
Harry Partch Kinescope Exclusive (The Wire)
Hobo Exoticism: The Music of Harry Partch (Philip Sherburne,
Why is Harry Partch Important? (B. McLaren,

Genesis of a Music (Harry Partch, Da Capo,
Harry Partch: An Anthology of Critical Perspectives (David Dunn, Routledge,
Harry Partch: A Biography (Bob Gilmore, Yale Univ Pr,

Composer website
Corporeal Meadows

Partch @ Wikipedia
Partch @ American Mavericks (American Public Media)
Partch @
Partch @ Art of the States
Partch @ Classical Archives
Partch @ Classical Composers Database
Partch @ Classical Net
Partch @ ClassicsToday
Partch @ Dilettante Music
Partch @ Dr. Estrella's Incredibly Abridged Dictionary of Composers
Partch @ Facebook
Partch @ Frank Perry
Partch @ IMDb (Internet Movie Database)
Partch @ John Beal
Partch @ MusicWeb International
Partch @
Partch @ MySpaceMusic
Partch @ Newband Instrumentarium/The Harry Partch Instrument Collection
Partch @ New World Records
Partch @ The New York Times
Partch @ NME
Partch @ NPRmusic
Partch @ OAC (Online Archive of California)/Harry Partch Collection

Check also - Music Sage

Streaming Audio
Partch @ ANABlog/Harry Partch Interview, and more...
Partch @ Art of the States
Partch @ Classical Archives
Partch @ Internet Archive/RadiOM    also    here
Partch @
Partch @ NPRmusic
Partch @ Rhapsody

Partch @ ArkivMusic
Partch @ ClassicsOnline
Partch @ Discogs
Partch @ Innova
Partch @ New World Records

Partch @ YouTube

Partch on Partch: Music Studio/Madeline Tourtelot (part 1)

Partch on Partch: Music Studio/Madeline Tourtelot (part 2)

Harry Partch (BBC Documentary) (part 1)

Harry Partch (BBC Documentary) (part 2)

Harry Partch (BBC Documentary) (part 3)

Harry Partch (BBC Documentary) (part 4)

Harry Partch (BBC Documentary) (part 5)

Harry Partch (BBC Documentary) (part 6)

The Music of Harry Partch (San Diego KPBS-TV, 1968) (part 1)

The Music of Harry Partch (San Diego KPBS-TV, 1968) (part 2)

The Music of Harry Partch (San Diego KPBS-TV, 1968) (part 3)

The Music of Harry Partch (San Diego KPBS-TV, 1968) (part 4)

Harry Partch and His Strange Musical Instruments (part 1)

Harry Partch and His Strange Musical Instruments (part 2)

Harry Partch and His Strange Musical Instruments (part 3)


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