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12 tone scale? bah!
October 26, 2006 9:20 PM   Subscribe

12 tone scale? bah! Harry Partch: American composer, philosopher, publisher, teacher, satirist, instrument builder and designer, sculptor, theorist, experimentalist, adapted violist, conductor, author, retired hobo, seaman, sewer cleaner, vagrant, and graffitist. Until his death, Harry Partch had been doing his own thing for more than half a century. Partch's own thing began with his rejection of the European masters and the traditional bourgeois concert-hall performance.
partch created over 30 intruments to produce the sounds caught by the human ear not reproduced in concert halls. his life story is cool. his thoughts (pdf) have influenced the path of contemporary experimental music. one of the best of the bands influenced by him.
posted by localhuman (20 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Previously.
posted by liam at 9:33 PM on October 26, 2006


The Books are quite good. One of their songs is on a mixtape Kaya sent me.
posted by kayalovesme at 9:36 PM on October 26, 2006


//message to liam// some of us haven't been members since 2002 /04 when a reference to this man was last linked. regardless, i must say that your interest in a certain ludwig w is nice to see here.
posted by localhuman at 10:04 PM on October 26, 2006


Harry Partch on YouTube, making rose petal jam.

Also, just out of curiosity, in what way are the Books influenced by him? I love them and I love Harry Partch, but I've never noticed much of a similarity.
posted by bubukaba at 10:06 PM on October 26, 2006


Locally, in Denver, Neil Haverstick (and if you're looking for a flashy webpage, never mind) is quite the master of this microtonal thing...
posted by kozad at 10:14 PM on October 26, 2006


localhuman, it is not a rebuke to point out related posts from times past. And if you are curious whether a topic you are posting on has been addressed already, there is no need to be a long term member, you can just do a site search.

On topic: I don't see how the Books are influenced by Partch. Maybe by early tape-cutting experiments by Burroughs, Bryars, etc., but Partch?

Also, where are the Partch instruments stored now? I know there was a time when they were in danger because no one could afford to house them.
posted by Falconetti at 10:30 PM on October 26, 2006


A New Jersey organization called Newband has them, apparently.
posted by bubukaba at 10:39 PM on October 26, 2006


Thanks for that Newband link, bubukaba. God, I love those Partch instruments. I'm not crazy about all of Partch's music, but those instruments are just so lovely, and sound so good.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:58 PM on October 26, 2006


God, I love those Partch instruments.

Eh. He was just rehashing the work of a forgotten 18th-century composer.
posted by Opposite George at 11:10 PM on October 26, 2006


@localhuman:

Thanks so much! Running into Partch's story every decade or so is always an inspiration; every time, what he had to say makes even more sense.

"In one area he was totally consistent: he detested any single ruling attitude or tradition, about which he said, "The extent to which an individual can resist being blindly led by tradition is a good measure of his vitality."
posted by Twang at 11:31 PM on October 26, 2006


He was just rehashing the work of a forgotten 18th-century composer.

Yeah, ol' P.D.Q. is the father of it all! And, I betcha the Newband doesn't have a hardart in their collection, either... Just goes to show, the real innovators don't get no respect!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:37 PM on October 26, 2006


Lovely to see Partch linked up here, whether he's been mentioned before or not.

My first encounter with his music was an album my Rastafari DJ friend presented to me at his strange junk/art-filled garage/studio/apartment when I was 16 or 17 years old (he also had this incredible 196? Gibson hollowbody that, even though I couldn't play guitar, was an absolute joy to hold). I could have sworn that the liner notes quoted Partch as saying he was a carpenter by trade, turned composer by necessity. Never heard that since or been able to back it up, but it fed my curiosity nicely and partly influenced my forrays into oddball music.

btw - Can you add some better tags, please? Composer(s), composition, newmusic(mine alone so far), modern. somethin' somethin'?
posted by a_green_man at 1:33 AM on October 27, 2006


Can you add some better tags, please?

Good idea! I'd suggest "microtonal", "microtonalmusic", "justintonation" and "harrypartch", for starters.

Which reminds me of one of my favorite movie lines, from Miller's Crossing:

Leo: "So, you wanna kill 'im?"

The Dane: "For starters."
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:45 AM on October 27, 2006


sorry for getting surly last night. anyways, the books make reference to him on their website. can't link to it because its a flashy site... What can we say, the man was brilliant. His music is crazy and uninhibited and really musically smart at the same time. He got in on tape cutting just as soon as anybody else, but it was always in service of the insane acoustic worlds he created. His instinct was to blur the boundary between the sonic representation of the recording (instruments) and the formal material properties of the recording itself (tape). He also had an interesting relationship to academia. He seemed to make 'outsider' music but at the same time he was respected by the academic community, probably because they were quite afraid of him, like he might flip out and kill them all and make musical instruments out of their skeletons. Fantastic! This puts us way out of his league.
posted by localhuman at 7:07 AM on October 27, 2006


If you're looking for rock bands influenced by Harry Partch, I've always had my suspicions about Tom Waits's later albums. All that twanging and clanking — and the obsession with hoboes too, for what that's worth.

(Thanks for the link to the Books, though. It's tasty stuff.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:35 AM on October 27, 2006


Oh I don't know. How can you listen to The Residents and not think there's a Partch influence? I mean, at least in passing.
posted by ilsa at 7:51 AM on October 27, 2006


"I had some assistance from a gentleman by the name of Francis Thumm, who worked on the arrangements of some of these songs with me. Who plays gramolodium with the Harry Partch Ensemble headed up by Daniel Mitchell. So he worked closely on most of these songs."
Tom Waits

(Yeah, localhuman, I just wanted to add related links and discussion from the past, when not everything was tagged. This Tom Waits' Swordfishtrombones interview is from one of those posts.)
posted by liam at 7:56 AM on October 27, 2006


Thanks for the Waits interview link there, liam: always interesting to hear what ol' Tom has to say. He got the name wrong though... it's actually Danlee Mitchell, Partch's number one disciple.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:46 AM on October 27, 2006


The connection of the Residents to Partch is even explicit, as indicated in these historical notes on Six Things to a Cycle.
posted by mkhall at 1:47 PM on October 27, 2006


I tried to get librarina to dress up as the one-footed bride for our wedding, but she would have none of it.
posted by stet at 10:24 AM on October 28, 2006


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