The Outsider
November 20, 2008 7:18 PM   Subscribe

The Outsider: The story of Harry Partch. BBC Documentary. "...a documentary about the composer Harry Partch who invented his own compositional method using a 43-tone scale and many instruments that he built by hand."
posted by vronsky (15 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
*searches furiously for bomb-ass Partch anecdote concerning exploration past 11-limit tuning*

...*resists paraphrasing*
posted by Monstrous Moonshine at 7:56 PM on November 20, 2008

You can play flash versions of his instruments here.
posted by The White Hat at 8:04 PM on November 20, 2008

Hey. I was just about to say that (but I got distracted playing the virtual kithara and the chromelodeon). Also, as I've mentioned twice before here in the last five years (about different people), a good general introduction to this sort of thing is the book/CD set Gravikords, Whirlies and Pyrophones: Experimental Musical Instruments. Partch of course is included.
posted by LeLiLo at 8:12 PM on November 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

"As a bum, Partch may have been homeless, broke, filthy, and starving, but for the first time, he truly felt free."

That was simultaneously hilarious and awesome. I love the english some times.

Good post. Awesome dude.
posted by Alex404 at 8:24 PM on November 20, 2008

Ah, very nice.

Most of the color film of Partch's music being performed on his large percussion instruments is from the earlier films, The Music of Harry Partch and The Dreamer That Remains. If you are unfamiliar and intrigued, I'd seek these out.

I didn't much appreciate the 2002 BBC narration. I would have preferred more music and less psychodrama. But it is interesting to learn that the source of some of that psychodrama directed one of the films.

The thing that first attracted me to Partch's music at the time was the beauty of the instruments in these films, the diamond.marimba being my favourite. Appreciating the compositions came later.

Point of interest -- if you ever listened to the Doctor Demento show in the 1970s, the voice announcing the Funny Five (e.g. "num-ber-TWO") is Partch, in a performance of his early work, "Barstow". Thanks, Dr. D, ever the record collector.

The Official Partch Website contains background, discography, scheduled performances, and more.

Thanks, Vronsky
posted by Herodios at 8:48 PM on November 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Much better images of Partch instruments from
Bradford Blackburn and Newband.
posted by Herodios at 9:05 PM on November 20, 2008

Thanks for this post; I had never heard of Mr. Partch before. I really want to build some music-making stuff now, but alas, I am not [yet?] much of a musician. Though I imagine there's no better way than that for self-education!
posted by palidor at 9:18 PM on November 20, 2008

I never even knew of microtonal scales before I ran into Partch on late night CBC one frozen night in Northern Canada around 1993. I never had an inkling that there were spaces between the regular spaces. Now the spaces are all I care for anymore.

Harry Partch is one of my five big heroes. Thanks for this Vronsky. You always seem to bring the best of the best, and I'd gladly buy you a drink just to say thanks.
posted by isopraxis at 9:21 PM on November 20, 2008

Oh yeah, can't wait to watch this. Thanks so much!
posted by treepour at 9:49 PM on November 20, 2008

He published a massive tome of his theories of music. One fat half was about all the intricacies of micro tonal instruments and scales, and the other half was an extremely detailed and well reasoned proof that opera was a totally bogus art form.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:54 PM on November 20, 2008

Another Partch fanboy here. Thanks for the links!

I'll just add that Bitter Music, his hobo journal, is a fascinating book.
posted by doubtfulpalace at 10:23 PM on November 20, 2008

Another fine post, vronsky—thanks.
posted by languagehat at 6:41 AM on November 21, 2008

my brain thought that said "Harry Potter"

sometimes I hate JK Rowling.
posted by dismas at 7:28 AM on November 21, 2008

i did the exact same thing, dismas. it's got to be a symptom of some psychosis.
posted by bryak at 7:51 AM on November 21, 2008

there's a pretty delightful japanese duo who used the microtonal scale in their music. syzygys. i like 'em. you might, too.
posted by lapolla at 12:20 AM on November 22, 2008

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