Harry Partch (1901 – 1974)

Harry Partch is one of the greatest and most individualistic composers of all time, he was not only a great composer, but an innovative theorist who broke through the shackles of many centuries of one tuning system for all of Western music, a music instrument inventor who created dozens of incredible instruments for the performance of his music, and a musical dramatist who created his own texts and dance/theatre extravaganzas based on everything from Greek mythology to his own experiences as a hobo.   Between 1930 and 1972, he created one of the most amazing bodies of sensually alluring and emotionally powerful music of the 20th century: music dramas, dance theater, multi media extravaganzas, vocal music and chamber music–mostly all performed on the instruments he built himself.

Boo II

The Boo (Bamboo Marimba): another of Harry Partch’s mallet instruments, the bamboo marimba originally consisted of 64 tuned bamboo tubes arranged in 6 rows, with a very small tube in a row of its own on top.
Photo Credit: Steve Hockstein

You cannot get much more original than Harry Partch. After investigating his work and music, he has become a big influence on the way I have been producing the piece of work I am producing for my MA sound unit. Something I have been doing with my work is lots of experimentation with recording techniques. I really like the idea of creating your own musical instruments. In some ways I have been recording my own “musical instruments” via the use of contact microphones for this project. After playing with the sounds I would like to twist and distort them into an instrument” in some sense of the word. I would like to combine the sounds I have recorded to produce the short piece of audio work inspired by the creation of the universe.

Harry Partch experimented with music in unconventional ways  and produced his sounds from his own instrument creations. I have been attempting to record “elemental” sounds to some extent as a theme. These have included: boiling water, ice, bubbles, balloons, rock, water, fizzing and fermenting sounds, etc. Through the use of layering these sounds and some synthesis techniques, my project has taken some side steps, to become a composition inspired by a video, rather than sound design.

The recording below is of one of Harry Partch’s compositions “The Waterfall”.

Harry Partch Information Centre: www.harrypartch.com

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