HARRY PARTCH (1901-1974): Ulysses at the Edge of the World, 12 Intrusions, The Letter (1972 version), Windsong, Sonata Dementia, Canción de los Muchachos, Barstow: 8 Hitchhikers’ Inscriptions from a Highway Railing at Barstow, California (1942 live performance).
Catalogue Number: 07V042
Description: A fascinating collection of accessible, enjoyable, and strangely alien works by this unique figure in the history of music, featuring his equally unique instrumentarium. If you’re not familiar with them, please go and look at the instruments on harrypartch.com; they are as beautiful to the eye as to the ear. One of the most remarkable features of Partch's music - which points to some fundamental truth in his belief that it was in various ways more 'natural' than the Western tradition that he rejected - is the ease with which the ear accepts as normal, pleasing, and emotionally evocative his extremely unusual tunings and timbres. Despite the almost total unfamiliarity of his soundworld it is as instantly approachable as a Mozart sonata or a pop song. A recurring feature of his music is its strongly rhythmic nature, which provides in its stable pulse an anchoring factor amidst all the unfamiliarity. This is especially true of Windsong, written as a film score, which is both a thrillingly dynamic dance fantasy / tone poem and a wonderful demonstration of the expressive power of Partch's instrumental innovations. Sonata Dementia - the movement titles are just as good; "Abstraction and Delusion", "Scherzo Schizophrenia", and "Allegro Paranoia" - is a delight; easily the most fun you can have listening to a piece written in a 43-tones to the octave scale, played on instruments that sound like mutant relatives of ones you thought you knew. It started as an experiment in combinations of intonations and timbres and went through several iterations, as tended to be Partch’s habit. He described it both as a 'satire' and 'a serious expression of a philosophy', which seems about right; it was written at a time when the composer was feeling that he was "getting touchy like a hermit...incipient psychosis" because of his isolation and outsider status, so maybe the titles reflect his state of mind at the time and the acceptance thereof. Intrusions is a set of vocal and instrumental miniatures exploring textures produced by various combinations of Partch’s iconic instruments, microtonal intonations, and enigmatic, desolate texts that seem to demand the kind of speech-music discussed by Partch and W.B. Yeats in Dublin in 1934, and the fluid unreality of the timbres that they receive in Partch’s settings. Ulysses was composed with jazz trumpeter Chet Baker in mind, which accounts for its jazzy feel and the unmodified instruments alongside the Partchian ones. A bonus track alone is worth the price of the disc; an archive recording of Partch performing (with Extended Guitar) his hitch-hiker graffiti settings, Barstow, at Eastman in 1942, like a cross between Woody Guthrie and some gentlemanly Beat poet. PARTCH (Diamond and Bass Marimbas, Cloud Chamber Bowls, Spoils of War, Chromelodeon, Boo, Adapted Guitars, Harmonic Canons, Kithara, Surrogate Kithara, Adaptd Viola).