Harry Partch

Harry Partch Collection, Vol. 4

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The Harry Partch Collection, Vol. 4 is comprised of only the lengthy "dance satire" "The Bewitched," which features musical accompaniments for a prologue and ten scenes. Partch's music is stunningly resourceful and iconoclastic: Many of the instruments used here were created by Partch himself, and Partch embraced non-Western and ancient music as principal sources of inspiration long before it became popular for composers to do so. Also, by the 1950s, when this work was composed, Partch had worked for decades on systems of microtonality (in which the composer divides the octave into a different number of pitches than the usual 12) that the rest of the new music world was just beginning to catch up with. "The Bewitched" is intensely percussive, and despite its cosmopolitan themes (exoticism, basketball, xenophobia, women's suffrage), it often sounds like field recordings of folk songs from unfamiliar lands. With 19 performers, it might be a bit difficult for the novice to appreciate all the unusual instruments used here. The newcomer to Partch's music might want to start with The Harry Partch Collection, Vol. 2, which is easier to digest because it features smaller ensembles. The music is ambitious and strange, and the recording, from 1957, still sounds great, though, so Partch fans will surely appreciate Vol. 4.

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