Harry Partch

The Music of Harry Partch

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This disc collects most material that was previously issued on two LPs by CRI on The World of Harry Partch and And on the Seventh Day Petals Fell on Petaluma (only "Cloud Chamber Music" is, unfortunately, omitted from the former). This is a superb introduction to Partch's music, covering many of the conceptual facets of his career from the early fascination with everyday speech patterns and the hobo life ("The Letter") to material reworked into his final masterpiece, Delusion of the Fury. The final scene and epilogue from his "The Bewitched" is an excellent example of his mid-period work for larger ensembles and chorus as well as his attempts to "modernize" the ancient Greek practice of integration between musicians, singers, and actors. "Castor and Pollux" is a fabulous plectra and percussion dance from 1952, the point where his invented instruments really began branching out into realms of aesthesia undreamt by any of his contemporaries. It sounds entirely modern years later. "The Letter" achieves enormous poignancy by simply restricting itself to a reading of an actual letter from a friend describing in sarcastic fashion his latest travails, accompanied by adapted guitar and percussion. Its stark simplicity and honesty set it far above the "equivalent" art songs being produced at the time. This recording, from 1950, is superior to the later one issued on CRI's The World of Harry Partch, Vol. 2. "Windsong," created as a soundtrack to an experimental film, shows Partch's greater command of his arsenal in 1958, varying the dynamics and increasing the sense of drama while still evoking all manner of amazing sonic colors. The final track, "Etaluma," is a 36-minute excursion into his final period, a carefully structured exposition of what his vast array of instruments was capable of, arranged in series of duos, trios, quintets, and, ultimately, a septet. Many of the themes encountered here were utilized in Delusion of the Fury a few year later, but it's wonderful to hear them in a stripped-down context, almost ab ovo, as it were. The Music of Harry Partch is a perfect starting point for the interested listener and, of course, mandatory for the Partch fan.