Partch: Sonata Dementia

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The ensemble Partch, based in Los Angeles, has specialized in performances of the music of Harry Partch using the instruments built by the composer, including some that involve a 43-tone scale. This release collects some Harry Partch items that may be little-known but give an idea of the composer's fundamental sense of humor, and if you haven't heard much Harry Partch, you might easily start here. Most of this music has never been performed. The title work Sonata Dementia, with its "Scherzo Schizophrenia" and "Allegro Paranoia," is for a chamber ensemble using the 43-tone scale. The 12 Intrusions of 1950 are percussion-heavy works that lead up to Harry Partch's grand experiments. There are also flirtations with jazz (Ulysses at the Edge of the World, written for but never recorded by Chet Baker), excerpts from an experimental film soundtrack (Windsong), a Native American chant recorded on an Edison wax cylinder in 1904, and most hilarious of all, a live recording of Harry Partch himself, playing and explaining a 1941 work called Barstow: Eight Hitchhikers' Inscriptions, which is exactly what it sounds like: a setting, for voice and guitar, of hitchhiker graffiti Harry Partch found in the California desert town of Barstow. There isn't a dull moment here. While Harry Partch admirers may be the primary market, anybody will enjoy this.

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