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Harry Partch “Historic Speech-Music Recordings from the Harry Partch Archives” [Innova]

This should Partch some holes in our library: these 4 discs from Innova provide more Harry than you could shake a zymo-xyl at. ‘I’m thinking particularly of the Li Po settings and the magnificent Barstow, a song setting of hitchhiker’s inscriptions on a highway underpass. But there’s also much, much more.

Interspersed throughout are short recordings of Harry telling short stories or introducing the next track, and a few more of his song settings (Jabberwocky, Yankee Doodle, Finnegan’s Wake, Bless This Home).

At times he gets quite vehement in his passion for just intonation and his distaste for the western European musical tradition. A Quarter-Saw Section… on Disc B is an hour-long technical lecture with examples into his 11-limit (or more (or less)) just intonation technique, where he urges us to abolish our ‘precious misconceptions? about music. Indeed, his intonations and scales create consonances you’re probably not used to. The added benefit of this is that it also creates dissonances you’re probably not used to.

Disc C contains portions of Bitter Music, Partch’s diary from his hobo/transient days, read by Partch and occassionally breaking into short piano song fragments. For all its seriousness and reflection on depression-era American life, I can’t help visualizing it as Mr. Rogers reads On The Road. It climaxes in the 8-minute ‘December 1935′.

Capping off the extreme archival-ness of this release is a 50-minute track on Disc D called Harry’s Wake featuring candid (and poor quality) recordings of Harry tinkering at the piano (hammering out Chopin and Brahms from memory – I get the strong feeling he would have been an excellent ‘conventional’ musician; check out the cookie cutter ballad ‘While my Heart Keeps Beating Time’ on Disc 1) and friends (including Lou Harrison) reminiscing at his memorial service.

-Cujo, KFJC, April 2006

  • Reviewed by cujo on April 16, 2006 at 10:52 pm
  • Filed as A Library,CD


    I eat my words! The station already had a version of Barstow in the library – on the Kronos Quartet “Howl U.S.A.” release (read/sung by buddy Ben Johnston).

  • Comment by Cujo - KFJC, May 14th, 2006 10:16 pm
  • Play some Harry Partch somebody!

  • Comment by mcqueen, November 9th, 2012 10:34 am

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