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Harry Partch


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Harry Partch (June 24, 1901 – September 3, 1974) was an American composer. He was one of the first twentieth-century composers to work extensively and systematically with microtonal scales, writing much of his music for instruments he built himself, tuned in 11-limit just intonation.
Interested in the potential musicality of speech, Partch worked out his first extended scales to notate the inflections of the speaking voice. He built his adapted viola to demonstrate the concept. He then secured a grant, which allowed him to go to London to study the history of tuning systems. While there, he met the poet W. B. Yeats with the intention of gaining his permission to write an opera based on his translation of Sophocles’ Oedipus the King. He took another instrument he had built, an adapted guitar, to the meeting, and accompanied himself in one of his own songs on it. Yeats was enthusiastic, saying “a play done entirely in this way, with this wonderful instrument, and with this type of music, might really be sensational”, and giving Partch’s idea his blessing.
Partch set about building more instruments with which to realise his opera. However, his grant money ran out, and, back in the United States, he began to live as a hobo, travelling around on trains and taking casual work where he could find it. He continued in this way for ten years, writing about his experiences in journals that were later collected together under the title Bitter Music.


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  • KaiBraun

    A mix loosely inspired by Harry Partch:

    5 May 8:42pm Reply
  • toztizokzndz

    kind of harry partch inspired, semi-microtonal exotica:

    29 Jun 2013 Reply
  • oaquard

    oo ee oo ee OOOOO eeeee delusion of the fury is nutso

    6 Jan 2013 Reply
  • toztizokzndz

    so did curse ov dialect with more interesting results to my ears.

    7 Nov 2012 Reply
  • adamcooleyisdea

    the first declaime record features madlib sampling partch on every song. to hear these guys rambling about hiphop using insane nonsequiters over top of weird creepy CHROMELODEON loops is just fucking awesome. check it out.

    16 Aug 2012 Reply
  • curseddeath666

    What idols are made of.

    30 Mar 2012 Reply
  • helpful_daemons

    anybody who doesn't feel saved isn't doing it right.

    31 Jul 2011 Reply
  • catholicbird


    13 Jul 2011 Reply
  • hi-may

    "If I were sixteen or seventeen years old and had to listen to that, or read things like that, I would want to give up listening and reading. I would begin thinking up new kinds of sounds, different from any music heard before, and I would be twisting and turning to rid myself of human language." - Lewis Thomas, Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Ninth There are some otherworldly sounds in Delusions of the Fury. Does anyone else feel saved since discovering Harry Partch's work?

    13 Jul 2011 Reply
  • exophora

    "COIL would very much like to see the creation of a newsgroup for minimal musics. (...) Some new so called ambient musics fall between genres and so between newsgroups: some of our own music has certainly been deeply inspired by and informed by such musics,from Partch to Subotnic." - John Balance and Jenni De'Ath

    6 Mar 2011 Reply
  • catholicbird


    27 Feb 2011 Reply
  • AMDA

    @Equality7-2521: Hobo minimalism (lol) But seriously, is an unique and very special music, just respect it...

    1 Feb 2011 Reply
  • thefletch7786

    Harry Partch is the quintessential American Composer

    25 Jan 2011 Reply
  • Equality7-2521

    What the fuck is this shit?

    7 Jan 2011 Reply
  • avantlesbian

    microtones rule, man

    30 Dec 2010 Reply
  • progtrance7

    Nothing but love to this man

    5 Dec 2010 Reply
  • emaskye

    everyone! totally listen to "a quarter-saw section of motivations and intonations" (from enclosure 2), it's rad and totally talks you through partch's motivations for just temperament

    13 Oct 2010 Reply
  • datsuraku

    I tried to read his book, Genesis of a Music...and failed, and failed, and failed...difficult stuff :)

    24 Jul 2010 Reply
  • BrownAndMoist

    the quiet hobo meal

    12 Jul 2010 Reply
  • johntardsbaby66

    I really want some microtonal instruments now...

    7 Jul 2010 Reply
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