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The American composer Harry Partch (1901–1974) composed in tunings not available on conventional Western instruments. His music emphasized monophony and corporeality, in contrast to the abstract, polyphonic music prevalent at the time. His earliest compositions were small-scale pieces to be intoned to instrumental backing; his later works were large-scale, integrated theater productions in which he expected each of the performers to sing, dance, speak, and play instruments.[1]

Partch described the theory and practice of his music in his book Genesis of a Music, which he had published first in 1947,[2] and in an expanded edition in 1974.[3] A collection of essays, journals, and librettos by Partch was published posthumously as Bitter Music: Collected Journals, Essays, Introductions, and Librettos 1991. Philip Blackburn edited a collection of Partch's writings, drawings, scores, and photographs, published as Enclosure 3 in 1997.

Partch partially supported himself with the sales of recordings, which he began making in the late 1930s.[4] He published his recordings under the Gate 5 Records label beginning in 1953.[5] Towards the end of his life, Columbia Masterworks released records of his works. Partch scored six films by Madeline Tourtelot, starting with 1957's Windsong, and was the subject of a number of documentaries.[6]

Music and music theatre




Partch made recordings of his own music; on recordings such as the soundtrack to Windsong, he used multitrack recording, which allowed him to play all the instruments himself. He never used synthesized or computer-generated sounds, though he had access to such technology.[9]


Films scored by Harry Partch
Title Year Length Director Notes
Windsong 1958 17:38 Madeline Tourtelot
Music Studio—Harry Partch 1958 17:48 Madeline Tourtelot
Rotate the Body in All Its Planes 1961 9:00 Madeline Tourtelot
Revelation in the Courthouse Park 1961 6:50 Madeline Tourtelot
  • Excerpts of University of Illinois production filmed April 19, 1961, for WILL-TV (broadcast April 25 and May 3)
  • Producer (stage): Barnard Hewitt
  • Conductor: John Garvey
The Music of Harry Partch 1968 29:59
  • Paul Marshall
  • Paul Steen
  • KEBS-TV documentary.
  • Features a performance of Daphne of the Dunes conducted by Thomas Nee.
U.S. Highball 1968 24:18 Madeline Tourtelot Originally filmed in 1958
Delusion of the Fury: A Ritual Of Dream And Delusion 1971 75:00 Madeline Tourtelot
  • Filmed at UCLA in 1969.
  • Choreography: Storie Crawford
  • Stage director: John Crawford
The Dreamer That Remains: A Portrait of Harry Partch 1973 27:00 Stephen Pouliot Producer: Betty Freeman
A Tantalus Film in Association with Whitelight

See also



  1. ^ Sheppard 2001, pp. 180–181.
  2. ^ McGeary 2000, p. xx.
  3. ^ McGeary 2000, p. xxvi.
  4. ^ McGeary 2000, p. xix.
  5. ^ McGeary 2000, p. xxi.
  6. ^ McGeary 2000, p. xxii.
  7. ^ Gilmore & Johnston 2002, p. 366.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Gilmore & Johnston 2002, p. 367.
  9. ^ Harrison 2000, p. 136.

Works cited