Harry Partch (1901–1974), while one of America's best-known maverick composers, is also one of the least performed—mainly due to the one-of-a-kind instruments he created in order to generate the sounds his music demanded. The instruments themselves are difficult to transport, and they require performers with specialized knowledge of how Partch intended them to be used.
This week during a symposium and festival, co-hosted by New England Conservatory and Northeastern University, many of Partch's instruments will travel from New Jersey to NEC's Jordan Hall, with the help of their custodian, Dean Drummond. Visitors will be able to examine them and hear them used in concert. Scholars will gather to explore the continuing impact of Partch’s work, with a combination of academic conference sessions, interactive workshops, and concert performances housed at both NEC and Northeastern.
3:30pm symposium session 3
Brenna Langille “ ‘A stable, just system’: An investigation of Harry Partch’s 43-tone Just Intonation scale through Erv Wilson’s Constant Structures”
During the early 1960s, Erv Wilson was busy assisting Partch in the second edition of Genesis of a Music. One outcome was Wilson's own graph depicting a 41-tone subset of Partch’s 43-tone scale, which he concluded formed “a stable, just system.”
Read a detailed abstract.
4:15pm symposium session 3
Jason Yust "Expressive text setting in Partch’s early vocal music, and the harmonic and voice leading resources of extended just intonation"
Harry Partch’s use of voice-leading geometries and the extended Just Intonation lattice is revealed through early vocal works: Lyrics of Li Po (performed on last night's concert) and Two Psalms.
Read a detailed abstract.
5:00pm media presentation
Jon Roy for Danlee Mitchell "The Musician’s Role in the Performance of Harry Partch’s Music"
Partch's instruments and their players are not concealed in an orchestra pit, but instead contribute essentially to the stage setting and expressive movement. Jon Roy's film Bitter Music is a work-in-progress that seeks to provide an in-depth look at Partch.
Harry Partch is best known as a radically individualistic musical experimentalist, an emblematic “American maverick.” Seeking to create a music close to human speech, he found himself “seduced into carpentry” to create an orchestra of unique instruments and a substantial corpus of instrumental, vocal and dramatic works. His 25-year career cut across composition, music theory, and instrument building, and its conscious links to music making outside of Europe have attracted the attention of a diverse following of listeners, musicians and scholars.
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