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.
Lyrics and Inscriptions
featuring John Schneider
As a prelude to tomorrow's exposure of the Partch-built instruments, tonight's concert focuses on Partch's music using conventional instruments in unconventional ways, with the spotlight on Partch specialist John Schneider.
A half-hour talk by Thomas McGeary is immediately followed by the performance. McGeary has published a descriptive catalogue of Partch's compositions, and edited Partch's Bitter Music: Collected Journals, Essays, Introductions, and Librettos.
Selections from Seventeen Lyrics of Li Po for adapted viola and intoning voice
By the Rivers of Babylon for adapted viola and intoning voice
December 1942 for adapted guitar and voice
Barstow for adapted guitar and voice
NEU faculty performing other works on tonight's program include an NEC alumna:
Manfred Stahnke Ansichten eines Käfers for guitar solo
performed by Robert Ward
Kyle Gann The Unnameable for sampling keyboard solo
performed by Won-Hee An '01 G.D.
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.