This session is held in 354 Ryder Hall, on the Northeastern University campus, and near the Ruggles Orange Line station. Campus map.
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.
In today's workshop, violinist Sharan Leventhal of the Gramercy Trio shares her practical experience gained through performing and recording Ben Johnston’s string quartets. Johnston (b. 1926) assisted Harry Partch during the latter’s time at the University of Illinois, and went on to extend Partch’s explorations by pursuing more extended systems of just intonation.
In this hands-on workshop, participants will explore how a basic knowledge of JI changes one’s understanding of pitch, how pitch can be manipulated (and why it should be), the importance of a pitch’s function within a given harmony, how to work with intonation in a chamber music setting, and how voicing affects the perception of being “in tune.” There will also be a brief introduction to Johnston’s notational system.
Passages from the chamber music literature ranging from Mozart to Johnston’s Quartet No. 9 will be used for demonstration purposes.
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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