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The Story of Harry Partch: How Hitchhiking and Microtonal Scales Come Together


The PARTCH Ensemble | Photos courtesy of PARTCH Ensemble

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The Story of Harry Partch: How Hitchhiking and Microtonal Scales Come Together
 

The Grammy Award-winning PARTCH Ensemble heads to Jacaranda for a performance of Partch’s The Wayward – a chronicling of composer Harry Partch’s life from 1935 – 1941. The PARTCH ensemble plays fourteen custom-built instruments, including a few that were built just for this specific piece.

Harry Partch was an eccentric personality with an incredibly forward-thinking musical mind. In his late twenties, he burned all of his early music as a rejection of the classical music tradition and focused his work on designing and building instruments with custom-tuned, microtonal scales. Partch lived as a self-described hobo for a long period of his life – wandering around the US, hitchhiking and hopping on trains, capturing his life’s adventure in the autobiographical concert piece The Wayward.

The Wayward’s movements are filled with real-life moments from Harry Partch’s travels such as the opening movement which is about getting stuck in Barstow, unable to get a ride while hitchhiking. Another movement, captures a foggy street corner of San Francisco in the early morning where two newsboys are calling out and selling newspapers.


The PARTCH Ensemble

The Wayward is a sort of song cycle, but they are not songs. Instead, the ensemble does a special combination of speaking and singing in order to tell the narrative, almost like a musical speech.

The PARTCH Ensemble performs Harry Partch’s The Wayward on Saturday November 9, 2019 with Jacaranda. For more information on this concert, visit jacarandamusic.org.

Written by:
Thomas Kotcheff
Thomas Kotcheff
Published on 11.04.2019

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