I performed in PARTCH from 2007-2011.
Something of a loaded statement: all performers of Partch’s music both inhabit and are inhabited by his spirit while playing...that rare combination of duality where the player is guided by the larger hand behind the notes is the true meat of the matter...it’s why we do what we do.
Michael Kudirka was born in Chicago and grew up just north in Skokie, Illinois. The guitar and its continued study brought him to Los Angeles in the mid-90s to USC, and later to CalArts, finally culminating in a Doctor of Musical Arts degree (USC) in 2012. Naturally gravitating toward alternate tuning systems, Michael’s first public recital of microtonal guitar was Jeffrey Holmes’ “Five Micro-Tonal Studies,” a piece John Schneider (founding Artistic Director of PARTCH Ensemble) would program again in 2003 as part of Schneider’s annual MicroFest celebration of microtonal music As we often see, one microtone begets another, and soon Michael’s ear for just intonation and its cousins was open and listening, bringing him to a concert by PARTCH Ensemble at the REDCAT Theater in Los Angeles in 2006.
A year later, Michael joined PARTCH Ensemble for the first time at Los Angeles’ coveted Grand Performances Watercourt stage, the instruments seemingly floating on water…
I’d have to say my favorite moment performing with PARTCH was my very first concert with the group on the Grand Performances series in downtown L.A.. It was both terrifying and exhilarating to wonder if all the hours of practice on the Harmonic Canon and Kithara would deliver the goods in concert. It forced me into a level of presence with my music-making…
Indeed, presence...that’s the exact spirit that Partch intended all his musicians to embody and extoll throughout his music. And if you don’t bring that yourself, then Partch has a tendency to do it for you…
...my first exposure to PARTCH...completely blew my mind. It was like hearing a truly alien musical language that was at the same time both totally unlike anything I had heard before, and yet strangely familiar, human, and natural sounding.
Michael’s extraordinary high standards of performance contributed to some of PARTCH Ensemble’s most memorable concert experiences in its history, including performances in Guadalajara, Mexico at the 2009 International Book Fair, and a 7-day residency with the Repertory Dance Theater of Salt Lake City, UT in 2008. Contributing on primarily stringed instruments, Michael was keen to lend his voice to Hitkchiker #6 in the Ensemble’s performances of Barstow, once again harnessing the spirit of the composer and his mythic journeys, bringing life once more to the strange cast of characters that crafted Harry Partch’s aesthetic, musical and otherwise.
...what is most relevant today is to hold onto Harry’s powerful combination of play, intellectual rigor, sheer inventiveness, and downright weirdness.
Well said, Dr. Kudirka.
Currently on the faculty of Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, AK, Michael has continued his long collaboration with composer Jeffrey Holmes, recording his guitar concerto “HRITH” for MicroFest Records’ double-album release of Holmes’ music, “May the Bridges I Burn Light My Way” (May 2019). Michael has also formed his own company MicroTone Guitars, developing a line of instruments with interchangeable fretboards that allow a transition between different tuning systems in a matter of seconds.
Michael’s exploits go beyond microtonal guitar...
In 2016 I collaborated with composer Thomas Adès on his first composition for guitar, a dream sequence in his opera “The Exterminating Angel”. I went on the perform in the opera at the Salzburger Festspiele (Austria), the Royal Opera House (UK), and the Metropolitan Opera (NYC), with mezzo-sopranos Anne Sofie von Otter and Alice Coote.
Michael Kudirka’s tenure with PARTCH Ensemble may have been brief, but the experience left him changed, as it does for most of us playing Harry’s music. The level of creativity of the music, the combined savvy and wit next to pure compositional prowess, yielded a body of work that few musicians can truly fathom to the level of nuance that Partch needed from his players. Michael Kudirka understood the nuance, the intensity, behind the music, and instinctively knew that this composer would ask more from his musicians than a mere execution of the notes, but a true embodiment of the spirit from whence the music came. We are grateful to Michael for his contributions, and cherish him as a member of PARTCH Ensemble’s extended family.
You can learn more about Dr. Michael Kudirka at his website: https://www.michaelkudirka.com/