PARTCHed

  • PARTCHed - October 2019

    re-Genesis of a Music

      ~  A tale of obsession  ~

     by John Schneider

    Organ Transplant, pt.2

    “This is no musical instrument…!”


    In 1934, Partch was awarded a grant of $1,500 from the Carnegie Corporation for a year of research in Europe. It became a most amazing odyssey during which he spent many weeks at the British museum digesting ancient and modern volumes on music, visiting the South Kensington Museum where he saw the microtonal organs constructed by Colin Brown, Bosanquet, and General Perronet Thompson that he had only read about in Helmholtz’s Sensations of Tone:

    Colin Brown’s Voice Harmonium

    Bosanquet’s Enharmonic Harmonium

    He also met early music specialists Arnold Dolmetsch and Kathleen Schlesinger, as well as the poets Ezra Pound and W.B. Yeats. As Partch reminisced in his journal Bitter Music:  

     “This is money and a consummation in the recognition of my endeavors that have been long coming—eleven years of effort and three years of begging are behind it—and I wonder if I still have the energy, having spent so much in winning the award to execute my projects:

    Project 1: Completion of my Trails of Music, the theoretical basis of my work. I had rewritten this manuscript almost every year since 1926, but the historical background was still woefully deficient, and I proposed to prepare histories of intonation, and of the spoken word in music, at the British Museum in London. 

    Project 2: The building of a true chromatic organ, or, if this is a misuse of the word true, an organ at least three times as chromatic as the piano. The keyboard of this instrument I had already constructed, as a model.

    Project 3: the setting of the entire drama King Oedipus, version by the Irish poet William Butler Yeats, to my music, preserving throughout the vitality of the spoken words…

    I could spend the whole sum of $1,500 on my chromatic organ—my beautiful dumb keyboard—in a single disbursement, and waste no part of a penny. After all, people spend a thousand dollars on a piano, which is standardized and in mass production, and think nothing extravagant in it. And yet for my keyboard, only one of its kind—parts for which have to be specially made—I can spend, at most, half that much. For my $1,500 must cover all expenses—traveling, living—for a year, and instrument building. In that case it will, by gollies.”

    And so it did. He visited Yeats in Dublin, transcribing the exact pitch inflections of the poet’s personal reading of King Oedipus, also travelling to France and Italy. 

    Upon his arrival in London, Partch procured some brilliantly colored celluloid and spent three weeks constructing a new keyboard in his rented room after long days at the British Museum:

     

    One 2/1 (Octave) of the Ptolemy Keyboard Proper

    One Section of the Ptolemy Diamond Keyboard

    Before leaving on his travels to the Continent, he canvassed several London organ builders who politely declined the project of building a custom instrument after learning that he had only 100 pounds to spend. He finally engaged Edwin Malkin of Wimbledon who came up with an idea to simplify the mechanical difficulties, and was willing to construct the instrument for $375, providing that Partch produced the keyboard and tune the instrument:

    “Shall I gamble? I this idea fails it means I will have no chromatic organ. But on the other hand, if I won’t gamble, I won’t win, and I so hate the idea of going on with only my one little viola to prove all my work.

    I gamble, and I am handed a paper: “Received of Harry Partch Esq. £60 on account for organ to be built to specification at £70. With thanks…” — Bitter Music

    Upon his return from Europe three months later, Partch spent two weeks in Wimbledon tuning the reeds as promised, using a special set of tuning forks that he previously had made to specific frequencies for this very purpose. 

    And the result? His diary tells us:

    Wimbledon, London, March, 1935. The chromatic organ is finished! But alas! The wording has a double meaning. I spend two weeks tuning the reeds, and in its intonation it proves all of my contentions, and fulfills my finest hopes. It has forty-three tones to the octave over a three-octave extent, and 268 rainbow-colored keys in a practical analogy with tones.

    But its mechanical workings—the ideas that made its construction cheap—are faulty. The action is extremely uneven, and so hard that playing a two-octave scale tires even this piano-trained hand!

    But I cling to the hope that adjustments can be made, and I find that it will cost only $40 to ship it direct to Los Angeles. I get an article and a picture in Musical Opinion, the monthly magazine, as a record.

    Thus ends Project 2:

    Illustration from “A New Instrument,” MUSICAL OPINION—June 1935

    A few days later, 

    Wimbledon, London, March, 1935. I am talking about possible difficulties with the American customs over my chromatic organ.

    “Just say to them,” observes my organ builder, “ ‘Listen to this—this is no musical instrument!’”

    He has no sympathy for anything post-Beethoven.

    On March 30th, projects ended, money spent, Partch boarded as the only passenger on a freighter loaded with china clay, bound for Portland, Maine, and an America deep in the grips of the Great Depression.

     

    Next month: HAVE REEDS WILL TRAVEL

     

  • PARTCHed - September 2019

    re-Genesis of a Music
     ~  A tale of obsession  ~

    by John Schneider

    Organ Transplant, pt.1

    Once Harry Partch had decided on a working scale of 43 ‘true tones’ to the octave, as he called them, he faced the incredible challenge of how to produce them, let alone how to write them down. He first experimented with bowed string instruments by making special paper coverings for their fingerboards, and eventually created his first so-called microtonal instrument by adapting a viola, adding a cello fingerboard onto an extended neck. He first called it a Monophone, “Monophony” being the name that he gave his particular language of just intonation, though soon it was simply called the Adapted Viola. Of course in the traditional world of music, the term monophonic refers to a single line of pitches, and while Partch was initially fascinated in instrumentally reproducing the subtleties of pitch variation found in human speech, he was equally concerned with harmony, and thrilled to the new harmonies revealed by his discovery of just intonation.

    Partch’s first attempts at building a harmonic instrument were his Adapted Guitar (1935), followed soon after by the creation of a modern harmonic version of the ancient Greek Kithara (1938). But long before that, Partch dreamed of a keyboard instrument that could reproduce the pure intervals of ratio tuning. He was, after all, an accomplished pianist, and had moved to Los Angeles from Arizona to study with the renowned pianist Richard Buhlig while he attended the University of Southern California. He only lasted at USC for three months, but continued his education via public libraries where he discovered Helmholtz’s On The Sensations of Tone.  It was there that he learned about the acoustic inferiority of tempered tuning, as well as the tuning of the ancient Greek modes, scientific measurement intervals with ratios, charts with several different sizes for each of our familiar intervals, measuring units of 1/100th of a semitone (= 1¢) rather than the standard equal-tempered semitone, and most importantly, the concept of Just Intonation. 

    In fact, Helmholtz had created a harmonium tuned to Just Intonation since, “The harmonium, on account of its uniformly sustained sound, the piercing character of its quality of tone, and its tolerably distinct combinational tones, is particularly sensitive to inaccuracies of intonation.” (Sensations of Tone, p. 316) He chose a two manual instrument with a set of vibrating reeds for each, and tuned them such that the true values for flats were on the upper keyboard, and the sharps on the lower. 

    Harmonium Reeds pictured in Sensations of Tone

    Partch would spend many hours tuning reeds in the coming decades for his numerous keyboards, but he also learned from Appendix of Sensations written by the English translator Alexander Ellis, of even more complex instruments created during the same era that used experimental “generalized” keyboards to handle all of those so-called extra notes:

    Mr. Poole’s Enharmonic Organ (1850)

    Bosanquet’s Generalized Keyboard (1875)

    It comes as no surprise, then, that when Partch designed his first RATIO KEYBOARD in 1932, it also used a very unusual pattern...


    Partch’s Ratio Keyboard design (1932)

    ...and also began his practice of color-coding the numerators & denominators of his ratios.

    Partch was so convinced of the efficacy of this design that he constructed a model out of enameled thread spools—the ends filled with plastic wood and varnished corrugated board—and took it to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), hoping to generate enough interest for them to construct the actual instrument:


    A Partch demonstration (circa 1933)

    Interested they were not, and it would take another few years and a visit to London to find out if his design would actually work.

    Next month, Part 10: “This is no musical instrument…!”

     

  • PARTCHed - July 2019

    re-Genesis of a Music

      ~  A tale of obsession  ~
    by John Schneider

    Diamonds Are Forever

    I did it! I finally finished my Partch Adapted Guitar II and was riding high on Cloud Nine playing along with Partch’s 1950 recording of the Three Intrusions,  those haunting songs that went where no slide guitar had ever been before. You will remember that those amazing compositions were basically dramatic readings – vocalizations of a text from ancient China, and two from a wonderful Bay Area poet who wrote on themes from nature. BUT – they were for voice, Adapted Guitar II, and wondrously strange terraced marimba in the shape of a diamond. I had pretty much painted myself into a corner – without that other instrument, there really wasn’t much point in having this fabulous guitar just to be able to play with a record. Oh boy, here we go again. Time to make a Diamond Marimba!

    But why did Partch even make such a strange instrument? Was it just his wonderful imagination at work? It was nothing of the sort. Anyone who has ever cracked open a copy of Partch’s book Genesis of a Music is immediately aware that the composer was not only consummately literate, he was also profoundly numerate, that is, completely conversant in the language of numbers. Musical numbers of all sorts, too: frequencies of pitches, summation & difference tones measured in Hertz, sizes of intervals measured in cents (1¢ = 1/100th of an equal-tempered semitone), but most importantly, pitches described in musical fractions or “ratios,” so essential to understanding Partch’s language of intonational theory:

    The only, clear, logical, rational terms are numbers – the relationships of numbers. That is, frequency ratios or the ratios of parts of sounding bodies. Ancient people knew musical numbers. Modern man, including modern American music schools, persist in not knowing musical numbers. On the contrary, through my lifetime, I have seen how they jealously guard their precious misconception. And this, ironically, in a so-called scientific age. - Partch, H. “A Quarter-saw Section of Motivations and Intonations (1967),” Bitter Music. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1995; 197.

    In fact, much of his musical journey was determined by a youthful chance encounter with an English translation of Helmholtz’s classic On The Sensations of Tone (1870) that not only demonstrated that there were many more notes to the octave than were on the modern piano, but that their tuning was inaccurate and rather dissonant. Revealed were the scientific underpinnings of the most basic musical elements of melody & harmony, consonance and dissonance, and much more including the exact measurement of musical intervals using ratios. Soon, these discoveries inspired the young composer to burn all of his present efforts at composition and begin anew, with the knowledge of a new world of musical possibilities clearly before him.

    Another volume that captured Partch’s attention was Max Meyer’s The Musician’s Arithmetic (1929), and in particular his modern presentation of a graphic method of displaying harmonic relationships.  (The challenge of making the audible visible had been previously taken on by many, including Rameau, Salinas, and as far back as Al-Jurjani in the Golden Age of Islam.) Partch borrowed the concept of Meyer’s Tonality Diamond to illustrate the dual harmonic function of the notes in his Just Intonation scale: 

    3x3 Tonality Diamond in Pitches

    Beginning with simple triads in a 3-by-3 diamond configuration, it is easy to see that a G, Eb, and C MAJOR triads all share the note “G” – on the far left upward diagonal, the G is the root in the chord G-B-D; in the middle upward diagonal it functions as the 3rd in Eb-G-Bb; and lastly, the bottom upward diagonal uses the G as the 5th in the major triad C-E-G. But wait! If one starts on the same G on the far left and go in a downward/right diagonal, a MINOR triad is spelled. This time, the G is the 5th of the C-minor triad C-Eb-G, the 3rd in the E-minor triad E-G-B, and finally the root of a G-minor triad G-Bb-D. When that same diagram is written using ratios rather than pitch names, it looks like this:

    3x3 Tonality Diamond in Ratios

    If you’re wondering about those tiny superscript numbers to the upper right of each note name, they represent the amount that each equal tempered pitch has to be either raised or lowered to make it acoustically in tune with the note G. The G stays unchanged, hence the tiny “ ”. (You will also remember that 3/3 and 5/5 also reduce into the same ratio 1/1, so they are the identical pitch.)

    Partch’s musical language, however, was based on HEXADS, not triads, and they were tuned to the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 9th, and 11th harmonic of any particular root. That generated a 6-by-6 diamond called an 11-limit expanded tonality diamond:

    6x6 Tonality Diamond in Ratios

    6x6 Tonality Diamond in Ratios

    Notice that the original 3-by-3 diamond is still in place at the far left, but now the Hexad G-B-D-F-A-C# climbs the leftmost upward diagonal, while the “G” that runs as an axis through the entire diamond has functions in all six upward hexads: as root for the G-hexad, 3rd for the Eb-hexad, 5th for the C-hexad, 7th for the A-hexad, 9th for the F-hexad, and 11th for the C#-hexad. It also has six more functions in the ‘minor’ downward hexads as well. Partch called the ‘major’ upward diagonals Otonalities, short for Over-tonality, while the ‘minor’ downward diagonals became Utonalities for Under-tonality.

    The diamond arrangement also goes a long way towards explaining Partch’s 43-tone scale, too, because it can be seen that there are more than one version for many notes. There are four “A”s, for example, each with a slightly different tuning [A-35, A-18, A+4, A+31]  depending on the note’s function, and this is true of all scale steps. Genesis of a Music also shows how these new pitches generate a greatly expanded twenty-eight distinct tonalities.

    Partch said of his Diamond Marimba, “This instrument is the theoretical Tonality Diamond brought to practical tonal life,” but since the wooden blocks or ‘keys’ are quite different in size, the actual instrument is not as elegantly symmetrical as the theoretical model:

    Block Plan of the Diamond Marimba

    The diagram also shows that the pitch G that runs through the middle is G5 = 784Hz, making the lowest note = Db4, and the highest = C#6. The ratio of 2/1 = ‘octave,’ so the dotted lines on the left simply show where these notes can be found. Here: try them yourself!

    http://musicmavericks.publicradio.org/features/highband/diamond.html

    Of course these diagrams are all in two dimensions, just as Partch’s original diamond laid all the keys flat. His genius was to then terrace the blocks such that a single, swift swipe of a mallet from top to bottom could arpeggiate a hexad, and—if needed—faster than any human ever could on a melodic marimba, a dramatic effect used in many of his pieces, first and most notably in his Intrusion, “The Waterfall.”

    Partch and the Diamond Marimba
    (photo: Fred Lyon)

    Clearly, this wonderful invention was the next instrument that I simply had to build, in order to pair it with my newly Adapted Guitar II. But this project was going to be very different from my previous two guitars, since they were both ‘adapted’ instruments, meaning that only the fingerboards of pre-existing commercially produced instruments had to be changed. On the Diamond marimba, everything would have to be made from scratch: this was definitely going to be a team effort.

    First and foremost, I would need details – lots of details. Genesis of a Music certainly had some, such as the height of the lowest and highest blocks, the distances from front-to-back and side-to-side, and even exact measurements of the base and the thickness of the four bronze posts that supported the diamond. But what about the bars or ‘blocks’ themselves? Every piece of wood is different, so I wouldn’t have been able to rely on Partch’s measurements even if he had published them, especially since he was using Pernambuco & Brazilian rosewood, very hard to find in the 21st century, and prohibitively expensive even if you could.

    Luckily, I had a bit of a head start. When I traveled to Newband’s performance in San Francisco in 1999 to meet the original Adapted Guitar II, I also took measurements and photos of the Diamond Marimba, just in case…

    Partch’s Diamond Marimba in 1999
    (photo: John Schneider)

    In its current form, Partch’s Diamond was a dizzying palimpsest of previous designs & rebuilds. The composer had originally hung the thirty-six bars from thin cord that suspended them at their nodes, a standard procedure that he doubtless learned from his visits to the J. C. Deagan factory in 1946. Now, however, the bars rested on small rectangles of foam. Most of the bars bore the scars of multiple drillings that had since been refilled, and some had even been drilled from top-to-bottom. The green frame had also been extended, while most of the bamboo resonators were split and held together with at least one hose clamp. So making an “authentic” copy of this instrument—which still sounded incredible, by the way—was a bit of a conundrum. 

    A little research and a few experiments made it clear that hanging marimba bars from cord was still a superior method, and that foam blocks did damp the vibration and cut down the ring time. At MicroFest 1998, I had had the pleasure of playing in the premier of a piece by Sasha Bogdanowitsch for flute, tuned harps, refretted guitar, voice, and just intonation marimba, so I knew exactly who to call. That marimba was made by Lou Harrison’s student and eventual assistant Bill Slye, and he agreed to cut and tune the keys for my Diamond. He came down from Santa Cruz to L.A. where we handpicked 18 board feet of Honduran Rosewood at an exotic hardwoods dealer.  

    For the frame, I turned to my neighbor Skip Abelson who was a custom furniture maker also specializing in metal fabrication. Perfect! We spent many weeks going over the design of the terraced mahogany platform that would hold both bars and resonators, and creating removable legs as well. Partch’s original was all of a piece, and when I met Newband’s Diamond player, I asked if there were any changes he would make. He immediately and emphatically suggested to make it more mobile, so we designed the resonators and legs to be removable.

    As for the resonators, I was fortunate enough to speak with Cris Forster who, as curator of the Harry Partch Foundation (1976–1980), had not only the restored and tuned virtually all the original instruments, but had also made his own Diamond. An exquisite craftsman and encyclopedic polymath—his Musical Mathematics (2010) is essential reading—Forster had chosen plexiglass resonators for his superb 13-limit, 54-key instrument [http://chrysalis-foundation.org/diamond_marimba.htm] and I followed suit. For that job, I contacted Richard Cooke from Freenotes who was an expert at resonating metal tubes and bars, sending him the specs for all 36 bars, and awaited the arrival of the perfectly tuned acrylic plexiglass tubes. While the platform was being built, we also fabricated two H-shaped removable legs made of square aluminum tubing that connected at 900 via welded bolts and wing-nuts.

    Not done yet! I acquired the U-shaped saddle bar suspension posts (36 x 4 = 144) that had to be drilled out and painted for my special design for hanging the bars, and selected the right kind of cord. I still needed felt spacers so the wooden bars wouldn’t clank against the posts, and 144 of them had to be hand cut, as was the special black felt to line the holes in the platform to hold the resonators. 

    New Diamond Marimba in process (December, 2000)
    (photo: John Schneider)

    But what was going to hold them in place? I didn’t want to glue them in, since they needed to be removable for safer, easier transport. So instead, we used various lengths of hex bolts that were specially sized for each resonator. The platform was then drilled and T-nuts hammered in so slight pressure from the bolt tips would gently hold tubes in position:


    New Diamond Marimba rear view (2001)
    (photo: John Schneider)


    Finally, on January 1, 2001, with all 36 keys attached and resonators in place, it’s mallet time! 

    New Diamond Marimba (2001)
    (photo: John Schneider)

    Rehearsals began soon after, and in a few months, my group Just Strings was able to perform Partch’s Three Intrusions (1949) at two MicroFest events - the first ever International Conference of Alternative Tunings (Claremont Colleges, April 2001) and the Partch Centennial Celebration (UCLA, May 2001):

    The Diamond has been an essential part of every performance ever since, including travelling to Holland for a 6-city tour in 2002 with the Amsterdam ensemble Scordatura. And yes, that is Partch’s original Kithara I (1938), but that’s a story for another time…

    Next up, Part 8: Organ transplant….

  • PARTCHed - June 2019

    re-GENESIS OF A MUSIC
    ~ A tale of obsession ~
    by John Schneider

    Part 6 - Hello, eBay...

    When my 1975 Martin D-12-28 arrived, it went straight to Greg Brandt’s shop, where he removed the frets, and laboriously ground down the Ebony fingerboard to a quarter of its original height, polishing the surface to ready it for the triangles to come. He also copied the original bridge, and replacing the initial six pairs with ten equally spaced holes:


    Off to the hobby store to buy six little glass bottles of Testor’s Enamel Paint in red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. Time to paint the triangles! It took almost a month to paint the dozens and dozens of triangles, as each tiny triangle needed a day or so to dry before I could safely use the masking tape to paint those that abutted it.

    In the end, there were 142 of them, and as you can see by the patterns, some were monochrome (black = secondary ratios) or two-tone (primary ratios), while some were subdivided into four parts. Several were divided into 14 tiny triangles in 7 separate colors, indicating that the 1/1 G note that it could function as the root, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, or 11th of various different tonalities:

    Mind you, those 142 triangles only described the pitches produced on some of the strings, the lower chain of compound triangles showing the notes for the 3rd, 7th and 9th strings that were all tuned to F (16/9), while it turned out that the upper line revealed the pitch identities found on the 5th, 7th, and 10th strings that were three octaves of C (4/3):

    [low ] C – F – C – F – Ab – C – Eb – F – F# – Gb [high]

    The plexiglass slide would then move to the base of the triangle (the widest part always on the right side from the player’s point-of-view) to produce the wanted pitch:

    But what if he wanted a note on one of the other four strings? Partch used a kind of tablature that showed which string to play, and where to put the slide using either the top line of triangles or the bottom, depending which tuning he was using. So the ratio in the score tells the performer where to put the slide, not the resultant pitch. In the opening of The Crane (1949), we learn that the guitar is tuned in the ‘minor’ or Utonality tuning that will use the lower row of triangles. The first guitar chord uses all ten strings strummed low to high, and the slide should be placed at the base of the multicolored triangle, indicated by the 1/1 on the white list of ratios on the New Adapted Guitar above:

    The opening vocal note, however, was in fact an 11/9 on the 7 th string, but the (20/11) below it also refers to where the slide would be if one was using the lower line of triangles. Hmmm. So in making my copy of the instrument, I added another row of ratios on the bass side of the strings to supplement those on the treble side as found on his ‘ratio ruler.’

    It must also be remembered that not only did Partch’s Monophonic Scale have 43-tones to the octave, he actually used many more than that. And yet, this Adapted Guitar only has 14 triangles per octave. Why!? Simplicity, really. (He used the same concept on his Adapted Viola, marking only 29 notes out of 43, as we will see in an upcoming edition of PARTCHed.) The triangles are landmarks, but the performer must know where all of the ratios live between them. No small task!

    This is, by the way, just one of the reasons that Partch’s music has remained such a mystery for all of these decades. The musicologists, composers, performers and critics that are tacitly responsible for carrying on traditions of the past have had an impossible task when confronted by two dozen unique tablatures for even more exquisitely singular instruments. But fear not—that is starting to change!

    After all of the tiny triangles had dried on the new instrument, it was time to figure out what gauge strings to use, since the open strings went as low as the Cello C2 (~65Hz) up to F#4 (~370Hz) which meant a .076” mando-cello string for the lowest note down to a .009” for the highest:

    Luckily, Partch himself had recorded the Three Intrusions—“The Crane” as well as two others called “The Rose” and “The Waterfall”—in 1950, so I knew exactly what the instrument should sound like. Tuned up and ready to go, a full year after I had first held Partch’s instrument in San Francisco, I hit that first chord…and it was exactly right:

    I was thrilled – those haunting harmonies were finally there beneath my fingers, giving me shivers down my spine. There was only one problem…there was no music for solo Adapted Guitar II! In order to play those Three Intrusions (1949), I would need a marimba. And not just any marimba either, but one shaped like a Diamond…

    Stay tuned for Part 6 - “Diamonds are Forever…”

  • PARTCHed - May 2019

    re-GENESIS OF A MUSIC
    ~ A tale of obsession ~
    by John Schneider


    Part V: Adapted Guitar II

    By 1998, I had decided that there was no turning back (see Part IV), as the search for a deeper understanding of Partch’s music had already begun in earnest. With the successful construction of the Adapted Guitar I, followed by performances, a recording, and very enthusiastic audience response, I felt absolutely compelled to continue down that path. I wanted more… But what next? Of course!

    There were at least three different guitars in Partch’s history, and I had only explored one. Having finally decided that I must reconstruct the 10-string Adapted Guitar II, I was facing all sorts of hurdles. So many questions! It turns out that Genesis of a Music, Partch’s essential book first published in 1949 with a second expanded Edition in 1972, not only serves as an extraordinary music theory primer, hidden history of music, and autobiography— it’s also a cookbook. The ingredients needed to recreate his marvelous instruments can be found in those pages: tantalizing recipes with most of the details intact, though certainly not all, as I was about to find out. Luckily, Partch supplied a photograph for each instrument, and the Adapted Guitar II was no exception.

    Sure enough, the exotic fingerboard was there all right, with what was basically a wooden ruler on the treble side that was evidently covered with the ratios of just intonation. But they were completely illegible. AND the fingerboard itself was with covered with an amazing pattern what were supposed to be colored triangles, according to the written description. But it was a black and white photo! Sigh. I would just have to visit the original.

    That would have been a lot easier back when I first met the instruments in 1977, when they were still living in San Diego under the supervision of Danlee Mitchell, Partch’s assistant for the last twenty years of his life. But now they were back East and in the care of Dean Drummond and his group Newband, who had been performing and recording with them since their arrival for a spectacular performance of Revelation in the Courthouse Park at Philadelphia’s American Music Theatre Festival in 1987 (recorded on Tomato Records TOM 3004). Sadly, I didn’t have the budget or time to make the necessary pilgrimage east to examine those mysterious colored triangles, but luckily, I happened upon this announcement:

    Newband presents “Harry Partch and His Legacy”
    Thursday, Sept. 23, 1999 at 8 p.m. at Yerba Buena Center;

    Tickets are $13-15. Partch instruments will be on display Sept. 21-23

    Now that I could manage, Yerba Buena being in San Francisco. So I booked a flight, bought a ticket, and wrote to Dean to arrange some private time with the instruments before the performance.

    My, what a strange instrument this was! Originally a 6-string Oahu brand ‘squareneck’ Hawaiian guitar, this version had ten strings, and the craziest headstock I’d ever seen. When Partch adapts an instrument, it seems like everything changes. In order to add those four extra strings, he attached a set of four connected mandolin tuners to the top of the newly designed tuning head, and made a custom bridge and nut that were much wider than the original, suspending two bass strings and two treble strings over either side of the original fingerboard. And then, there were those triangles:

    So I took lots of pictures and measurements, bringing them home to figure out what it was all about.


    As Partch had discussed in Genesis, the triangles are colored to correspond with the Chromelodeon Color Analogy, assigning the six different colors of the rainbow spectrum to each of the six harmonic overtones of his just intonation Hexads:

    1…………..red = root, or fundamental
    3…………..orange = 3rd harmonic above the fundamental = perfect 5th
    5…………..yellow = 5th harmonic above the fundamental = Major 3rd
    7…………..green = 7th harmonic above the fundamental = minor 7th
    9…………..blue = 9th harmonic above the fundamental = Major 9th
    11…………orange = 11th harmonic above the fundamental = Octave + tritone

    Ratios would be represented by two colors, since an interval is the relationship between two different pitches. The pure Major 3 rd G-B, for example, is described numerically by the ratio 5/4, which is the distance between the 5 th harmonic and the 4th . The 4th harmonic is the G two octaves above the fundamental, and would be represented by RED, while the 5th harmonic is the B a major third above that, represented by YELLOW. Thus, to find a 5/4 on a particular string, the guitarist slides the plexiglass rod to the base of a triangle that is colored YELLOW/RED. Suddenly, it all made sense, as the actual colors were the Rosetta Stone that made the possibility of making an accurate copy the instrument a reality.

    But why there were two continuous lines of Isosceles triangles, touching apex to base all the way from the nut to the soundhole? And why were the patterns different? There was only one set of ratios on the ‘ruler,’ which were in the correct order, but they only corresponded to some of the note/triangles in the lower row, not the upper! (Guess I’ll have to ask Partch next time I see him, since Genesis certainly never said why.) What the heck: just copy them, and figure that out later.

    Next question: what instrument should I use? I suppose I could try to find a 1930’s Oahu (they were actually manufactured by Kay guitars for the Oahu Publishing Company of Cleveland, Ohio that was riding the huge wave of Hawaiian music’s popularity). Partch’s creative tuning head would be a challenge to make, but not insurmountable. But I remembered the instrument being very hard to handle because of those extra strings hanging over both sides of the neck, the exact place a player hands onto when carrying the guitar on & off stage, let alone removing it from its case. Hmmm its case…the original had no case, and maybe that’s why! Very impractical.

    Ten strings, eh? Wait a minute, there already exist 10-string lap steel guitars that are played in exactly the same way. Perhaps there are acoustic versions? Nope—very rare, so that’s out. 10-string Pedal or Lap steel guitars I could find, but they were all solid body electrics: the sound would be all wrong another dead end. So instead making a ten-stringer by adding four strings to a six string guitar (6+4=10), I decided to go the other way: get a twelve string guitar, and take two strings off (12-2=10), and that would also fit in a premade guitar case. 

    Gee, I've always wanted to have a Martin guitar.....

    Stay tuned for Part 6 - “Hello ebay…!”

  • PARTCHed - April 2019

    re-GENESIS OF A MUSIC
    ~ A tale of obsession ~
    by John Schneider

    Part IV: Wait, weren’t there TWO Adapted Guitars….?

    On Golden Pond


    SUMMER, 1998 — A family vacation took me to the East Coast, where our long
    tradition of visiting local bookstores is an absolute must. And so it was that in the
    Music section of Hanover, New Hampshire’s delightful Dartmouth College Book
    store that I found the newly released Yale University Press Harry Partch: A
    Biography by Bob Gilmore:

    I had been corresponding with the author for years in my search for information
    about works for solo Adapted Guitar, and knew full well that his decades of research
    would eventually produce this long-awaited magnum opus. In fact, it was at Bob’s
    urging that I added more frets to the “Barstow” guitar to enable performances of the
    30’ solo version of U.S. Highball, as well as the song cycle December 1942, while he
    kindly supplied the scores.

    added frets for Highball, December 1942, Letter from Hobo Pablo:

    So! Back in the car to drive the hour to Squam Lake, with my fingers just itching to open that book. For the next two days at the edge of White Oak Pond, as my children frolicked in the water and for long hours after they went to bed, I devoured this gripping account of Partch’s life. The details of his upbringing, training, discovery of Just Intonation, the many versions of Trails of Music, the construction of and composition for his two dozen instruments, the struggles for recognition, performers and performances, etc. were even more amazing than the myths that had surrounded him. A real page turner. Surely there are moments in each of our lives when, in retrospect, we can clearly see that some event, person, or perhaps even a book would prove absolutely pivotal to our future path. For me, this was that moment. Profoundly inspired by the story of Partch’s epic journey, knowing the deep catalogue of truly extraordinary music he had produced, and having already had the profound experience of having his music under my fingers and in my throat, I just knew that I would never be satisfied only playing that one Adapted Guitar. After all, weren’t there two guitars in Genesis of a Music?

    Upon returning home, it was there that I read about Adapted Guitar II: 

    “It is a Hawaiian type guitar, that is, with a high nut, which allows a ‘steel’ or a heavy brass rod to be pressed down on the strings to make the stops. (Incidentally, the obnoxity of this tonal manipulation to some musicianly ears is due, I am convinced, more to the sugary and pseudo-South Seas music given to the instrument than to any ugliness or sentimentalism in the gliding sound as such.) Four strings are added, making ten in all, and are tuned beginning with a low 4/3…the same tone as the lowest cello string. In the rest of the tuning there is a choice of Otonality (major) or Utonality (minor). The change can be made in about five seconds. Tuning of the two highest strings is varied…

    …Twenty-two stops to produce higher Utonalities and twenty-two stops to
    produce Otonalities are marked on the fingerboard by triangles, the base of
    each triangle representing the stopping point. The triangles are colored to
    correspond with the Chromelodeon color analogy. Tonalities other than those
    indicated are of course determined comparatively. (A few of the secondary
    tonalities are indicated by black triangles.) A narrow piece of thin wood is
    attached to the side of the fingerboard and show ratios—in a melodic
    sense—for the highest 16/9 string (third highest in pitch).

    The strings are mostly guitar and tenor guitar, the exception being a
    mando-cello string for the lowest 4/3. The instrument rests on the player’s
    lap and is generally played with fingers rather than with a pick.

    Oh no! Colored triangles?? The photo in the book was in Black and White, while the numbers on the strip of wood were completely illegible…and I thought that Guitar I had been a challenge! He continues:


    Notation: For Guitar II, where single strings or precise duads or triads are
    very important, the six spaces of the staff plus pairs of ledger lines above and
    beneath the staff represent the ten strings:

    How in the world am I going to reproduce this guitar? Partch gave lots of clues, of course, and also mentioned that the guitar was prominent in the Intrusions, the Dances, the choruses of Oedipus, and in Revelation and Delusion. But did that mean that I was going to have to look at every note in all of those pieces and reverse engineer the ratios the way I had done with Barstow? The answer was simple. Hell, no! How could I? Just knowing the placement of the slide was one thing, but each position produced 10 different notes, one for each string. It would be impossibly difficult. But there was another possible solution…

    Part 5: “Next Stop, San Francisco…”

  • PARTCHed - March 2019

    re-Genesis of a Music

     ~ A tale of obsession  ~

    by John Schneider

    Part III: “Oh, for a picture—just one picture….!”

     

    Theoretically, I was good to go:

    1. I had the score to the solo version of Barstow (1941)

    2. I finally knew what actual pitches the dozens of ratios in the music referred to

    3. I knew how the original Adapted Guitar I was strung and tuned

    But most importantly, I had ‘crossed the Rubicon’ and decided that, in order to do the piece justice, I had to recreate not just the notes, but the actual guitar itself. But how far should I go? He couldn’t make standard fretwire work, so he had used “high, stainless-steel frets into slots in a brass plate, which was then screwed onto the neck…”  I had access to luthiers who could work with regular frets…perhaps I could reverse engineer the guitar by simply finding which frets I would need to play the piece.

         While first attempting to transcribe the piece, I had already gone through the score and determined that Partch had used 39 notes to the octave, but that was for both the voice and the guitar parts. So I wrote out just the guitar notes:

    and since the score was written in tablature, I knew exactly which string had to perform each note. Next step? draw a model of the fingerboard:

    Looked good…but how would I know if I was right? There was no recording of this earliest version of the piece, and the famous Columbia Recording didn’t even have a guitar in it. If I only had a photograph of the guitar!

    Ironically, I knew exactly what kind of guitar it was—a 1927 Koa-wood Martin parlor guitar—as there was a picture of it in his book Genesis of a Music. But years before, Partch had removed the high frets, restrung the instrument with six equidistant G-strings, and turned it into a slide guitar by raising the strings and covering the brass slotted fingerboard with a thin board with painted lines.

    There were simply no photos of the original fretting available: I was on my own.

         BUT – I remembered that in McGeary’s catalogue, there was mention of some 1945 acetate recordings made by an amateur recordist that included the 1943 version of the Barstow with kithara, guitar, & chromelodeon…so I started making phone calls. Lots of phone calls. This was pre-internet, of course, so research meant letter writing and a huge telephone bill. I was able to track down Dr. Warren Gilson in Wisconsin who had made the recordings, and though he fondly remembered both Partch and the sessions, the details of the instruments were a blur and his records were long gone. I was, however, able to reach Partch scholar Richard Kassel, who kindly mailed me a cassette of Gilson’s recording. I listened to it over and over again,  for days on end, to get the sound of Partch’s guitar into my head.

         In the meantime, I had acquired a classical guitar that had a special fingerboard invented by the German luthier Walter Vogt that used sliding frets such that each note on every string could be individually tuned.

    If I could fret that guitar with the proposed Barstow frets that I had worked out, then I would know if I was on the right track. Since the strings of the Barstow guitar were basically three pitches Eb-G-B (doubled at the octave like a 12-strings), I tuned the 4th string D up to Eb+14¢ [a pure Major 3rd below the 3rd string G], and tuned the 2nd string B down 14¢ to be a pure major third above the G. I then slid the frets to match the pattern I had worked out. Mind you, I didn’t have a proper electronic tuner to tune the frets, but I did have a Yamaha DX7-II synthesizer that I had tuned to the Partch scale, so I carefully matched the frets to the keyboard pitches, sliding one fretlet at a time until they were in sync.

    With the tuning and fretting finally done, I gingerly played the opening chords that I had been listening to for weeks. To my amazement, the same strange chords that had been emanating from my stereo were suddenly coming out of the guitar in my lap. It worked! I rapidly went through the score and tried all of the chords, and they all checked out. Time to make some sawdust!

    With incredible luck, I had been able to locate a Japanese copy of a pre-war Martin, and took it to the Los Angeles luthier Greg Brandt, who pulled the frets, and prepared the recently vacated premises for its new tenants. He then re-drilled the bridge to place the six strings in three pairs rather than the original equally spaced sextet, and we strung it up. Then, using a piece of fretwire that had the tang ground off, we slid the fret over the smooth ebony surface to mark where each fret should go, using the synthesizer to tune each note by ear.

    What a job! First I would find the right note on the synth, then step on the sustain pedal so that the pitch hung in the air while we moved the fret wire up & down until the two notes matched. The slightest move to either the right or left created beats, so the process was very exact. Three hours later, the 27 exact placements had been marked before Greg could make the precision cuts in the wood and start hammering frets:

    Three days later, Greg called with the news, “The guitar is ready!” It had taken a professional to accomplish the delicately difficult job of refretting that Partch, a self-proclaimed “philosophic music man seduced into carpentry,” was not able to achieve.

    And so, in August of 1992, Partch’s original Adapted Guitar was reborn. There in the workshop, I picked up the instrument and began strumming the chords that I had memorized. The paired stringing made the chords very easy to play, and this time, I not only recognized the same chords as the original score, but also the same exact twanging timbres that had been buried in those crackling acetate grooves half a century before.

    What a journey! The seeds that had been planted way back in 1978 and the quest that had begun in the Spring of 1991 was over: the music & guitar that I had virtually lived, breathed, slept and eaten for a year and a half was a reality once again. With boundless enthusiasm, I began to rehearse and within six weeks, I was performing the piece in public:


    A year later, I had the pleasure of recording the piece for the Bridge Records album Just West Coast, giving listeners a chance to hear the piece as Partch himself had originally conceived and performed it back in the 1941-42:

    It turns out that after 1942, Partch started re-orchestrating Barstow, adding new instruments as he invented them: first in 1942, with two voices and Chromelodeon, then in 1943 adding the Kithara, again in 1954 using the slide version of the Adapted guitar with Surrogate Kithara and Diamond Marimba, and finally in 1968 with no guitar whatsoever, but adding his bamboo marimba called the Boo.

    But was I right…?

    It wasn’t until nine years after I had completed the guitar, having performed Barstow on three continents, that I finally saw a photo of the original guitar with the original stainless steel frets. After all, the music worked – I played and sang every note in the score, but did I get the instrument right? Were my best guesses at the frets and strings correct…?

    In 2001, I produced a Harry Partch Centennial Celebration at UCLA, a 12- hour extravaganza of lectures, films, panels, and a concert. At the event, the Harry Partch Foundation presented an exhibit of photographs from the composer’s life in the lobby of Schoenberg Hall. And there, amidst dozens of unforgettable prints, to my profound relief and delight, was this photograph:

    Turns out that I was right after all. (Whew!!)

    Next month: “Wait, weren’t there two Adapted Guitars?”

  • PARTCHed - February 2019

    re-Genesis of a Music

     ~ A tale of obsession  ~

    by John Schneider

    Part II: “Seduced into Carpenty…”

     

    There I was, back in 1991: in one hand a photocopy of a heretofore unknown copy of the original version guitar/voice version of my favorite Partch piece Barstow: Eight Hitchhiker Inscriptions (1941). In the other hand, I held his book Genesis of a Music, the Rosetta Stone that would enable me to interpret the enigmatic fractions that covered the score. It had been handed to me years before by Partch’s longtime assistant and collaborator Danlee Mitchell who had warned me, “It’s unplayable – the instrument is gone and there are no recordings.” (It would take me many decades to realize that neither of those things were actually true.) But as a classical guitarist, I was used to transcribing music from other instruments, and as the owner of several refretted guitars, surely I could make this piece work on a custom fingerboard…If I could only figure out what those numbers meant, I could turn them into notes, then frets, then actual tones.

    From Genesis, I soon discovered that those fractions were actually ratios, describing  the relationship between two pitches. In Partch’s world, everything relates back to the pitch G, and that was called 1/1. For example G3, the “G” below middle-C, vibrates at 196 times a second (Hertz or Hz). The so-called octave above it vibrates at twice that speed (G4 = 392Hz), so Partch would call that note a 2/1, that is, the higher note vibrates two times for every single vibration of the lower G. A Perfect 5th is another relationship: the D4 above G3 vibrates 3 times every time the lower note vibrates twice, so the ratio of a perfect 5th = 3/2. A major 3rd = 5/4, minor 3rd =6/5, minor 7th = 7/4, and so on. In fact, Partch made an exhaustive list of hundreds of intervals found within an ‘octave’ and listed them in Genesis, also measuring them in Cents – a unit of measurement that = 1/100th of an equal tempered semitone. I was already used to measuring ‘microtonal’ versions of equally tempered notes from playing the refretted guitar music of Lou Harrison for years, so no problem there. Through that experience, I also knew that there were many versions of the ‘same’ note, depending on its function. The C a major third above Ab would need to be 16¢ lower than the C a perfect 5th above an F, while the C a minor 7th (7/4) above a D, for example, would need to be 31¢ flatter, etc.

    Once Partch had discovered the exact pitches of pure intonation, he could no longer use what he referred to as the “Alice in Wonderland mumbo-jumbo” of alphabetical Western notation. For his music, always tuned to ‘just’ intonation,

     “The only, clear, logical, rational terms are numbers – the relationships of numbers. That is, frequency ratios or the ratios of parts of sounding bodies… The word ‘octave’, for example, is a palpable imprecision…used to describe a physical distance on the modern keyboard….the aural quantity (is described by) the correct term, the ratio of two to one [2/1]. The terms septimal whole tone, septimal minor third, septimal tritone sound delightfully erudite – but in fact, the terms 8/7, 7/6 & 7/5 are far more meaningful.”

    The resulting scale looks like this, with each ‘note’ fine-tuned by several ratios:

    Partch Scale.tif

    All of a sudden, the opening ritornello of Barstow started to make a little more sense:

    Barstow Ritornello

    But what were the 0’s? open strings? Back to Genesis:

       I purchased my original guitar in 1934 and spent several years (1934-1942) in the effort to evolve effective frets in Just Intonation. The usual low, wire-type frets were not very satisfactory, and I eventually fitted high, stainless-steel frets into slots in a brass plate, which was then screwed onto the neck. Both Barstow and U.S. Highball were originally written for this guitar, and I played it in performing these pieces for some two years…(it is) tuned in three pairs of 2/1’s, the lower tone of the middle pair being 1/1-98, the pitch of the lowest string on the Adapted Viola. [G-98Hz]

       The three lowest strings and the three highest strings (a 2/1 above) are separated by successive 5/4’s. Partly because of this pairing of strings, the instrument is played more like a mandolin than a guitar, but its low range of pitch and 2/1 pairs contribute to a result that is unlike either.

     

    So the open strings were Eb2-Eb3-G2-G3-B2-B3, making the opening triplet chord a G-minor chord: the 3/2 = D, O = open G-strings, and the 6/5 = Bb on the highest course, etc, with the last three chords representing all strings played open.

    Grabbing a pencil, I dutifully went through the Barstow score and wrote down all of the notes needed to play the guitar part, translating the ratios into pitches. There were eighteen notes to the octave, with four flavors of A, two F#’s, two C#’s, and two E’s. On the next page, the vocal part began. Luckily it was written in standard ‘mumbo jumbo’ notation on a five-line staff and standard pitches, though each standard note had a ratio below it to show how to tune that particular C, Eb, etc.

     

    Barstow_But Today I am a man.jpg

    All in all, both parts needed a total of 39 notes/octave, so armed with that list, I started to transcribe.

    I got two pages completed when I realized that there was no way I could play those octave doublings on a standard guitar: the fingerings would be impossible, and I was beginning to realize that his guitar was a steel-strung, not nylon. How could I possibly justify playing this on a classical guitar! The answer was simple: I couldn’t. In an era that demanded ‘authenticity,’ [Bach should be heard on the instruments and in the tunings of his time, not modern Steinways!] I would have re-create the original instrument. A thousand questions flooded my brain: how was such an instrument strung? I now knew it was in three pairs of strings, tuned in octaves like a twelve-string guitar. But how was it fretted? Low frets don’t work? Would I need a brass plate and stainless steel frets? What about the strings? What gauges were used? should the lower octave string of each pair come first, or second….?

    Time to answer all those questions and more. And, time to make some sawdust. As Partch had so memorably stated years before,

    "I am not an instrument builder, but a philosophic music man, seduced into carpentry"

     

    Little did I know it then, but I was about to embark on that very same path…a journey that continues to this day.

     

    Next: “Oh for a picture—just one picture….!”

  • Testing

    Just a test

  • Volume 1, Issue 1: re-GENESIS OF A MUSIC - A tale of obsession

    Volume 1, Issue 1: re-GENESIS OF A MUSIC - A tale of obsession

    By John Schneider, Music Director, PARTCH Ensemble

    Harry Partch was surely one of America’s most colorful composers. Though trained as a concert pianist, his dissatisfaction with the scales and instruments of Western Music inspired him to design and build an orchestra of over two dozen handcrafted “microtonal” instruments that were tuned to his notorious “monophonic” scale of 43-Tones per octave. He composed dozens of vibrantly singular works of music of all sizes, and create a major theoretical work Genesis of a Music (1949/1972) describing the process. In today’s parlance, Partch is known as an “American Maverick”, a loner whose itinerant wanderings as a hobo and “railroad bum” during the Great Depression are the stuff of legend. He was also a great innovator, being one of the first concert composers to use overdubbing as a composition tool, creating his own “indie” label in the 1950s, & training his own eponymous ensemble decades before Steve Reich and Philip Glass. He was also the first to use the “electric” guitar in concert music, and the first to use a fretless instrument. Between 1929 and 1970 Partch first adapted, and then created from scratch over two dozen unique musical instruments.

    It was long believed that once Partch died, so would his music. After all, what better way to absolutely guarantee a music’s obsolescence than compose for a single set of completely unique instruments in an opaque notation, mostly tablatures, that takes ages to learn, and has no precedence? And yet, against all odds, quite the opposite has happened: Partch’s reputation has only grown since his passing in 1974, becoming what could only be termed as legendary. His work is consistently listed as inspiration for ensuing generations of musicians of all styles, from Rock & Roll, to Punk, to Classical. Luckily, he painstakingly documented his musical development in a volume called Genesis of a Music.

     :::::Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 8.51.22 AM.png

    But WHY? During his lifetime, the composer felt compelled to convince other musicians that his vision of a music, that was emotionally compelling and acoustically in tune, would offer new sounds, new means of expression and a new possibilities for the future. To his bitter disappointment, most couldn’t care less. But in the end, it was his performances, films, and the handful of recordings that he so carefully produced and distributed in his own lifetime that won the case for Partch. What a surprise: in what was an era of increasingly Abstract music, here was modern music that was corporeal, and actually “spoke” to people! With rare exception, the audiences were far more receptive to the music than the professional musicians of his time. Luckily, those films and recordings are now almost completely available, only increasing the hunger for this unusual music.

    But what of performances? Live performances? Nothing, I repeat, nothing replaces being in the room with these wonderful instruments. The music is meant to be experienced, and not just by the ears: “In the right room acoustically, the Marimba Eroica is felt through the feet, against the belly, and, if one sits on the floor, it ripples through his bottom.” But with only one set of instruments, currently residing on the east coast of North America, the chances of having one’s bottom rippled are rather remote.

    To fall in love with a piece of music is to want to possess it – to feel it under one’s fingers, to breathe life into it with one’s own breath, or bow, or mallet…that is the musician’s way. I made the mistake of falling in love with Partch’s music, with no possible way of consummating my affection. There was nowhere to go to rent or buy the appropriate instruments, no teachers from whom to learn the scales, techniques and repertoire, nowhere to touch and feel the music except through the loudspeakers of my stereo. It was as if I had heard a recording the Goldberg Variations of Bach and, having sworn to learn it, had to build my own harpsichord, teach myself the rules of notation, the keyboard technique to perform it and the interpretational skills to bring it to life. And so I turned to the book of Genesis…

    It turns out that Partch’s only published volume is not only a history book (telling of the development of intonation and scales since the times of the ancient Greeks), a music theory book (explaining the notation & structure of finely tuned intervals), and an autobiography…it is also a Cook Book! When read closely, Partch’s descriptions of his wonderful instruments include dimensions, materials and tunings…almost enough information to reproduce them exactly. And so, I began with the piece I loved most, on the instrument I knew best: Barstow: Eight Hitchhikers’ Inscriptions (1941) for Baritone and Adapted Guitar. But that was in 1991…

    Back Story

    In 1978, I was working on a book that would become The Contemporary Guitar (University of California Press: 1985), a survey of 20th century guitar music. I had known about Partch’s guitars from the 2nd edition of his Genesis of a Music (DaCapo Press: 1974), and soon discovered that the instruments were in San Diego under the stewardship of Partch’s longtime assistant Danlee Mitchell. I paid a visit, and photographed the two guitars found in the 2nd edition of Genesis of a Music, as well as making photocopies of the scores that used them. As I handed the scores back to Danlee, I lamented that I would never be able to play Partch’s famous “Hobo Concerto”—what the composer jokingly called Barstow: 8 Hitchhiker Inscriptions From A Highway Railing At Barstow, California—because there was no guitar part in it. Mitchell blinked and said, “What do you mean…? there’s a version for guitar and voice,” went into another room and returned with a most unusual object. There were pages of music, of course, but they were sandwiched between two pieces of plywood that were colorfully decorated with Cigar decals and loosely bound at the edge with shoe string. I leafed through the pages that looked mostly like algebra problems, as the familiar words were surrounded with nothing but ratios! I asked him how it was played, and he shrugged his shoulders saying, “I have no idea – you figure it out!” Still excited, I made a copy and took it home, and did a lot of head scratching, but not much else.

    It wasn’t until 1991 that two books changed my reluctant indifference into action: Tom McGeary’s Harry Partch - BITTER MUSIC: Collected Journals, Essays, Introductions, an Librettos, and his indispensable THE MUSIC OF HARRY PARTCH – A Descriptive Catalogue.

     over for PARTCH: Bitter Music: Collected Journals, Essays, Introductions, and Librettos:::::McGeary Catalogue.jpg

    For the first time I truly grasped the depth and breadth of Partch’s genius and decided it was time to act. Out came Barstow as well as Genesis – it was time to solve the puzzle.

     

    Next: “Seduced into Carpentry”…..