Tag Archives: microtonality

noisenarcheology: Harry Partch

Have you got your dancing shoes on?  Well, take them off and have a seat because this isn’t that kind of music.  If you happen to own a monocle or a pair of opera glasses, then you might want to dig them out and dust them off.

Ron Silliman is Philadelphia’s resident L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poet [Update: see comment thread] Chester County’s resident language poet, and his highly-trafficked blog is just one of the many delicious things that Google Reader feeds me.  In a recent post, Silliman, without comment, links to a few segments of a documentary on Harry Partch (1901-1974).  Turns out Partch was a pretty important figure in 20th century music.  He invented a 43-tone scale (a “microtonal” scale with 43 pitches in each octave) and custom-built a bunch of weird instruments that used it.

As you can probably guess, Partch’s music isn’t much in the way of top 40 material, but in 1971, Columbia Records released the operatic Delusions of the Fury, from which the following track is taken.

Harry Partch, “Arrest, Trial And Judgment (Joy In The Marketplace!)”

If you think that Sun Ra, Philip Glass, and Euripides all smashed together sounds like a good thing and not some kind of parade of abominations, then you should really check out the whole album.

Bonus! Back in November, Beck recorded a tribute to Harry Partch.  Stereogum said:

…it sounds like a demented mashup revue of the last century’s popular, classical, and avant garde music forms, with a little outer space thrown in for good measure…

which sounds to me like “free beer.”  I’m so there.

Beck, “Harry Partch”

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