Harry Partch

Harry Partch

Birth
Oakland, Alameda County, California, USA
Death 3 Sep 1974 (aged 73)
San Diego, San Diego County, California, USA
Burial Cremated, Ashes scattered at sea, Specifically: Ashes scattered on the Pacific Ocean
Memorial ID 19868210 · View Source
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Composer, Instrument Builder, Writer, Record Producer. Recognized as one of America's most unique composers and music theorists, he built a set of instruments to play his compositions for a 43-note scale of his own creation, trained musicians in their performance, and recorded his unique music over a 45 year period. Born to Presbyterian missionary parents, he spent his childhood in small towns of the American southwest where he began learning various instruments and composing, being mainly self-taught. He dropped out of the University of Southern California after brief study. His first original instrument, the Adapted Viola (a traditional viola with a cello fingerboard), dates from 1928. The recipient of a Carnegie Fellowship, he traveled to England to explore his musical theories, making the acquaintance of and collaborating with W.B. Yeats on an adaptation of the poet's 'Oedipus'(1952). Returning to the United States at the beginning of the Great Depression, he destroyed all of his compositions written for the traditional twelve-tone scale in 1930. He lived the life of a hobo for nearly a decade, working at odd jobs, traveling the rails, and gathering material that would influence many of his greatest works. A journal of his reflections on this period is published under the title 'Bitter Music.' Receiving a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation in 1943 allowed him to further develop his original musical instruments. His instruments, in addition to being known for their unique sound, are recognized for their striking, modern visual design. Published in 1949, 'Genesis of a Music' sets forth the theoretical basis for his 43-note scale based on "just intonation," as well as his performance philosophy of "corporeality," a fusion of art forms where musicians not only play instruments, but also act, sing, and dance. He developed his own recording company, Gate 5 Records, recording and distributing his music to patrons in order to sustain himself and his work. Gaining recognition late in life, his culminating masterpiece, 'Delusion of the Fury' (1966) was recorded by Columbia Records in 1971. Many of his most enduring and accessible works are based on his hobo experience, including the suite 'The Wayward' (1941-1943). It includes 'Barstow' (1941), with texts taken from hitchhiker graffiti, and 'U.S. Highball' (1943/1955), a musical description of a transcontinental railroad journey. In 2004, 'U.S. Highball' was selected by the Library of Congress' National Recording Preservation Board as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." Always the vagabond, he never owned a home or lived more than three years in one place. He was inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame in 1974.

Bio by: Barry Zimmerman


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Barry Zimmerman
  • Added: 13 Jun 2007
  • Find A Grave Memorial 19868210
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Harry Partch (24 Jun 1901–3 Sep 1974), Find A Grave Memorial no. 19868210, ; Maintained by Find A Grave Cremated, Ashes scattered at sea, who reports a Ashes scattered on the Pacific Ocean.