Thursday, October 23, 2008
I've been thinking about Harry Partch for the past few days. Found this lovely photo this morning, one I'd never before seen. I'd been thinking about sui generis musicians, those who are virtually the sole occupant of their stylistic categories, who though widely revered, have few aesthetic descendants. No one, of course, can be 100% so. Partch had something in common with Lou Harrison, Colin McPhee and of course drew heavily on Southeast Asian and African traditions as well as a smattering of American folk forms and blues. But really, is there anything that sounds remotely like "Delusion of the Fury"? (I don't know--is there?)
His decision, in 1928 iirc, to burn his previous compositional output (he was born in 1901) and to design and construct his own instruments in accord with his own musical conception, of course, went a long way toward this uniqueness. Such a wonderful decision! Should happen more often...Can't help but compare it, in terms of resolution and abandonment of prior "knowledge" to AMM in 1965.
Perhaps as a result of this singular kind of move, you don't hear too much "Partch" in other musicians outside his direct orbit (people like Danlee Mitchell or Dean Drummond which music, in my experience, almost inevitably comes off as a pale imitation. Not bad, but without the pure juiciness of Partch). This might be appropriate though. Someone with a deep appreciation for Partch shouldn't, really, end up producing music that sounds at all like his. They should, though, be as stubborn, expansive and dedicated.
His name doesn't come up as often as it should these days, amongst the eai crowd, doubtless as there's little if any direct connection to post-AMM music, certainly less than the NY School. But Partch and Cage appreciated each other and post-Cageians could learn a thing or two.
Thinking of Partch vis a vis eai, I find myself thinking of Jeph Jerman, realizing I should get around to listening to more of his work. That desert quality....
But any other recommendation in the spirit (somehow) of Partch would be appreciated...