petak, 13. rujna 2013.

Harry Partch (1901–1974) - zoomoozophone

Skladatelj, teoretičar mikrotonalnosti, graditelj instrumenata (od čaša za viski, recikliranog drveta, granatnih čahura...), pisac, likovni umjetnik, satiričar, filozof, muzikolog, beskućnik, nakladsnik, ikonoklast, ekscentrik, studijski producent, učitelj....

Harry Partch (1901-1974), one of the greatest and most individualistic composers of all time, was not only a great composer, but an innovative theorist who broke through the shackles of many centuries of one tuning system for all of Western music, a music instrument inventor who created dozens of incredible instruments for the performance of his music, and a musical dramatist who created his own texts and dance/theatre extravaganzas based on everything from Greek mythology to his own experiences as a hobo.   Between 1930 and 1972, he created one of the most amazing bodies of sensually alluring and emotionally powerful music of the 20th century: music dramas, dance theater, multi-media extravaganzas, vocal music and chamber music---mostly all performed on the instruments he built himself.
With parents who were former missionaries to China, living in isolated areas of the American southwest, Partch, as a child, was exposed to a variety of influences from Asian to Native American.    After dropping out of the University of Southern California, he began to study on his own and to question the tuning and philosophical foundations of Western music.    During and after the Great Depression, he was a hobo and itinerant worker and rode the trains, keeping a musical notebook of his experiences, which he later set to music. 
In 1930 Partch broke with Western European tradition and forged a new music based on a more primal, corporeal integration of the elements of speech with music, using principles of natural acoustic resonance (just intonation) and expanded melodic and harmonic possibilities.   He began to first adapt guitars and violas to play his music, and then began to build new instruments in a new microtonal tuning system.   He built over 25 instruments, plus numerous small hand instruments, and became a brilliant spokesman for his ideas.   Largely ignored by the standard musical institutions during his lifetime, he criticized concert traditions, the roles of the performer and composer, the role of music in society, the 12-tone equal-temperament scale and the concept of "pure" or abstract music.  To explain his philosophical and intonational ideas, he wrote a treatise, Genesis of a Music, which has served as a primary source of information and inspiration to many musicians for the last half century. -

Uncovering the Enigmatic Harry Partch by Jon Roy

I am first and last a composer. I have been provoked into becoming a musical theorist, an instrument builder, a musical apostate, and a musical idealist, simply because I have been a demanding composer. I hold no wish for the obsolescence of the widely heard instruments and music.
My devotion to our musical heritage is great and critical. I feel that more ferment is necessary to a healthy musical culture. I am endeavoring to instill more ferment.
-Harry Partch, 1942

SPRING, 2003. I HAD NO IDEA WHAT I WAS GETTING MYSELF INTO when I signed up for a class called "John Cage: The Modern Master" at the San Francisco Art Institute. One of the assignments was to create a composition and the one I performed featured de-tuned guitars and voice. In the written critique I received from the professor, he mentioned that my piece reminded him of early Harry Partch, to which I responded, "Who the hell is Harry Partch?" And so it began, however surreptitiously, without any conceivable foresight of where this would lead. My professor had only a cursory knowledge of Partch, so I was left to my own device to figure out who he was. The first recording of Partch's that I got my hands on was an early version of "Barstow: Eight Hitchhiker's Inscriptions," which took its lyrics from hobo graffiti he collected while stuck in Barstow, and featured instruments and a manner of speech/singing that I had never encountered before. He was doing what I was attempting to do, but this was organized, it was fresh, and it had been recorded sixty years before.
Bob Gilmore's fantastic biography on Partch was my next stop, along with the Enclosures series that Philip Blackburn produced for Innova recordings, and I was hooked. I looked for a film on Partch, and found a few things, the most interesting ones featured Partch as a collaborator (see "Music Studio" and "The Dreamer that Remains"). But there was a startling lack of posthumous documentary exposure, which I believe is the reason so few people know of Partch, his instruments and his music. There was a BBC 4 documentary, mostly rubbish, thrown together by a small crew in a rush, which painted Partch as some old alcoholic white-bearded guru. The BBC doc and a lot of the articles I read seemed to perpetuate myths about Partch as a self-taught Hobo Composer with no university affiliation. I saw through the bullshit relatively early on, and that led to my cause-to make a comprehensive documentary about the entire life of Harry Partch-to debunk the myths, explain where he came from, and create the portrait of the artist that I would have wanted to see.
His ideas forced him to be an outcast in a way, from academia and from other musicians. His ideas about music and tuning stretched back to Ancient Greece and China and all the way up to Helmholtz and the study of acoustics?this is a difficult pill for a lot of music theorists to swallow.
In the course of my research I was amazed at just how complex a man he really was, and how much of that was on account of his early family life. His parents were Presbyterian missionaries based in China and right before Partch was born, they had to leave due to the Boxer Rebellion. They settled in Oakland and soon moved to the desert in southeastern Arizona, near the border of Mexico. His father was a quiet man who lost his faith and his mother remained devout, and was an outspoken suffragette to boot. Partch ended up losing both of them before he was 20 years old. He lived a transient lifestyle for a number of years and this wasn't always by choice, even though some like to romanticize it. During the Great Depression he lived as a hobo and traveled around notating hobos' speech patterns that he would later weave into his music. After he devised his tuning system, and settled on his 43-tone just intonation scale, and of course, after he built the array of instruments that he needed to play his new music.
His ideas forced him to be an outcast in a way, from academia and from other musicians. His ideas about music and tuning stretched back to Ancient Greece and China and all the way up to Helmholtz and the study of acoustics?this is a difficult pill for a lot of music theorists to swallow. A lot of people like to live in the realm of 12-tone equal temperament, which has only been around for a few hundred years, with JS Bach as their personal lord and savior. And when you start challenging that, it makes some people a little uneasy. Even with the musicians who embraced his music, he still had to work around the problems of notation and the physical interaction with the instruments he demanded. Partch at times could be very convincing and very charming but he could be equally as abrasive and push people away. So I think while he wanted to maintain institutional affiliations, often times when they were presented, he would wear out his welcome and just have to move on to the next place.
Partch was an iconoclast, because he not only set his own rules, he changed the game. In retrospect it seems that he's opened doors for a lot of different kinds of sound-artists, musicians, and composers. Partch's compositions, as well as his contribution to music theory, his book "Genesis of a Music," has allowed for music to go in a lot of different ways by making a connection between very ancient ideas and very modern problems. He embraced the fundamental Ancient Greek concepts of Monophony, Pythagorean tuning, and the total integration of music/drama/poetry/dance into a single art form. And we see in the 20th century and now in the 21st, people like Ben Johnston who took the idea and went in a different direction with it. He took Partch's theories on intonation and generalized them, and used it in his chamber music. So now we see just intonation coming from a lot of different composers, and I think that's a good thing, I think that's an amazing thing. And I think just now we are starting to realize the importance of Partch.
From the grave, Harry Partch has provoked me into becoming a documentary filmmaker. It's been my goal from the beginning to have a film that would be a companion piece for Philip Blackburn's incredible Enclosures series and for Bob Gilmore's book on Harry.
The quote at the beginning of this article tells that Partch was provoked into becoming a music theorist and an instrument builder for the sake of his duty as a composer. From the grave, Harry Partch has provoked me into becoming a documentary filmmaker. It's been my goal from the beginning to have a film that would be a companion piece for Philip Blackburn's incredible Enclosures series and for Bob Gilmore's book on Harry. And if someone can watch this film and pick up the book, and start reading about it, or go and buy some Partch records, then I feel I've done my job. Because it's become more than just a film to me, it's something I believe in, and it's changed me, and made me a better person and a better artist. To this day, Partch, because of his creativity and refusal to conform, remains an inspiration to me, but also a constant reminder of the trials that one who bucks the system will ultimately endure.
* * *
Bitter Music dir. Jon Roy Bay Area native Harry Partch (1901-1974) was an iconoclastic composer of music, who early in his career abandoned traditional Western musical instruments and scales, and settled instead for a 43-tone-to-the-octave scale, borrowing on ancient tuning practices. Over a lifetime he designed and built an orchestra of instruments to play his music, but always regarded the human voice as the primary instrument. This documentary excerpt will highlight Partch's music, instruments, and performances.

Harry Partch - The World Of Harry Partch (1969)

Anybody who's been a party to any sort of music writing at all knows that well-worn descriptors like “unique” and “original” are by and large a fucking joke. Ninety-nine percent of everything that's ever had that title slapped upon it fell so short of deserving the honor that terms like that are cheap, tawdry husks of the higher creative impulses they supposedly describe. This isn't to say that unique forms of creative expression are impossible, but they require a retreat into either the feral or the cerebral that most people are unwilling to attempt (though the nagging optimist in me would suggest that anybody is capable, given the proper motivation). The former has birthed well-loved aesthetic concepts as disparate as grindcore or (the lamentably-titled) outsider art, and it often seems that artists who fly by the seat of their pants in the direction opposite that of convention are often afforded more appreciation than those who take a more studious route. And while the more carefree approach might be more immediately gripping and viscerally satisfying, there is something to be said for those whose intellectual pursuits place their creative output in a league beyond anybody else's.
A prime example of this is Harry Partch. Partch studied composition from a very early age, amassing a substantial body of work for an artist as young as he was. He grew impatient with the limitations of the equal-tempered scale, the basis for the vast majority of Western music, and began to look towards microtonality, a process of dividing the octave scale into smaller components – his most famous take on this being the forty three-note scale (the equal-tempered scale is divided into twelve notes), though he employed a substantial number of variations on this. These ideas were all expounded upon in his 1949 book Genesis Of A Music, a product of twenty-six years of writing, that railed against the numbing conventions that centuries of inculcation in the equal-tempered scales had produced, instead favoring the ratio-based tuning scales of Greek philosophers like Pythagoras.
The problem, however, is that the majority of musical instruments from the Western world were designed for the twelve notes of which its music is most commonly comprised. Partch's necessity then spurred his inventiveness and an arsenal of odd instruments was born, pieces with monikers like the Cloud Chamber Bowl, the Quadrangularis Reversum, and the Zymo-Xyl that occasionally drew inspiration from violins, pianos, and marimbas, but often bore no resemblance to anything that had come before. He was, as he humbly put it, “a philosophic music man seduced into carpentry,” the builder of strange creations, as much sculpture as functional musical instrument. The music for which these had been produced was equally staggering, both in the breadth of the influences from which it drew and for just the sheer peculiarity.
Partch pulled from a variety of sources over the course of a life filled with extremes. His lifelong engagement with Pythagorean tuning was possibly the most readily apparent of his sources, but the hobo graffiti that he witnessed riding the rails during the Depression held as much sway over his later work. Prior to his destitution he had consulted with William Butler Yeats regarding an experimental opera treatment of Yeats' translation of Sophocles. His homosexuality, in an era in which it was largely considered aberrant (at best), was occasionally touched upon. The influence of music from Polynesia, India, and Africa occurred decades before the West began to look seriously towards those cultures' music.
What he did with those influences is the notable part, because few are easy to spot. Partch had his precedents, but his take on those elements had no direct predecessor. It's an eerie, sensual music, one that reaches across large swaths of the temporal and the geographical, plucking disparate strains of the arcane and blending them into a seamless whole, a junkyard opera on the edge of perception, a subversion of rarely-considered social fundamentals, a leap forward into a distant past. Disorienting and disarming, it is among the only bodies of work that deserves the tag “unique.” -

Nema komentara:

Objavi komentar