Harry Partch: A Biography

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Yale University Press, 1998 - Biography & Autobiography - 468 pages
Visionary composer, theorist, and creator of musical instruments, Harry Partch (1901-1974) was a leading figure in the development of an indigenously American contemporary music. A pioneer in his explorations of new instruments and new tunings, Partch created multimedia theater works that combine sight and sound in a compelling synthesis. He is acknowledged as a major inspiration to postwar experimental composers as diverse as György Ligeti, Lou Harrison, Philip Glass, and Laurie Anderson, and his book Genesis of a Music, first published in 1949, is now considered a classic.

This book is the first to tell the complete story of Partch's life and work. Drawing on interviews with many of Partch's associates and on the complete archives of the Harry Partch Estate, Bob Gilmore provides a full and sympathetic portrait of this extraordinary creative artist. He describes Partch's complicated relationships with friends, patrons, the musical establishment, and the world at large. He traces Partch's upbringing in the remote desert towns of the Southwest, his explosive encounter with formal music education in Los Angeles, and his revolutionary course as a composer that began with an interest in the musicality of speech patterns. After immersing himself in hobo subculture during the Depression, Partch came to occupy a lonely and uncompromising position as a cultural outsider. Richly fascinating in themselves, Partch's compositions, writings, and life also have much to reveal about American society and the creative impulses of the artistic avant-garde.

 

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Harry Partch: a biography

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Harry Partch (1901-74) was one of this country's most iconoclastic, visionary, and courageous composers, and it is a measure of his controversial status in the world of American arts and letters that ... Read full review

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An in-depth portrait of a great American iconoclast. Bob Gilmore outdoes himself in this bio, culled from several years of his research. The style is frank and detailed but still compassionate. Gilmore cobbles together a strong narrative from stories from the life of a man who spent his life wandering. No easy task. He managed to filter out uncorroborated bits and provide the most objective view of Partch I've yet to come across. Highly recommended. 

Contents

Prologue
1
Oakland and the Old West
9
Los Angeles and San Francisco
35
New Orleans and California
71
New York and Europe
96
Western States
113
Chicago Ithaca and New York
136
Madison
156
Gualala and Oakland
180
Sausalito and Urbana
215
Yellow Springs Chicago Evanston and Champaign
253
Petaluma
296
Del Mar Van Nuys Venice and San Diego
319
Encinitas and San Diego
353
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