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Other titles in the Music in American Life series:
Bitter Music: Collected Journals, Essays, Introductions, and Librettosby Harry Partch
Synopses & Reviews
Harry Partch was a maverick, an innovative composer whose adoption of the principles of just intonation forced him to invent new musical instruments capable of producing the pitches required by his forty-three-tone-to-the-octave scale. Bitter Music presents Partch's ideas about the place of music in society, his work as a composer, his compositions, and his unique instruments.
The anthology opens with "Bitter Music," a journal Partch kept while he wandered the American West as a transient during the Depression. Partch himself had thought the journal was lost. Deeply personal, it provides important biographical information on a formative period in his life and hints at the insecurity that pervaded his career, the institutional support he enjoyed one year and the economic hardship he endured the next. An important work of American Depression literature, the journal is unique for its inclusion of musically notated speech and folk and popular music. A second journal, "End Littoral" records a hiking trip along the rugged California coastline.
The anthology also offers twelve essays detailing Partch's provocative analysis of the relation of music and the composer to society. Two are published here for the first time; the others appeared in often obscure or ephemeral publications between 1941 and 1972. Included as well are twelve extended discussions by Partch of his own compositions, in the form of introductions or program notes, of which ten are published here for the first time. The anthology concludes with librettos or scenarios for six of his major narrative or dramatic compositions.
"Bitter Music leaves us in no doubt that for Partch life and music were one; personal reflection intermingles with snatches of hobo speech and song....The sharp intelligence of Partch's approach cannot disguise a damaging naivety." Wilfrid Mellers, The Times Literary Supplement
Now in paper for the first time, Bitter Music is a generous volume of writings by one of the twentieth century's great musical iconoclasts. Rejecting the equal temperament and concert traditions that have dominated western music, Harry Partch adopted the pure intervals of just intonation and devised a 43-tone-to-the-octave scale, which in turn forced him into inventing numerous musical instruments. His compositions realize his ideal of a corporeal music that unites music, dance, and theater.
Winner of the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award, Bitter Music includes two journals kept by Partch, one while wandering the West Coast during the Depression and the other while hiking the rugged northern California coastline. It also includes essays and discussions by Partch of his own compositions, as well as librettos and scenarios for six major narrative/dramatic compositions.
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