Partch, Harry (1901-1974) | University of Illinois Archives

Name: Partch, Harry (1901-1974)


Historical Note:

Born in Oakland, CA in 1901, Harry Partch was an American composer, theorist, instrument designer and performer. He is best known for the work he did with just temperment: developing a 43 tone octave scale, writing pieces to showcase it, and building instruments upon which it could be played. His musical knowledge was largely self-taught and his interest in intonation emerged out of microtonal experimentation conducted on string instruments. Many of his thoughts on the matter are outlined in his 1947 treatise, Genesis of a Music.

By the early 1950s, he had established the Gate 5 Ensemble and record label and begun a musical partnership with fellow composer Ben Johnston that would take him to the University of Illinois in 1956, where Johnston was then teaching. While at Illinois, Partch premiered his large stage work, The Bewitched, as part of the Festival of Contemporary Arts and also composed and had performed the stage works Revelation in the Courthouse Park and Water! Water! He returned to California in 1962 where he completed his last project, the text and music for a film, The Dreamer that Remains before his death in 1974.

Sources: Grove Music Online, "Harry Partch," accessed August 15, 2011. University of Illinois.
Note Author: Lindy Smith



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