Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
The definitive Harry Partch experience
Christopher Costabile | Clearwater, FL USA | 04/15/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I listened to a couple of Harry Partch discs and even read some of his monstrous book, "Genesis of a Music," before ever watching this DVD, but it wasn't until viewing the documentary contained here, "The Dreamer that Remains," along with the full performance of "Delusion of the Fury," that I was able to appreciate Partch's contribution to American music.
As he discusses in the documentary, Partch lived for about 15 years as a hobo, mostly during the Depression. He sustained himself through basic survival skills and simple human trust - building fires and interacting with fellow hobos. The instrument on which he was most proficient in his youth was a viola which he modified and played upright between the knees.
It is clear from this information alone that Partch was ever the individualist - unwilling to compromise to any social or cultural constraints. Not only did he compose all of his pieces in Just Intonation (a system of tuning based on ratios and otherwise abandoned in the West, in which all tones are scientifically in tune with one another), but his unique scale used 43 NOTES TO THE OCTAVE, as opposed to the mere twelve we are familiar with in the Western system of equal-temperament.
In addition to this, Partch invented a slew of his own instruments, all designed according to his 43-note scale, each instrument bearing its own unique timbre and method of resonance. The bonus material contained on this disc features a fantastic segment in which excerpts from Partch's book are read, describing each of the instruments while a picture of the instrument is shown. A sound sample from the instrument is then played, so that the viewer becomes sequentially accustomed to the exotic sound and design of each instrument.
In "The Dreamer That Remains," we become acquainted with Partch, the man, and his idiosyncratic world. We see him in both his home and his workshop, talking and working feverishly on his latest musical contraptions, spouting ideas like a mad scientist at blistering speed. He discusses the idea of "corporeality" in his work, which, to be brief, is basically the idea that all aspects of each piece adhere to the naturalistic essence of humans and the earth, i.e. all instruments are made of natural elements, all sounds are acoustical in nature, the simplest and most evocative musical system is used (just intonation), which according to Partch, is the ONLY system sufficient for accurately capturing the many nuances inherent in human speech (and song). In addition, the theatrical elements (as witnessed on this DVD in "The Delusion of the Fury") are often very tribal in nature, or reminiscent of the cultural rituals of pre-Industrialist societies. It becomes apparent when watching this documentary, that Partch was not merely a genius, but a wholly brilliant American original in the same league as Mark Twain or Henry Thoreau, but perhaps even more radical than those examples.
Although they might be considered the two greatest giants of 20th Century American music, it is interesting to note the several ways in which Partch and the composer John Cage were polar opposites in their respective approaches. While Cage triumphed the idea of indeterminate music, insistent on making sounds which were not at all intended by the composer, and by any random means necessary, Partch on the other hand, exerted almost complete control over the gestation and performance of his pieces, going so far as building original instruments to perform his through-composed music. Though Cage tended to reject standard forms of composition, Partch's works often borrowed from traditional forms such as Japanese Noh theatre, or some aspects of the Western conception of opera.
Anyone still skeptical of whether Partch's achievement matches or tops that of Cage ought to watch this DVD. I believe it is the definitive entrance into this man's challenging work. My suggestion is to first watch the introduction of the instruments in the bonus materials, then watch "The Dreamer That Remains" documentary, and lastly, "The Delusion of the Fury," to see and hear Partch's many ideas and instruments at play in a large-scale, cohesive work. Be forewarned, however: once you've crossed into Partch's complex sound-world, your conception of music may never be the same."
Christopher Campbell | St. Paul, MN | 02/10/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If you're a collector of Partch works, like myself, and enjoy the full experience of something (or as close as it comes through video and sound)
This is a good buy. African American Kabuki? Seems to be close."