American Mavericks

Harry Partch

(b, Oakland, California, June 24, 1901; San Diego, California, September 3, 1974)

Composer, theorist, and inventor, Harry Partch questioned the tuning system of Western music, dropped out of the University of Southern California, and formulated a forty-three-tone scale. Partch expanded melodic and harmonic possibilities and laid out his thoughts in a book, Genesis of a Music, first published in 1949.

To perform the music he composed for the tuning system he created, he devised and built an array of instruments, and to these he gave a catalogue of intriguing names, names such as cloud-chamber bowls, boos, kitharas, and chromelodeons.

During the Depression, Partch wandered the country as a hobo. Often his vocal music and theater pieces relied on texts culled from his journeys, even including writing he had found on walls, but he also found inspiration in classical influences, including Greek mythology.

Dean Drummond on Partch

Phillip Blackburn on Partch

Interviews from the “American Mavericks” series (c) (p) American Mavericks Public Media. Used with permission. All rights reserved.