Enclosure Seven: Harry Partch

Series Producer: Philip Blackburn

Innova 407 DVD

 

  1. The Dreamer That Remains: A Portrait of Harry Partch (1972)
  2. Delusion of the Fury (1969/’71)

 

Extras:

  1. Bonus Album (1969)
  2. Dreamer: Director Stephen Pouliot’s commentary on Dreamer
  3. Dreamer outtake: Making Rose Petal Jam (1972)
  4. Excerpts from Revelation in the Courthouse Park (1960)
  5. Enclosures: Harry Partch

 

1.

THE DREAMER THAT REMAINS: A PORTRAIT OF HARRY PARTCH

 

Harry Partch had been creating music and inventing instruments for over half a century before I fell under the enchantment of his microtonal universe. He was 72 and I was 25-- a graduate student in film at the University of Southern California.

Our meeting was serendipitous.  In November of ‘71 I attended a dinner party at the home of poet Jack Larson and director James Bridges.  A cut from Harry’s new album, “Delusion of the Fury,” was playing in the background, and although I tried being attentive to other guests, the music’s exotic rhythms and sounds kept diverting my attention.  

My wonderment doubled when Jim showed me the cover of the Columbia album.  Displayed in dramatic color were photos of Harry’s amazing hand crafted instruments.  They were unlike anything I’d ever seen—rich, organic sculptural pieces with provocative names including the Boo, Bloboy, Spoils of War, Chromelodeon, Quadrangularis Reversum, and my favorite--the Cloud Chamber Bowls, a deep chiming collection of 12 gallon Pyrex carboys recycled from a California radiation laboratory.  How I wondered, could I meet this astonishing alchemist?

That evening, the synchronicity continued.  I was introduced to Betty Freeman, whose name in the contemporary art and music world is synonymous with generosity.  Betty was a good friend of Harry’s, and had recently started The Partch Foundation, providing a resource to support Harry’s work.  The endowment helped him to live independently as he continued to build instruments, plan concerts and annoy traditionalists of every cause and stripe. 

Betty informed me that Harry was building a kithara, based on the stringed instrument of Greek lore.  She planned a visit that weekend-- would I like to accompany her to his home in Encinitas?   During the two-hour drive from LA, we discussed ideas for a film.  Earlier in his career Harry had scored four short films, including the beautiful “Windsong” for independent filmmaker Madeline Tourtelot.  She, in turn captured performances of his compositions “U.S. Highball” and “Delusion of the Fury.”  Outside of those efforts, little else existed.

My interest—(and Betty’s as well) initially focused on Harry’s music. But after we met, the artist himself proved to be an equal measure of enchantment.  Further discussions led to the goal of filming a portrait--a documentary that would capture Harry’s “43 tone compositions,” but also the astute observations from the spirited iconoclast himself.

In the weeks that followed Harry and I quickly bonded, an unexpected camaraderie of similar souls. Involved and supportive every step of the way, Betty not only agreed to produce, but also offered Harry a commission to write something new for the film.  Artistic explosions, edgy rehearsals—and soothing cups of Eagle Rock brandy melded together as plans progressed.  And finally, in early spring of ’72, we began.

Prophetically entitled “The Dreamer That Remains,” Harry’s new composition became the movie’s anchor.  It was a cautionary, romantic piece, drawn from memories of his youth in Arizona. The lyrics spoke of taking time for friendship and togetherness; an ode to the simple, comforting civilities found in the“dying gasps of the Old West.” 

Thanks to my colleague and cameraman John Monsour and Harry’s devoted friend, percussionist Danlee Mitchell plus the energy of a gifted young ensemble, “A Portrait of Harry Partch” became a reality.  Since then, audiences throughout the world have enjoyed getting acquainted with Harry.

I remain enormously grateful for the experience, knowing that more than thirty years later the film in its new format continues to celebrate artistic fortitude, ancient magic, and one of America’s genuine musical mavericks.

                                                                                    Stephen Pouliot

                                                                                                Venice, California

                                                                                                January 2004

 

Film revised by Stephen Pouliot, 2005, with added scenes from the Harry Partch Estate Archive

Edited for innova by Philip Blackburn and Chris Campbell

 

Directed by Stephen Pouliot

Producer: Betty Freeman

Camera: John Monsour, William Crain

Musical Direction: Danlee Mitchell

Sound Recordist: Mark Hoffman

Assistant to Partch: James Aitkenhead

Conductor: Jack Logan

Musicians: Harry Partch, Mark Hoffman, Danlee Mitchell, Katherine Bjornson, Alexis Glatly, Michael Crosier, Ron Caruso, David Dunn, Dennis Dunn, Jonathan Glasier, Jean-Charles Francois, Randy Hoffman, Emil Richards, Jon Szanto, Duane Thomas, Francis Thumm.

Director’s Commentary recorded by Stephen Pouliot, 2006, thanks to John Schneider, KPFK-Los Angeles.

 

Delusion of the Fury: A Ritual of Dream and Delusion

         The Exordium is an instrumental overture, an invocation, the beginning of a web, the spinning of which entangles both people and situations in their predictable complexities.

         ACT I

         On the recurrent theme of Japanese Noh plays, is a music-theatre portrayal of Life despite Death, and release from the wheel of life and dream.  On a Japanese Theme… treats Death and with Life despite Death…  It is based on the legend of a princely warrior who falls in battle at the hands of a young rival.  The act begins with the slayer’s remorseful pilgrimage to the scene and to a particular shrine where he may do penance.  The murdered man appears as a spirit, and his son, born after his death, then enters, seeking the same shrine in the belief that he may see his father’s face, as though in a dream.  Spurred to resentment by the presence of his son, the father lives again through the ordeal of battle.  Finally the ghost realizes his error and seeks forgiveness.  “Pray for Me.”

         The SANCTUS ties acts I and II together.  It is the epilogue to the one, the prologue to the other.

         ACT II

         Based on an African folk tale, is a reconciliation with life, not as a separate mental act from that with death, but as a necessary concomitant, an accommodation towards a healthy, or at least a possible existence.  Its essence is a tongue-in-cheek understanding, attained through irony, and even through farce.  A young vagabond is preparing to cook a meal over twigs when an old woman who tends a goatherd approaches, searching for a lost kid.  The hobo unintentionally indicates the whereabouts of the kid and the woman attempts to thank him.  However, a dispute ensues, due to a misunderstanding caused by the hobo’s deafness.  Villagers gather and cause the quarreling couple to appear before a justice of the peace, who is both deaf and near-sighted.  Following the hilariously delightful judgment, there is a celebration.  But the pagan deities of twenty violent continents intercede.  Pray for Me Again is repeated, a full instrumental coda, reflecting the instrumental denouement of ACT I.  After the Pray for Me sequence, ends the work.

— from the notes accompanying the Cinema 16/Grove Press flyer

 

Recorded at UCLA Playhouse, MacGowan Hall, University of California,

Los Angeles, January, 1969, following a production supported by Betty Freeman and the Pasadena Art Museum.

Score composed November 1, 1965—March 17, 1966, and subsequently commissioned by the Serge Koussevitsky Music Foundation.

 

Performers:

Bill Symons, Jr., Gary Coleman, Linda Schell, Emil Richards, Todd Miller, Ruth Ritchie, Frank Berberich, Mark Stevens, Michael Aaron, Robert Rose, Lynn Taussig, Dean Drummond, Stephen Tosh, Robert McCormick, Carol Brown, Nathan Widato, Joe Roccisano, Robert Randles, Latif Allen, John McAllister, John Grayson, John Stannard.

Tenor voice: John Stannard, Soprano: Victoria Bond, Bass: Paul Bergen. 

Actors/mime/dance:

            Pilgrim (The Slayer): John Blount,

            Son of the Slain: Susan Marshall,

            Ghost (The Slain): Glendon Hornbrook,

            Deaf Hobo: John Blount,

            Old Woman with Lamb: Susan Marshall,

            Deaf and Near-Sighted Justice: Glendon Hornbrook.

Musical Director: Danlee Mitchell

Director: John Crawford

Choreographer: Virginia Storie Crawford      

Film producer and director: Madeline Tourtelot

Cameras: Jack Robinette, John Morrill, Jack Lord, Madeline Tourtelot,

Editing: Madeline Tourtelot, Les Blank

Stills: Ted Tourtelot

Assistants: Takashi Yamada, Harry Partch, Linda Schell

Live sound recording: Cecil Charles Spiller

 

Digital transfer from 16mm film courtesy of Danlee Mitchell and Jon Szanto

Soundtrack mastered in 5.1 surround sound by Preston Wright

Resynched by Chris Campbell

 

Dreamer outtake: Making Rose Petal Jam (1972)

Special thanks to John Wagstaff of the University of Illinois Music Library and Tom McGeary for arranging the digital transfer.

 

BONUS ALBUM

Harry Partch introduces his instruments

Recorded by Danlee Mitchell, 1969.  Another version of this recording was released as a Bonus Album on some of the LP boxed sets of Delusion of the Fury (Columbia)

Musical examples played by Danlee Mitchell and Linda Schell

Thanks to Jon Szanto for digital transfer

Slideshow by Philip Blackburn with photos from the Harry Partch Estate Archive

 

REVELATION IN THE COURTHOUSE PARK

Chorus Three: These Good Old-Fashioned Thrills.  Fireworks Ritual.

Chorus Three: Tumble On.  Climax of Celebration.

Scene Three: Herdsman Scene, Pentheus is tricked into transvestism.

Scene Four: Hymn to Dionysus

Coda

 

John Garvey, Conductor

Barnard Hewitt, Producer

George Talbot, Designer and Technical Supervisor

Sonny/Pentheus, Jeffrey Foote

Mom/Agave, Freda Pierce

Dion/Dionysus, John Bert

Herdsman, Joel Klein

Cadmus, Coryl Crandall

Korypheus, Elizabeth Hiller

 

Kine by Madeline Tourtelot, recorded April 9, 1961, at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, production, University Auditorium, (premiered two days later) telecast on Channel 12, WILL-TV, April 25 and May 3.

Video transfer courtesy of the Harry Partch Estate Archive

 

Based on “The Bacchae” of Euripides, “Revelation” will be television as unusual in theme and staging as the composer’s own instruments (which bear exotic names such as Chromelodeon, Castor and Pollux, Spoils of War and Marimba Eroica).

            Scenes alternate between ancient Greece and a small-town park in contemporary Midwest.  The only spoken lines are in the Greek scenes.

            Singers and actors appear in Greek masks, then as present-day cultists, followers of “Dion, Hollywood king of Ishbu Kubu,” modern counterpart of Dionysus, god of the Bacchae.

            Appearing in the American scenes are a variety of entertainers — drum majorettes, brass band, guitarists, clog dancers, and the University of Illinois gymnasts performing as tumblers and trampolinists.

            A chorus of women take part in both Greek and American scenes.  In addition a men’s chorus appears in the American sections.

- Channel 12 News, WILL-TV, April 24, 1961

 

ENCLOSURES: HARRY PARTCH

Seven-part series of Partch archives produced by Philip Blackburn

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Enclosure Seven is supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Aaron Copland Fund for Music Recording Program, administered by the American Music Center.

Special thanks to Danlee Mitchell, Jon Szanto, Stephen Pouliot, and Betty Freeman.

 

Innova Director, design: Philip Blackburn

Innova Operations Manager: Chris Campbell

Innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation.

www.innova.mu