4 CD set:

Disc A

1. I am Harry Partch

2. By the Rivers of Babylon

3. Texts and Music: A Wagnerian Wrestling Match

• Ten Li Po Lyrics:

4. A Dream

5. An Encounter in the Field

6. On Hearing the Flute

7. The Intruder

8. I am a Peach Tree

9. With a Man of Leisure

10. A Midnight Farewell

11. Before the Cask of Wine

12. On the Ship of Spicewood

13. By the Great Wall

14. The Use of English in Serious Music

15. Barstow—Eight Hitch-hikers' Inscriptions from a Highway Railing at Barstow, California.

16. San Francisco—A Setting of the Cries of Two Newsboys on a Street Corner on a Foggy Night in the Twenties.

17. Life is too precious to spend it with important people

18. U. S. Highball—A Musical Account of Slim’s Transcontinental Hobo Trip

19. While my Heart Keeps Beating Time

20. San Francisco II

Disc B [73'23"]

1. I'm going to start right off by giving you some sounds...

• Two Settings from Joyce's Finnegans Wake:

2. Isobel

3. Annah the Allmaziful

4. Dark Brother

5-24 A Quarter-Saw Section of Motivations and Intonations

Disc C [73'24"]

1-36. Extracts from Bitter Music

Disc D

1. Yankee Doodle Birds

2. Y. D. Fantasy—On the Words of an Early American Tune

3. You are charged with being guilty. Are you drunk or not drunk?

4. Ring Around the Moon

5. O Frabjous Day!

6-15 Harrys Wake


Series Editor, Producer: Dr. Philip Blackburn


For information contact:

Minnesota Composers Forum, 332 Minnesota Street, #E-145, Saint Paul, MN  55101-1300, USA.

Other titles in the series: Enclosure One (videotape of four Partch films), Enclosure Three (a Partch scrapbook

c. 1995 Minnesota Composers Forum

All rights reserved

innova 401                               ADD (mono/stereo)



Enclosure Two: Harry Partch


Harry Partch: composer, microtonal theorist, instrument-builder, writer, visual artist, satirist, philosopher, flunky, musicologist, copy editor, hobo, man of letters, publisher, iconoclast, record-producer, eccentric, teacher...


Shortly before his death in 1974, Harry Partch remarked to friends that he (like his acquaintance Anaïs Nin) considered his life's work to be a kind of letter to the world. His final composition would therefore be an enclosure; an afterthought, a gift to the world to complete the message. Enclosures, this series of writings, sound, and visuals, is offered as a substitute: a collection of archival materials giving depth to the Partch icon and substance to the Partch cult. He once remarked that "If anyone calls himself my student, I will happily strangle him." It is hardly surprising then, that his followers were few and never to be the same again. And it is to his credit that, despite the very limited access to his performances, writings and recordings, he has the devoted converts he does. The contempt that Partch felt for the Euro-technique inculcated music profession of his day was somewhat mutual and Partch did little to ingratiate himself to his academic peers. The fact that his hand-built orchestra was "about as portable as a one-man show of totem poles" may also have restricted the proliferation of his music.


This selection of recordings documents the early years of Harry Partch's career, a period in which his ideas and theories were rapidly taking on their mature form. To a listener unaware of those ideas

and the zealous idealism that drove them, Partch's later, large-scale theater works, such as Revelation in the Courthouse Park, The Bewitched, or Delusion of the Fury, may seem more eccentric than they actually are. Of them, one reviewer wrote, "Sounds like this have seldom been heard before, at least not on this planet."  While frequently cast as a revolutionary in the American iconoclastic tradition, Partch claims that his "direction, as it finally evolved, was more the result of lonely daydreaming than of revolt."


During his youth, Partch had played organ and in the band for silent movies in Albuquerque, New Mexico—an experience that "strengthened my belief in dramatic or theatrical music." This may also have served as a handy proving ground for the development of musico-rhetorical devices such as gestural timing, vamping, mood-setting, chromatic flux, suspenseful ostinati, and silence. This era was the heyday of melodrama, the alternation of speech and background music, and tales with musical interpolations were popular in domestic settings throughout America. Partch had written "whimsical, melancholy 'stories' and set them to music."  Death on the Desert (1916), for reading voice and piano, and his later Bitter Music (1935-36) may be thought of as monodramas in this vein. The era also saw the flourishing of music hall entertainment, and Partch frequented the Mandarin Theater in San Francisco from 1925, preferring to side with the ostracized Asian population of California at that time. What especially impressed him about their theater was the fact that the texts, so far as he understood, were delivered without obliterating the natural rhythm of everyday speech (in contrast to the drawn-out, operatic delivery characteristic of English song). The effect of hearing drama spoken in a tonal language (a concept familiar from his childhood—both parents had been missionaries in China and spoke Mandarin) may also have suggested an inquiry into mapping the inherent tonal contours of English speech. Partch later liked to claim that he was conceived in China (actually an exaggeration by three months).


Although for many years he listed his occupation as newspaper proofreader, Partch was a self-motivated musician and taught himself everything he needed to know from study in public libraries. Brief bouts at the University of Southern California (where he spent "three long months on the resolution of the Dominant Seventh") and Kansas City Conservatory taught him all he needed to know about "life in the houses of technitution" (as he was later to call it). Given this education-by-browsing (rather than by directed curriculum), it is no wonder that his knowledge was so broad and eclectic. From the first, he devoured Greek mythology ("because it is so human"—it was also one of the chief sources of homo-erotic literature available to a gay man at the time) and the history of music theory. Musicology was a sorry discipline with little accurate information to dispel the gloom. Partch did remarkably well in uncovering the musical threads he did (such as the history of word-setting), but he was also a victim of an age that had barely rediscovered Monteverdi and that still thought J.S. Bach was a perpetrator of equal temperament.


Partch wrote many works in the '20's, composed a string quartet in a variety of just intonation, spent four years working on a piano concerto, and, in 1928, cranked out many songs, one of which was deemed "popular."  The development of the Adapted Viola in 1928 and its successful implementation in the Li Po settings (1930-33) led him to consolidate his philosophy and regard all his previous work as juvenilia worthy only of torching, which he proceeded to do in a pot-bellied stove in New Orleans in 1930. The sole neglected survivor was his pop song, My Heart Keeps Beating Time, written under the nom de plume, Paul Pirate. The reason for the destruction, he said later, was "very simple. This was (to me) the artificial world of reality. I finally knew I could not reconcile it with my real child-world. And I had to find my real child-world again."


In 1934 he sailed for London on a Carnegie Grant to research the history of tuning at the British Museum and meet with W. B. Yeats in Dublin to discuss a setting of his translation of King Oedipus. Partch also met with Arnold Dolmetsch, Edmund Dulac, Ezra Pound (who had translated some Li Po poems in 1915) and leading musical researchers, and found that this trip emboldened his fledgling artistic ideals. It was therefore some indignity when, on his return to the States, he found that no-one at the Foundation had understood his report, that they had no plans to renew the grant, and that he, along with millions of others at the height of the Depression, was unemployed. Thus he returned to life on the road (which he had toyed with since 1928) for eight years more hoboing—brought to an end by a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1943—during which period he picked fruit, became a seaman (as "Paul Pirate"), mowed lawns, did dishes, proofread and worked for W.P.A. writing projects. Remarkably enough, during these years of forced wanderings, Partch was able to continue composing and even instrument-building, completing sketches for many of the works heard here, and developing his art to such a level that it was ready for his Carnegie Hall debut in 1944. Most of the recordings on CD A date from his time at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he spent 1944-47, and in a smithy at Gualala in a redwood forest in remotest northern California (the cabin of Gunnar Johansen, a remarkable pianist and theoretical intellect on the Wisconsin faculty).


Partch's early works are intimate settings of worthy texts (including lyrics from Li Po, the Bible and Shakespeare), as much literary experiments as musical ones, chosen, arguably, for their autobiographical references (Psalm 137, for instance, is a notorious complaint of a singer in exile). The musical accompaniment serves to heighten the vocal recitation and generally takes a homophonic approach (rather than counterpointing the voice with contrasting material—a basic cantus firmus technique). In many ways these are the most satisfying of all Partch's works, since even his later pieces for large ensembles still maintain this simple chordal texture and show little variety in orchestration. This is partly because the distinct personalities of each instrument admit of a limited number of successful acoustical or gestural combinations. One might ask if his ensemble music is more a demonstration of the materials (a practical exposition of a theory) than of music (a musical deployment that transcends the system), relying on the complexity of the ratios to substitute for a musical fabric truly rich in rhythm, timbral transformations, spatial and contrapuntal working.


"I discovered that speech itself had a natural rhythm; natural because the words were not forced into a preconceived pattern. In this music the words flow just as they flow in speech. I have a good tonal memory and can recall days later the exact inflection someone used in a phrase. That phrase and inflection become the melodic basis for my harmony." [—quoted in the Milwaukee Journal, 2.11.45.]


The use of microtones arose from the need Partch saw to express vocal inflections in minute detail, finer than the piano keyboard would allow; Monophony, his version of Just Intonation, with an indisputable neo-Platonic arithmetic basis and a convenient conspiracy theory about its cover-up, provided all the resources Partch required. Next there was a need for instruments capable of playing these tones. Practical considerations led him to adapt some existing instruments and invent purpose-built ones (with putative ancient origins). At no time was Partch motivated by a zealous addiction to tuning theories or a desire to act out his fantasies as a frustrated carpenter; it all came from his respect for the voice and his wish to honor its expressivity. Those of his followers who, enchanted by microtonalism or instrument-fabrication, invoke Partch as their leader, do him a disservice and risk, if not strangulation, at least submitting to "the curse of specialization."


Listening to Partch's own speaking voice, with its wide range and declamatory cadence, it is easy to hear how the development of speech-music was natural for him (examples of his voice are interpolated here between the "music" for this very purpose). The instruments he built, by analogy, are also exteriorations of Partch's own physicality; he was a comfortable and expert player on them all. As his instruments have their own distinct, non-integrated personalities, so too did Partch exhibit wildly different personae to different people (as can be seen from his correspondence in Enclosure Three). Over the course of years, as the instruments increased in number, and movement, dance and ritual became functional parts of his concept, his notion of Corporeality (which had started as little more than "word-integrity in performance") can be seen to extend to the whole body, specifically, Partch's own body, as referent. The voice as carrier of meaning is extended to become the body as the carrier of meaning and the central impulse of expression. Other contemporary composers put forth novel uses of the voice, including William Walton in Facade, Arnold Schoenberg in Pierrot Lunaire, Kurt Schwitters in Die Ursonate, but none took it to the philosophical extreme of Harry Partch, who was against the whole notion of progress.


Partch occasionally took criticism to heart. Henry Cowell's 1949 review of Partch's Genesis of a Music noted: "As his attention has been directed almost exclusively to problems of pitch, rhythmic interest is at a minimum in his compositions and consequently give an oddly formless and wandering impression." As a result, from then on, Partch constructed primarily percussion instruments, and focused on more rhythmically motivated textures. Several earlier critics had complained about the general air of melancholy in his works; perhaps to spite them Partch vented his humorous spleen in the nonsensical Y. D. Fantasy, Jabberwocky, and Sonata Dementia.


Partch detested the "inhibitory incubus of tight coat and tight shoes"; he abhorred the second-class-citizen idea of the orchestra pit and the obsessive formality of the concert stage. By elevating musicians from the pit onto the stage he dignified them socially while reminding them that they cannot hide from their own physical presence. By composing ritual dramas, he replaced the redundant formality of the concert stage with a more opaque alternative. By sidestepping most of the fashions of western composition, he joined Charles Ives and John Cage as a truly alternative musician-thinker. A pluralist in an age cursed by specialization, multi-cultural before it was de rigueur, Partch, in his own way, may be considered a social reformer, a gay-rights advocate, an evangelist and martyr. Ultimately, it is not so much what Partch did that is important, but what he stood for: no compromise, no concession, dig deep with passion and question assumptions to find the human strain.

-Philip Blackburn

This summary was prepared by Partch in May, 1942, in Chicago, immediately after working as a coal-passer and wiper in the engine room of a ship. He then proceeded to make recorded demonstrations of his music (with the vocal assistance of George Bishop):


Presenting a Resume of


The Music Philosophy and Work of Harry Partch

Composer—Instrument Builder and Player—Theorist


A Modern Renascence of the most ancient of civilized Musical Ideals—




In a Flexible Scale


Utilizing new instruments having a gamut of 43 true tones to the octave.





     Harry Partch's musical philosophy has evolved through nineteen years of lonely searching [as of May, 1942]. It was conceived by an inner need, cultivated through study in American public libraries and in the British and South Kensington Museums in London. It grew through constant experiments in tonal relationships, in the alteration of old instruments, and in the building of new instruments. It found human bedrock around hobo jungle fires and cross-country freights. And, finally, it gained some measure of rapport in other searchers after musical truths, and in that prophet of ancient souls, William Butler Yeats.

     Partch does not claim priority for his musical system, his instruments, or his manner of musical composition. But he believes in it as a new beginning, a renascence, that may stimulate a re-examination of materials and forms generally accepted without question.

Since 1931 Partch has given hundreds of demonstrations of his musical ideas, in San Francisco-Oakland, Los Angeles-Pasadena, Chicago, New York, London, and Dublin. These have been small, informal gatherings, in an atmosphere fertile to the propagation of inquiry into new ideas.

     Partch presents his musically all-embracive work as falling naturally into two parts:

1. The system of music (including theories of music);

2. The music itself (including the manner of applying the system to instruments).

     The system is discussed immediately, and the music itself is the Speech-Music above referred to, involving various texts.



     The system is Monophony, so called because all the musical principles and materials it reveal are deducible from the sounding of one tone [i.e., the first eleven partials of the harmonic series]. Research for Partch's exposition of the system, still in manuscript [entitled Trails of Music at that time, but later published in Madison in 1949 as part of Genesis of a Music], covered a period of twelve years, and was completed at the British Museum in 1935. The manuscript contains over one hundred photographs and drawings of unusual instruments and diagrams.


MONOPHONY shows that:

1. The falsifications of the present 12-tone tempered scale are not necessarily requisite to a practical system of music;

2. Comprehension of the basis of all musical materials lies in an understanding of the intervals that are true relationships—that is, in those intervals the vibrations of which are expressed by comparatively small numbers.

     In its 43 true tones to the octave, Monophony:

1. Provides a tremendous melodic resource;

2. Increases the triad basis of tonality (1-3-5) to a hexad basis (1-3-5-7-9-11);

3. Possesses, inherently, 24 tonalities for transition and modulation.

     Monophony is an organization and development of musical theories of a long line of scientists, musicians, and musical theorists. Its heritage, in the West, begins with Pythagoras, sixth century B.C., and continues with: Archytas, 4th cent. B.C., Euclid, 3rd cent. B.C., Ptolemy, 2nd cent. A.D., Odington, 13th cent. A.D., Zarlino, 1517-1590, Mersenne, 1588-1648, Rameau, 1683-1764, Tartini, 1692-1770, Ottingen, 186-1920, Riemann, 1849-1919.

     In his lectures on musical theory Partch uses several large charts. Among these are the following, graphically showing:

1. The incidence of the 43-tone true scale to the 12-tone tempered scale;

2. A history of intervals and consonance, revealing all 43 tones as accepted for music by the second century A.D.;

3. The "circle" of fifths, the genesis of the 12-tone tempered scale, and the true nature of the "circle";

4. The revelation of tonality, the dawning of the idea of tonality through the late middle and modern ages;

5. The Monophonic tonality diamond, and the rich resources of tonality in the 43-tone scale.



     The present musical notation, having evolved with 12-tone temperament, is unsuitable to a 43-tone true scale. After many experiments in types of notation, Partch has determined on graphed ratios. Each tone is represented by a ratio, which is written on a line or space of a three- to five-line staff. Although this ratio notation does not have the facility of the present musical score, it has the redeeming virtue of a rationale. The symbol for a tone offers the most immediate enlightenment by the simplest process—the ratio.



     The Adapted Viola differs from an ordinary viola in these particulars:

1. It has an exaggeratedly long neck, so that stops of the 43-tone scale can be made more easily;

2. It has indications (brad heads and lines) on the fingerboard showing exact places to stop the strings for true intervals;

3. It is tuned an octave below the violin, G-D-A-E, between a viola and cello in range;

4. It has cello strings for the most part, is played with a cello bow, and is held between the knees, somewhat in the old da gamba style.

     The Adapted Viola is a glorified Pythagorean monochord, its fingerboard being an elaborate extension of Pythagoras' epochal division of a string into simple proportions. Partch designed and built the fingerboard in 1928 after long experiments with long paper coverings for fingerboards of the bow family of instruments. A violin-maker [in New Orleans, 1930] then attached the fingerboard to Partch's viola, fashioning a new neck and reworking the interior of the body to accommodate the new bass tones.


     The Chromatic Organ, Monophony's second instrument, has a keyboard which differs from the piano keyboard in these particulars:

1. It is divided into two manuals, which are dissimilar; in this respect it is like the accordion;

2. The first of the two manuals resembles an elongated typewriter keyboard, with round keys arranged according to the five-finger pattern of the right hand, so that a succession of eight of these patterns—a simple five-finger exercise—gives a 43-tone scale (a left-hand pattern inheres in this arrangement);

3. Each key shows at least two colors, each color representing one of the numbers of the vibrational ratio which the key represents;

4. The second manual contains three groups of diamond-shaped keys, in this respect looking something like the left-hand keyboard of the accordion; it is designed so that each row of keys in any direction is a complete hexad, representing one of Monophony's tonalities.

     The Chromatic Organ keyboard shows the feasibility of 43 tones for various octave harmonies, and for the hand which is the primary determinant of any keyboard. The octave span is the same as on the piano, and the resources of the 43-tone scale are therefore encompassed by a single position.

     Making a design in 1932, Partch completed an entire model of this keyboard in London in 1934. A London organ-builder [E. Malkin of Wimbledon] then incorporated the model into a reed organ. The result was mechanically deficient, and in 1940-41 Partch built an entire new console containing this keyboard [The Ptolemy]. It is not as yet (May, 1942) adapted to sound mechanism [and never was to be].


The Chromelodian. In the meantime, to effect an actual realization of his scale on a keyboard instrument, Partch replaced the reeds of an ordinary five-octave harmonium with the reeds from his London organ. This, an instrument of expediency, he calls the Chromelodian [Partch later revised the spelling to Chromelodeon]. It gives approximately an octave and a major third of the 43-tone scale on the keyboard proper, and a doubled range by means of stops. Each key is banded with colors, corresponding to the keys of the Chromatic Organ. The Chromelodian was adapted in Chicago in January, 1942.


The Kithara. Monophony's fourth instrument is an adaptation of the Greek kithara, ancient mother of all string instruments. The kithara, lyre, of the Greek professional musician, had between seven and forty strings. Monophony's Kithara has seventy-two strings, and is designed for use as a rational gong. It differs from the harp, the nearest modern counterpart, in these particulars:

1. All strings are the same length, regardless of pitch;

2. The two hollow arms, exactly alike, and the hollow base, are the amplifying means;

3. The 72 strings are arranged in series of six, or hexads, placed perpendicular to the length of the instrument, so that, to play any one hexad, it is only necessary to pull the fingers across a set of strings;

4. It has the singing quality of the gong, and since each hexad contains a fundamental and five partials, either in natural order or in inversion, each is a "rational gong."

     The Kithara was inspired by reproductions of ancient kitharas built by Kathleen Schlesinger in London [actually by her gas-meter reader who built the designs she copied from Greek vases]. Partch began his Kithara at night school wood-shop classes in Los Angeles in 1938 and completed it in Carmel, California, in 1941. It stands about five and one-half feet high and is built entirely of redwood, the base on which it stands being a solid block.


The Adapted Guitar differs from the ordinary guitar in that:

1. Its fingerboard is covered with a thick brass plate, with slots for degrees of the 43-tone scale. Into these slots frets are inserted as required, and the fret pattern is consequently highly irregular;

2. It is tuned in pairs of octaves, that is, approximately Eb-Eb, G-G, B-B, the two strings of a pair always being stopped by one finger.

     The Adapted Guitar is a temporary expedient, but holds the germ of a solution in that removable frets make possible a system of true tuning of fretted instruments.



     The investigations which led Harry Partch to Monophony and Speech-Music began in 1923. At that time he had been through a four-year search of public libraries for works on musical theory, and in pursuing ideas to their source discovered the Helmholtz-Ellis work, Sensations of Tone. This was a turning point.

     Partch had run the usual gauntlet of music subjects and teachers in his education. He was born in Oakland, California, in 1901, and began playing an old reed-organ at six, with his mother's help, on a Southern Arizona homestead. Work in composition for piano through his adolescent years whetted his musical curiosity, and at eighteen, in Los Angeles, he began the independent search for satisfactory explanations of musical phenomena he knew as facts of experience, but which both the teachers and the books he had encountered either ignored or left to a dark world of groping.

     Light began to dawn in the study of Sensations of Tone, but it was still too tenuous a ray to alter greatly fifteen years of musical thought habit. Partch had spent four years on a piano concerto, and now he gave more years in studying orchestration, in writing a symphonic poem and a string quartet.

     By 1926 the small ray of light had developed into a flood of conviction, that neither the system of music he had used for all this labor, nor the forms, satisfied him; that he therefore had no wish to be identified with either, and twelve years of accumulated work in composition were deliberately fired.

     Since 1919 Partch had supported himself and his musical activities through work in newspaper proofrooms throughout California. In 1925, while with a San Francisco newspaper, he bought a violin and a viola, experimenting with string proportions very much as Pythagoras did in the sixth century B.C. In his own small way this searcher was beginning to trace the history of the theory of music.

     He completed the first draft of his Exposition of Monophony in 1928, and the same year he began work on his Adapted Viola fingerboard. The exposition determined the 11th partial as the limit of his investigations with true intervals, and this limitation, in turn, is responsible for the eventual fixing upon 43 tones to the octave.

     Partch had now determined the nature of his "system" and its application. The form of his music was, however, still a blank. Seeking some creative outlet, he began writing "popular" songs. The only publisher to consider one of them "popular" [Campbell Publications of San Francisco, which published My Heart Keeps Beating Time] shortly afterward went bankrupt, and although the composer still heard his tune on the air three years later, royalties were nil.

     However unsuccessful, this song-writing started a new train of thought: "If the form and the music of spoken words are worth anything at all they are worth exploiting. To exploit them I must have a system of music capable of their subtlety, and that I have!"

     At this time Partch was only vaguely aware that this very principle—of Speech-Music in a scale capable of subtlety—was the soul of ancient Greek drama and epic chant; that it had at least partial continuity in Gregorian Chant, the songs of the Provencal Trouveres, and the "opera" of the Italian Renaissance.

     The period of gestation beginning in 1923 was brought to an end in 1930 when the Adapted Viola was completed. At this time Partch was engaged on a newspaper in New Orleans [the Times Picayune], and here, out of the seven-year crucible, came the first "song" in the new art form. These were settings of lyrics by Li Po, the eighth century Chinese.

     In 1931 Partch returned to San Francisco, found the enthusiastic assistance of Rudolphine Radil in doing the vocal parts, and gave his first demonstration, for a musical club in a San Francisco suburb, in January, 1932. Public demonstrations in San Francisco, Oakland, Pasadena, and Los Angeles followed, that year and the next. The vocal work in Southern California and much of the proselyting [sic] was done by Calista Rogers, prominent musician of Pasadena.

     Partch went to New York in 1933-34 through the agency of a foundation inspired by the aggressive interest of Bertha Knisely, then a Los Angeles music critic. Numerous demonstrations ensued, and these efforts were rewarded by a Carnegie grant of $1,500 in May, 1934, and with this financial impetus Partch went to London and the British Museum, where he completed research for his fifth draft of "Exposition of Monophony."

     In London Partch found the gracious cooperation of the eminent musical authorities and empiricists, Kathleen Schlesinger and Wilfred Perrett [and Arnold Dolmetsch and George Russell, aka. AE], and in Dublin the whole-hearted belief of William Butler Yeats, the Irish poet.

     For thirty years Yeats had been a lone voice crying for a music suitable to spoken words. Yeats wrote, "I hear with older ears than the musician," and he added: "We require a method of setting to music in such fashion that no word shall have an intonation  or an accentuation it could not have in passionate speech."

     Partch, too, heard with "older ears," and he wrote to Yeats from New York, asking permission to set the poet's version of the Sophocles drama King Oedipus to his music. Interviews in Dublin, in which both Yeats and an actor from the Abbey Theatre [including Edmund Dulac in London] assisted Partch in the drama's interpretation, were the result.

     The five years following the composer's return to the United States in 1935 saw his Old World assimilations united in a strange synthesis with periodic travels on the road, and out of this came his collection of hobo speech tones. In this collection, Bitter Music, Partch's creative work took a new down-to-earth turn, but his general musical direction was unaltered. In his spare time, while working as an editor on the Southern California Writer's Project, he built the Kithara and a new Chromatic Organ console. In 1940 he found the hitch-hikers' inscriptions at Barstow, and the next year, in Carmel, seeking an informal instrument for their setting, adapted his guitar to Monophony. The winter of 1941-42 he gained the vocal assistance of George Bishop, presented his work at schools and studios in Chicago, and produced the Chromelodian.

     With the stimulus of this newest of his new instruments Harry Partch continues his compositional projects—giving voice to a new song in an ancient manner.


Y. D. Fantasy—On the Words of an Early American Tune

—Text largely from "Report...[on American Tunes]" by Sonneck.


Once on a time old Johnny Bull fell in a raging fury/ And swore that Jonathan should have no trial, Sir, by jury,/ So down he sat in burly state and blustered like a grandee/ And in derision made a tune called Yankee Doodle Dandy.// Yankee Doodle came to town/ Put on his striped trousers/ And vowed he couldn't see the town/ There was so many houses.// O! how joyful shall I be/When I get the money,/ I will bring it all to dee/ O! my diddling honey.// Madam Hancock dreamt a dream/ She dreamt she wanted somethin'/ She dreamt she wanted a Yankee king/ To crown him with a pumpkin// Also, Ulysses. [inflections of a clubwoman].// And then to hell and back again/ Then where the Sirens Cara/ Swell, cadence, trill, and shake almost [complete turn of the hips on these rests]/ As well as Madam Mara// To fell Charybdis next and then/ When yawning Scylla grapples/ Six men at once and eats them all/ Just like so many apples!// Yankee Doodle went to town/ A-riding on a pony/ He stuck a feather in his cap/ And called it macaroni.// Noodle doodle ugly mums/ Pummel you and bump O!/ Daggers, pistols, swords, and guns/ kick about your rump O!// Doodle doodle do mama!/ Doodle doodle do papa!/ In forty-three tones to the octave.// Yankee doodle keep it up/ Yankee doodle dandy/ Mind the music and the step/ And with the girls be handy.


• By the Rivers of Babylon—Psalm 137

By the rivers of Babylon There we sat down, Yea, we wept When we remembered Zion. Upon the willows in the midst thereof We hung our harps, For there, they that led us captive asked of us a song And our tormentors required of us mirth, saying: "Sing us one of the songs of Zion." How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?// If I forget thee, O Jerusalem; Let my right hand be forgotten, Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth If I remember thee not, If I set not Jerusalem above my chief joy.


• Ten Poems of Li Po:

A Dream [His Dream of the Skyland: a Farewell Poem]

The seafarers tell of the Eastern Isle of Bliss,/ It is lost in a wilderness of misty sea waves./ But the Sky-land of the south, the Yueh-landers say,/ May be seen through cracks of the glimmering cloud./ This land of the sky stretches across the leagues of heaven;/ It rises above the Five Mountains and towers over the Scarlet Castle,/ While, as if staggering before it, the Tien-Tai Peak/ Of forty-eight thousand feet leans toward the southeast./ So, longing to dream of the southlands of Wu and Yueh,/ I flew across the Mirror lake one night under the moon./ The moon in the lake followed my flight,/ Followed me to the town of Yen-chi./ Here still stands the mansion of Prince Hsieh./ I saw the green waters curl and heard the monkeys' shrill cries./ I climbed, putting on the clogs of the prince,/ Skyward on a ladder of clouds,/And halfway up from the sky-wall I saw the morning sun,/ And heard the heaven's cock crowing in mid-air./ Now among a thousand precipices my way wound round and round;/ Flowers choked the path; I leaned against a rock; I swooned./ Roaring bears and howling dragons roused me—Oh, the clamorous waters of the rapids!/ I trembled in the deep forest, and shuddered at the overhanging crags, one heaped upon another./ Clouds on clouds gathered above, threatening rain;/ The waters gushed below, breaking into mist./ A peal of blasting thunder!/ The mountains crumbled./ The stone gate of the hollow heaven/ Opened wide, revealing/ A vasty realm of azure without bottom,/ Sun and moon shining together on gold and silver palaces./ Clad in rainbow and riding on the wind,/ The ladies of the air descended like flower-flakes;/ The fairy lords trooping in, they were thick as hemp-stalks in the fields./ Phoenix birds circled their cars, and panthers played upon harps. Bewilderment filled me, and terror seized on my heart./ I lifted my self in amazement, and alas!/ I woke and found my bed and pillow—/ Gone was the radiant world of gossamer./ So with all pleasures of life./ All things pass with the east-flowing water./ I leave you and go—when shall I return?/ Let the white roe feed at will among the green crags,/ Let me ride and visit the lovely mountains!/ How can I stoop obsequiously and serve the mighty ones!/ It stifles my soul.


An Encounter in the Field

Came an amorous rider,/ Trampling the fallen flowers of the road./ The dangling end of his crop/ Brushes a passing carriage of five-colored clouds./ The jeweled curtain is raised,/ A beautiful woman smiles within—/ "That is my house," she whispers,/ Pointing to a pink house beyond.


On Hearing the Flute at Lo-Cheng One Spring Night

Whence comes this voice of sweet bamboo,/ Flying in the dark?/ It flies with the spring wind,/ Hovering over the city of Lo./ How memories of home come back tonight!/ Hark! the plaintive tune of "Willow-breaking."...


The Intruder

The grass of Yen is growing green and long/ While in Chin the leafy mulberry branches hang low./ Even now while my longing heart is breaking,/ Are you thinking, my dear, of coming back to me?/ —O wind of spring, you are a stranger,/ Why do you enter through the silken curtains of my bower?


I am a Peach Tree

I am a peach tree blossomimg in a deep pit./ Who is there I may turn to and smile?/ You are the moon up in the far sky;/ Passing, you looked down on me an hour; then went on forever.// A sword with the keenest edge,/ Could not cut the stream of water in twain

So that it would cease to flow./ My thought is like the stream; and flows and follows you on forever.

[These stanzas are written by Li Po from the point of view of his wife, expressing her sentiment towards himself.]


With a Man of Liesure

Yonder the mountain flowers are out./ We drink together, you and I./ One more cup—one more cup—still one more cup!/ Now I am drunk and drowsy, you had better go./ But come tomorrow morning, if you will, with the harp!


A Midnight Farewell

By a pale lantern—under the cold moon/ We were drinking heavily together./ Frightened by our orgies, a white heron/ Flaffed out of the river shadows. It was midnight.


Before the Cask of Wine

The spring wind comes from the east and quickly passes,/ Leaving faint ripples in the wine of the golden bowl./ The flowers fall, flake after flake, myriads together.// You, pretty girl, wine-flushed,/ Your rosy face is rosier still./ How long may the peach and plum trees flower/ By the green-painted house?/ The fleeting light deceives man,/ Brings soon the stumbling age.// Rise and dance in the westering sun,/ While the urge of youthful years is yet unsubdued!/ What avails to lament after one's hair has turned white like silken threads?


On the Ship of Spicewood

My ship is built of spice-wood and has a rudder of mulan [a precious wood];/ Musicians sit at the two ends with jeweled bamboo flutes and pipes of gold./ What pleasure it is, with a cask of sweet wine/ And singing girls beside me,/ To drift on the water hither and thither with the waves!/ I am happier than the fairy of the air, who rode on his yellow crane./ And free as the merman who followed the seagulls aimlessly./ Now with the strokes of my inspired pen I shake the Five Mountains./ My poem is done, I laugh and my delight is vaster than the sea./ Oh, deathless poetry! The songs of Chu-ping are ever glorious as the sun and moon,/ While the palaces and towers of the Chu kings have vanished from the hills./ Yea, if worldy fame and riches were things to last forever,/ The waters of the River Han would flow north-westward, too.


By the Great Wall

He rides his white charger by the Fortalice of Gold,/ She wanders in dreams amid the desert cloud and sand./ It is a season of sorrow that she scarce can endure,/ Thinking of her soldier lover at the border fort./ The fireflies, flitting about, swarm at her window,/ While the moon slowly passes over her solitary bower./ The leaves of the green paulonia are tattered;/ And the branches of the sha-tung blasted and sere./ There is not an hour but she, alone, unseen,/ Weeps—only to learn how futile all her tears are.


Texts: The Works of Li Po the Chinese Poet Done into English Verse by Shigeyoshi Obata (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1922). Used by permission.


• Barstow

Number One: It's January 26. I'm freezing. Ed Fitzgerald. Age 19. 5'10". Black hair. Brown eyes. Going home to Boston, Massachussets. It's 4:00 and I'm hungry and broke. I wish I was dead. But today I am a man.

Number Two: Gentlemen, go to 530 East Lemon Avenue, Monrovia, California, for an easy handout.

Number Three: Marie Blackwell. Age 19. Brown eyes. Brown hair. Considered pretty. 118 East Ventura Street, Las Vegas, Nevada. Object: matrimony.

Number Four: Deat Marie, A very good idea you have there. I too am on the lookout for a suitable mate. My description: (no description follows—so he evidently got his ride).

Number Five: Possible rides: January 16th—58; January 17th—76; January 18th—19; January 19th—6; January 29th—11. To hell with it, I'm going to walk.

Number Six: Jesus was God in the flesh.

Number Seven: Looking for millionaire wife—Good looking—Very handsome—Intelligent—Good bull thrower—Etcetera. All you have to do is find me, you lucky women. Name's George.

Number Eight: Damn it anyhow. Here I am stuck in the cold—I've come 2700 miles from Chi., Illinois. Slept along the highway. Slept in open boxcar without top—Went hungry for two days (raining, too). But they say there's a hell—What the hell do they think this is? I'm on my way—one half of desert to the East—then back to L.A. to try once more. Car just passed by—make that 2 more—3 more. Do not think they'll let me finish my story. Hoping to get the hell out, here's my name—Johnny Reinwald, 915 South Westlake Avenue, Los Angeles. Here's wishing all who read this if they can get a lift and the best of luck to you—Why in hell did you come anyway?


• San Francisco

Chronicle, Examiner Today, Here's Your Paper, Get Your Paper.


• U.S. Highball. For complete text see McGeary, Thomas: Bitter Music (University of Illinois Press, 1991), pp.259-266.


• O Frabjous Day! (from Two Settings from Lewis Carroll)

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves/ Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:/ All mimsy were the borogoves, and the mome raths outgrabe.// "Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!/ Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun/ The frumious Bandersnatch."// He took his vorpal sword in hand:/ Long time the manxome foe he sought—/ So rested he by the Tumtum tree,/ And stood awhile in thought.// And, as in uffish thought he stood,/ The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,/ Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,/ And burbled as it came!// One two! One two! And through and through/ The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!/ He left it dead and with its head/ He went galumphing back.// "And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?/  Come to my arms, my beamish boy!/ O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"[He chortled in his joy.// 'Twas brillig...].

Text: Carroll, Lewis, "Jabberwocky" from Through the Looking Glass (New York, Modern Library, 1946), p. 18. Used by permission.


• Dark Brother—Final two Paragraphs from Thomas Wolfe's "God's Lonely Man."

But the old refusals drop away, the old avowals stand—and we who were dead have risen, we who were lost are found again, and we who sold the talent, the passion, and belief of youth into the keeping of the fleshless dead, until our hearts were corrupted, out talent wasted, and our hope gone, have won our lives back bloodily, in solitude and darkness; and we see again, as we saw once, the image of the shining city. Far flung, and blazing into tiers of jeweled light, it burns forever in our vision as we walk the Bridge, always we walk the Bridge alone with you, stern friend, the one to whom we speak, who never failed us. Hear:

"Loneliness forever and the earth again! Dark brother and stern friend, immortal face of darkness and of night, with whom the half part of my life was spent, and with whom I shall abide now till my death forever—what is there for me to fear as long as you are with me? Heroic friend, blood-brother of my life, dark face—have we not gone together down a million ways, have we not coursed together the great and furious avenues of night, have we not crossed the stormy seas alone, and known strange lands, and come again to walk the continent of night and listen to the silence of the earth? Have we not been brave and glorious when we were together, friend? Have we not known triumph, joy, and glory on this earth—and will it not be again with me as it was then, if you come back to me? Come to me, brother, in the watches of the night. Come to me in the most secret and most silent heart of darkness. Come to me as you always came, bringing to me again the old invincible strength, the deathless hope, the triumphant joy and confidence that will storm the earth again."

Text: Wolfe, Thomas. "God's Lonely Man," The Hills Beyond (New York, Harper and Brothers, 1935), pp. 196-97. Used by permission. Used by permission.


• Two Settings from "Finnegan's Wake"

1. Isobel

Isobel, she is so pretty, truth to tell, wildwood's eyes and primarose hair, quietly, all the woods so wild, in mauves of moss and daphnedews, how all so still she lay, neath of the whitethorn, child of tree, like some losthappy leaf, like blowing flower stilled, as fain would she anon, for soon again 'twill be, win me, woo me, wed me, ah weary me! deeply, now evencalm lay sleeping;

Double Flageolet, Soprano, Kithara

Score: New York City, May 6-11, 1944


2. Annah the Allmaziful

In the name of Annah the Allmaziful, the Everliving, the Bringer of Plurabilities, haloed be her eve, her singtime sung, her rill be run, unhemmed as it is uneven!

Two Flutes, Soprano, Kithara

Score: New York City, May 2-4, 1944

Text:Joyce, James: Finnegans Wake (New York, Viking Press, 1939), pp. 556, 104. Used by permission.


• Extracts from Bitter Music

For unabridged text, see: Harry Partch: Bitter Music. Thomas McGeary, Ed. (University of Illinois Press, 1991).pp. 8-132.


• While my Heart Keeps Beating Time

I've gone away, Away for ever, Away from cries and tears, Away from loves, hates, thrills, fears.// The stars above, The winds beneath me, In spreading sails, In hobo trails where I'm// Bound away for Sacramento Jungle— For the joy o' living I'm Strumming, a-strumming on my vocal chords a-tingle While my heart keeps beating time.// California, here's your hobo baby! here he is without a dime— Strumming, a-strumming on his baby ukelele While his heart keeps beating time.