Harry Partch/Dean Drummond
Harry Partch (1901-1974), one of the greatest and most individualistic composers of all time, was not only a great composer, but an innovative theorist who broke through the shackles of many centuries of one tuning system for all of Western music, a music instrument inventor who created dozens of incredible instruments for the performance of his music, and a musical dramatist who created his own texts and dance/theatre extravaganzas based on everything from Greek mythology to his own experiences as a hobo. Between 1930 and 1972, he created one of the most amazing bodies of sensually alluring and emotionally powerful music of the 20th century: music dramas, dance theater, multi-media extravaganzas, vocal music and chamber music---mostly all performed on the instruments he built himself.
With parents who were former missionaries to China, living in isolated areas of the American southwest, Partch, as a child, was exposed to a variety of influences from Asian to Native American. After dropping out of the University of Southern California, he began to study on his own and to question the tuning and philosophical foundations of Western music. During and after the Great Depression, he was a hobo and itinerant worker and rode the trains, keeping a musical notebook of his experiences, which he later set to music.
In 1930 Partch broke with Western European tradition and forged a new music based on a more primal, corporeal integration of the elements of speech with music, using principles of natural acoustic resonance (just intobnation) and expanded melodic and harmonic possibilities. He began to first adapt guitars and violas to play his music, and then began to build new instruments in a new microtonal tuning system. He built over
25 instruments, plus numerous small hand instruments, and became a brilliant spokesman for his ideas. Largely ignored by the standard musical institutions during his lifetime, he criticized concert traditions, the roles of the performer and composer, the role of music
in society, the 12-tone equal-temperament scale and the concept of "pure" or abstract music. To explain his philosophical and intonational ideas, he wrote a treatise, Genesis of a Music, which has served as a primary source of information and inspiration to many musicians for the last half century.
Born in 1949 in Los Angeles, Drummond began creative musical studies at a an early age, studying trumpet with Don Ellis, composition with Leonard Stein, and joining Harry Partch's ensemble in Venice, California, while a high school student. Later he received formal musical education at University of Southern California and California
Institute of the Arts while continuing to work with Partch, as musician and assistant, performing in the premieres of Partch’s Daphne of the Dunes, And on the Seventh Day Petals Fell in Petaluma, and Delusion of the Fury, as well as on both Columbia Masterworks recordings made during the late 60's.
In 1976, Drummond moved to New York, where he co-founded Newband the following year with flutist Stefani Starin. Since 1977, Drummond has been engaged in a multi-faceted career including composition, hundreds of performances, recordings, production of Harry Partch’s music theatre works, encouragement and education of composers interested in new microtonal resources, and many educational activities for children.
Since 2000, he has been Professor of Music at Montclair State University in New Jersey.
Drummond’s numerous compositions feature new instruments, synthesizers, new techniques for winds and strings, and large ensembles of exotic percussion. Since the late 1970's, his music has been largely concerned with the exploration of microtonal possibilities. Drummond’s music has been performed throughout the world including at The Library of Congress, Avery Fisher Hall, Carnegie Hall and The Barbican Centre in
London, and recorded on Mode, Music and Arts, and Talujon. As Co-director of Newband, Drummond has produced and conducted Harry Partch’s The Wayward at Circle in the Square, Oedipus at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Daphne of the Dunes with choreographer Alice Farley at La Mama Experimental Theater. He has produced and performed on recordings of music by Harry Partch, John Cage, Thelonius
Monk and numerous others. He has premiered unperformed works by Partch and new works by Cage, John Zorn, Muhal Richard Abrams, Mathew Rosenblum and numerous others. As a Director of the New York Consortium for New Music, he helps produce the annual Sonic Boom Festival in New York City.
Drummond has invented two musical instruments, the zoomoozophone (1978) and the juststrokerods (1988). Drummond’s instruments have been used in movie soundtracks, television, and many new compositions, including by Drummond, John Cage, Ezra Sims, Muhal Richard Abrams, Steve Gorn and Elizabeth Brown. Since 1990, Drummond has served as Director/Curator of the Harry Partch Instrumentarium, supervising the
replication, renovation and improvement of Partch’s creations. As an instrumentalist, Drummond has performed upon many of the Partch instruments (especially kithara, surrogate kithara, harmonic canons, adapted guitar) and his own zoomoozophone throughout the U.S. and Europe.
Newband was founded in 1977 by composer Dean Drummond and flutist Stefani Starin who continue as Artistic Directors. With Drummond's invention of the 31-tone zoomoozophone in 1978, Newband began to explore music using microtonality and alternative tuning systems. In 1990, Newband received custodianship of the original Harry Partch Instrument Collection and has since been involved with resurrecting Partch’s great works while commissioning new works for what is now perhaps the most
unique instrument collection in the world. Newband has performed throughout North America and Europe including at The Library of Congress, Avery Fisher Hall, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, Barbican Festival (London) and the Festival de Lille (France). Newband has premiered works by Elizabeth Brown, John Cage, Dean Drummond, Joan La Barbara, Anne LeBaron, Harry Partch, Mathew
Rosenblum, Ezra Sims, Lasse Thoresen, Lois V Vierk, Julia Wolfe and John Zorn, among numerous others and produced three CD’s, two on Mode and one on Music and Arts. Newband is currently Artist-Ensemble-in-Residence at Montclair State University.
Credits for texts:
1 & 2. Two Studies on Ancient Greek Scales
3.The Rose - text by Ella Young
4.The Crane - text by Tsuryuki-Waley
5.The Waterfall - text by Ella Young
6.The Wind - text by Ella Young/Lao-tze
7.The Street - text by Willard Motley
8.Lover - text by George Leite
9.Soldiers---War---Another War - text by Ungaretti
10.Vanity - text by Ungaretti
11.Cloud Chamber Music - with "Cancion de los Muchachos" (Zuni Indian)
Eleven Intrusions is a suite of eleven rather short pieces of mixed instrumentation composed from 1946 to 1950. A wide variety of techniques are utilized in the eleven both pieces from the incorporation of two ancient Greek scales and a Zuni (native American) song to Partch's typically microtonal speech-song settings of texts by a variety
of poets. Dark Brother is a setting of the final paragraphs of Thomas Wolfe’s God’s Lonely Man. Completed in Ithaca during 1943, it was the first original work for his recently constructed chromelodeon. It was originally scored for voice, adapted viola, chromelodeon and kithara; bass marimba was added later. Both Eleven Intrusions and
Dark Brother are notated, like many of Partch’s early works, in a rhythmic style that vacillates between strict and free metric structures. Both feature Partch’s typically corporeal approach to the voice, a style integrating microtonal singing with the
vocal inflections of speech, supported by an instrumental ensemble capable of microtonal accompaniment to the vocal line.
Before the Last Laugh originally developed as a "spinoff" from a much larger work,
The Last Laugh. The latter work is a live soundtrack for the 1925 silent film of the same name. The materials used in Before the Last Laugh are all from the first parts of the film, specifically the hotel scenes, featuring fast-paced city life, much hustling and bustling mixed with a sense of somber doom - since for he/she who has the last laugh,
things get worse before they get better. Before the Last Laugh explores harmonies that feature the 21st and 33rd harmonics as well as undertonalities (the inversions of overtone series type chords) and scales combining high harmonics and undertonalities.
Congressional Record is scored for low voice, microtonally programmed wind controller, adapted guitar, chromelodeon, harmonic canons, diamond marimba, boo, juststrokerods and zoomoozophone. The satirical text of Congressional Record was excerpted by Drummond from four sections of the United States Congressional Record: a speech made by Senator Jesse Helms in favor of abolishing the National Endowment for the Arts, the
actual Senate Bill to abolish the National Endowment for the Arts, Kenneth Starr’s Independent Counsel Report, and a speech introducing the Plumbing Standards Improvement Act of 1999. Congressional Record was commissioned by Newband with support from Chamber Music America, which in turn received support from The National Endowment for the Arts, the Josephine Bay Paul and C. Michael Paul Foundation, Susan W. Rose Fund for Music, The Helen F. Whitaker Fund and the CMA Endowment Fund.