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Bitter Music: Collected Journals, Essays, Introductions, and Librettos

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Harry Partch was a maverick, an innovative composer whose adoption of the principles of just intonation forced him to invent new musical instruments capable of producing the pitches required by his forty-three-tone-to-the-octave scale. Bitter Music presents Partch's ideas about the place of music in society, his work as a composer, his compositions, and his unique instrume Harry Partch was a maverick, an innovative composer whose adoption of the principles of just intonation forced him to invent new musical instruments capable of producing the pitches required by his forty-three-tone-to-the-octave scale. Bitter Music presents Partch's ideas about the place of music in society, his work as a composer, his compositions, and his unique instruments.The anthology opens with "Bitter Music," a journal Partch kept while he wandered the American West as a transient during the Depression. Partch himself had thought the journal was lost. Deeply personal, it provides important biographical information on a formative period in his life and hints at the insecurity that pervaded his career, the institutional support he enjoyed one year and the economic hardship he endured the next. An important work of American Depression literature, the journal is unique for its inclusion of musically notated speech and folk and popular music. A second journal, "End Littoral" records a hiking trip along the rugged California coastline. The anthology also offers twelve essays detailing Partch's provocative analysis of the relation of music and the composer to society. Two are published here for the first time; the others appeared in often obscure or ephemeral publications between 1941 and 1972. Included as well are twelve extended discussions by Partch of his own compositions, in the form of introductions or program notes, of which ten are published here for the first time. The anthology concludes with librettos or scenarios for six of his major narrative or dramatic compositions.


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Harry Partch was a maverick, an innovative composer whose adoption of the principles of just intonation forced him to invent new musical instruments capable of producing the pitches required by his forty-three-tone-to-the-octave scale. Bitter Music presents Partch's ideas about the place of music in society, his work as a composer, his compositions, and his unique instrume Harry Partch was a maverick, an innovative composer whose adoption of the principles of just intonation forced him to invent new musical instruments capable of producing the pitches required by his forty-three-tone-to-the-octave scale. Bitter Music presents Partch's ideas about the place of music in society, his work as a composer, his compositions, and his unique instruments.The anthology opens with "Bitter Music," a journal Partch kept while he wandered the American West as a transient during the Depression. Partch himself had thought the journal was lost. Deeply personal, it provides important biographical information on a formative period in his life and hints at the insecurity that pervaded his career, the institutional support he enjoyed one year and the economic hardship he endured the next. An important work of American Depression literature, the journal is unique for its inclusion of musically notated speech and folk and popular music. A second journal, "End Littoral" records a hiking trip along the rugged California coastline. The anthology also offers twelve essays detailing Partch's provocative analysis of the relation of music and the composer to society. Two are published here for the first time; the others appeared in often obscure or ephemeral publications between 1941 and 1972. Included as well are twelve extended discussions by Partch of his own compositions, in the form of introductions or program notes, of which ten are published here for the first time. The anthology concludes with librettos or scenarios for six of his major narrative or dramatic compositions.

30 review for Bitter Music: Collected Journals, Essays, Introductions, and Librettos

  1. 4 out of 5

    Alex V.

    I am reading his journal from the 30's contained in this volume for research purposes, but goddamn it is good. Partch was a cantankerous, singular composer in the mid part of the twentieth century whose quest for his precise and peculiar music puts him in close quarters with French sailors, all the organ builders in London, hobos, William Butler Yeats, prisoners named Mandolin-face and Kain-tuck, and briefly, King George and Queen Mary of England, in locations ranging from the train yard in San I am reading his journal from the 30's contained in this volume for research purposes, but goddamn it is good. Partch was a cantankerous, singular composer in the mid part of the twentieth century whose quest for his precise and peculiar music puts him in close quarters with French sailors, all the organ builders in London, hobos, William Butler Yeats, prisoners named Mandolin-face and Kain-tuck, and briefly, King George and Queen Mary of England, in locations ranging from the train yard in San Luis Obispo to the beaches in Italy. If you are unfamiliar with or not a fan of Mr. Partch's music, this tale might seem Quixotic at best, but for those already in his hobo camp, this is inspiring and revelatory.

  2. 5 out of 5

    J.W.D. Nicolello

    i want to re-read this. this was the first book i took out of the san francisco public library when i arrived there a wee lad a couple of years ago. i've been listening to harry partch all day now that my pal is making instruments. i guess this is one of those books you really wish everybody read at least once, or at least experience partch, but this one is hard to find. traveling america and crashing in homeless shelters. i should have just stolen this book. i want to re-read this. this was the first book i took out of the san francisco public library when i arrived there a wee lad a couple of years ago. i've been listening to harry partch all day now that my pal is making instruments. i guess this is one of those books you really wish everybody read at least once, or at least experience partch, but this one is hard to find. traveling america and crashing in homeless shelters. i should have just stolen this book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bryan

    Bitter Music music itself gets five stars. If you read between the lines you get one of the most revealing artist bios ever.The other essays fluctuate between two and three stars.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ringoneck

  5. 4 out of 5

    James

  6. 4 out of 5

    Xio

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nothanks

  8. 5 out of 5

    Espen Sommer

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mer

  10. 4 out of 5

    Haras

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ross Mohn

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jon Roy

  13. 4 out of 5

    George Matusek

  14. 5 out of 5

    Herb

  15. 4 out of 5

    Johnny MacMillan

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mark

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mikael Krog

  18. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Oda

  19. 4 out of 5

    Chadwick

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mike Drake

  22. 4 out of 5

    Steve D

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jacob Denny

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ware

  25. 5 out of 5

    Koven Smith

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lucas

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ilhami

  28. 5 out of 5

    Carah Naseem

  29. 4 out of 5

    Nick

  30. 4 out of 5

    Alex Braidwood

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