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PARTCH does a wonderful job of capturing the letter and spirit of Harry Partch's music / The Art Music Lounge

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This is Vol. 3 in Bridge's series devoted to the microtonal music of Harry Partch. I reviewed Vol. 2, Plectra and Percussion Dances (Bridge 9432) for another venue when it was released in 2014. Like its predecessor, it is performed by the group of musicians collectively known as PARTCH. As one can see from the list of instruments, Partch was forever coming up with minute cracks in the tonal system, trying to break down the "bonehard system" of tonality that many a modern composer, including Leif Segerstam, has complained of, yet few of these composers seem to know of, or know of but don't use, the 43-tone-to-an-octave pianos, prepared guitars and adapted violas and marimbas that he invented.

I won't even try to describe the Sonata Dementia except to say that it's a microtonal laugh and a half. Partch clearly wanted this to be humorous to the listener, thus the strange rhyming introductions to each section of the piece. Too often, people tend to take avant-garde music too seriously, but Partch had spent too many years living as a vagabond, and with vagabonds, to be pretentious.

Harry Partch was a musical experimenter who, oddly enough, had a solid grounding in early music. In his youth he had several in-depth conversations with members of the legendary Dolmetsch family, who were working on reviving pre-Renaissance music, and they were amazed at how much he knew of their field. But he was also quintessentially American, and his music, however odd it sounds, had a solid grounding in American roots music: folks songs by whites, blacks and American Indians, work chants, popular tunes and jazz. He was truly one of a kind, and the group PARTCH does a wonderful job of capturing both the letter and the spirit of his music.  Exerpts from -© 2019 Lynn René Bayley review

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