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Partch is a Grammy-winning ensemble specializing in the music and instruments of the iconoclastic American Maverick composer Harry Partch, who, between 1930 and 1972, created one of the most amazing bodies of sensually alluring and emotionally powerful music of the 20th century. Partch wrote music dramas, dance theater, multi-media extravaganzas, vocal music and chamber music—all to be performed on the extraordinary orchestra of instruments that he designed and built himself. The Partch ensemble is one of only three groups worldwide dedicated to the study and reconstruction of Partch’s “Instrumentarium.”

Formed as Just Strings in 1991 to perform the music of Lou Harrison and Harry Partch, the group has gone on to commission and premiere works by Larry Polansky, Mamoru Fujieda, John Luther Adams, Mari Takano, Sasha Bogdonawitsch and others. In 1995 they toured Japan under the auspices of the American Embassy’s prestigious Interlink Festival, giving three weeks of concerts and lectures on new music. In 2005, with the completion of their twelfth Partch instrument, the group began performing under the name Partch. They have performed for Chamber Music in Historic Sites, the LA County Museum of Art, UCLA’s Partch Centennial Celebration, Sacramento’s Festival of New American Music, Minnesota Public Radio’s American Mavericks, the Songlines series at Mills College, and the Gordon Getty Concerts at the Getty Center. In 2004, they made their Disney Hall debut premiering Harry Partch’s Bitter Music, and have returned every year since.

Partch is the resident ensemble of MicroFest, Los Angeles’ yearly festival of microtonal music. Their 2006 performance of Castor & Pollux, choreographed by Liz Hoefner, was released on the DVD Enclosure 8: Harry Partch (Innova Records). Partch has been the recipient of grants from the NEA and the Copland Fund for Music to record Partch’s monumental Bitter Music for Bridge Records. In 2012 Partch was featured by the San Francisco Symphony’s American Mavericks Festival. In 2015, Partch’s album Plectra & Percussion Dances won a Grammy Award. 

The Instruments:

Adapted Viola (1930)  •  Adapted Guitar I (1935)  •  Kithara (1938)  •
Chromelodeon (1941)  •  Adapted Guitar II (1945)  • Harmonic Canons (1945)  Diamond Marimba (1946)    •    Adapted Guitar III (1950)   •   Bass Marimba (1950)  • Cloud Chamber Bowls (1950)    •   HypoBass (1950)  •  Marimba Eroica (1951)•  Surrogate Kithara (1953)  •  Spoils of War (1955)  •  Boo (1955)

HARRY PARTCH: “O Frabjous Day!”

Callooh! Callay! It’s the return of “The Jabberwocky” [“Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!] from Lewis Carroll’s THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS AND WHAT ALICE FOUND THERE, 1872. Partch premiered the piece at the Young People’s Concert Series of the Mill Valley Outdoor Club in February 1954, coupled with “The Mock Turtle Song.” Members of the band PARTCH [John Schneider & TJ Troy] performing at MicroFest 2015.

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PARTCH_Ulysses at the Edge (1955/71)

Harry Partch’s Ulysses at the Edge of the World, originally written for jazz trumpeter Chet Baker and subtitled “A Minor Adventure in Rhythm,” also exists in multiple versions. Syncopations and time signatures of five and seven easily predate Dave Brubeck, culminating in a pithy punchline that features a cop arresting the titular homeless Greek hero for vagrancy. The work is featured along with the original version of “Windsong (1958)” on the Grammy winning PARTCH’s new album SONATA DEMENTIA, released in 2019 by Bridge Records.

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