Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Harry Partch

Music History Monday: One of a Kind!

The phrase “one of a kind” would seem fairly useless when applied to the arts in general or music specifically. Really, aren’t all great musical artists – by definition – “one of a kind?” Monteverdi, Purcell, Sebastian Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, Stravinsky, Springsteen, Weird Al?  Yes: these good folks (and many, many, MANY more) are indeed all “one of a kind.”  But then But then there are those very few who are SO truly weird (sorry Maestro Yankovic; you are not really that weird), SO far out, SO iconoclastic, so radical, subversive, and idiosyncratic that they stand utterly solitary, disconnected from anything and everything but themselves; singular, detached, ALONE: truly, one of a kind. Such a person was the American experimenter, instrument builder, guru, high priest and “composer” – and that’s “composer” in scare quotes – Harry Partch, who died on September 3, 1974 – 44 years ago today – in San Diego, California, at the age of 73. Harry Partch was one of a kind. He rejected the entire Western musical tradition and created, in its place, an alternative musical universe for which he proselytized and composed. He created a tuning system that divided the octave into 43(!) different […]

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