Subject Final Piece Research – Harry Partch

Harry Partch was an American composer and artist living in 20th century America. He is best known for creating his own instruments, mainly from found objects.

Partch questioned the constraints of music. He thought classical music was a white European tradition and had no place in society anymore. Why should music be restricted to 8 tones 12 semitones? Partch created music free of tradition, making one instrument that had 43 keys between one octave. He wanted to make people reconnect with more experimental sound, and thus to reconnect with their pure human nature.

This has been an argument I’ve had many times with artists and musicians alike. Have we been trained to find ‘conventional’music pleasant? Or is there something inherently enjoyable in certain frequencies? I believe it’s a combination of both: if we had been raised on atonal music, listened to Schoenberg as children etc, I think we would be more accustomed to it and probably even enjoy it. Four years ago I couldn’t stand sonic art or atonal music – I thought it was a degression of music and was torturous to listen to. As I have grown older, wiser, and more knowledgable of this field I have found a love for the things I rejected at first, amd I wholeheartedly believe that’s because I got used to it. Partch’s work is often described as this: at first it is unbearable but after 10 minutes you get used to it.

I want to experiement with making my own instruments, not trying to tune them to perfect pitch, but to embrace the raw sounds of them.



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