Scope and Content of Collection
Partch, Harry, 1901-1972
Title: Harry Partch Music Scores,
Date (inclusive): 1922 - 1972
5.00 linear feet
(5 flat boxes)
Abstract: The collection of Harry Partch Music Scores consists of bound facsimiles of musical and theatrical compositions by experimental
composer and instrument-builder Harry Partch, written between 1922 and 1972. Compositions include seminal works such as DELUSION
OF THE FURY, OEDIPUS THE KING, U.S. HIGHBALL, and WAYWARD. The works are arranged by alphabetically by title of composition.
University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.
La Jolla, California 92093-0175
Collection number: MSS 0629
Language of Material:
Collection materials in English
Collection is open for research.
Harry Partch Music Scores, MSS 0629. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD.
Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.
Harry Partch was born in Oakland, CA on June 24, 1901; both his parents had been Presbyterian missionaries in China who endured
the Boxer Rebellion. By the age of 20, he had moved through parts of the Midwest and East Coast, then back through Northern
and Southern California before settling in San Diego in 1964. He began his early musical training playing clarinet, harmonium,
viola, piano, and guitar and composing music using a tempered chromatic scale normal in Western music. He became frustrated
with the musical tuning of Western music and subsequently destroyed all of his early works.
Interested in dramatic speech, Partch began to build his own instruments to reflect the musicality of speech and substantiate
the intoning voice. His first instrument built in 1930 was the "Monophone", later known as the "adapted viola". Soon after,
he was awarded a grant which allowed him to study the history of tuning systems in London and to try to gain permission to
write an opera based on W.B. Yeats's translation of Sophocles' OEDIPUS THE KING. However, his grant money was depleted by
the 1930s and he returned to the United States and to travel around on trains, as a hobo. He recorded his experiences in
a journal named BITTER MUSIC (late 1930s) and subsequently composed BARSTOW (1941), a piece originally recorded for voice
and guitar; the latter was transcribed several times throughout his life as his instrument collection grew. Additionally,
he composed U.S. HIGHBALL (1943), a musical memoir reflecting his train riding memories.
After receiving a Guggenheim Foundation grant in 1943, he returned to completing OEDIPUS, recording from his own translation.
In 1949, he published GENESIS OF A MUSIC, an account of his own music with discussions of music theory and instrument design,
explaining his concept of the fusion of all art forms with the body as its central focus. He later wrote the 'dance satire'
THE BEWITCHED, REVELATION IN THE COURTHOUSE PARK and DELUSION OF THE FURY, the latter recorded by Columbia Records in 1969.
In the fall of the same year, Partch taught a course at UCSD.
Harry Partch is known for his experimental and conceptual compositions involving the 43-tone scale and his customization and
design of musical instruments using raw materials such as retuned reed organs, glass bowls, bamboo stalks, liquor bottles,
and car light bulbs.
He died on September 3, 1974 in San Diego. The majority of his instruments and papers are housed at the Alexander Kasser
Theatre and Sprague Library of Montclair State University in New Jersey.
Scope and Content of Collection
The bound sheet music scores are arranged alphabetically.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Partch, Harry, 1901-1974 -- Archives
Partch, Harry, 1901-1974 -- Scores
Microtonal music -- Scores
Monologues with music -- Scores