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    Harry Partch – The Harry Partch Collection Volume 3

    The Harry Partch Collection is a set of four individual CDs that were originally released by CRI in 1997 and reissued by New World Records in 2004. Volume 3 presents four corporeal works for the stage that span from the 1950s to the 1970s, three of which were filmed. “The Dreamer That Remains” (1972) was the very last piece Partch composed before his death in 1974. The two-part work opens on a somber note as the performers intone the title numerous times and guide their clanging, cantankerous instruments through a myriad of patchwork quilts. The far more upbeat and quirky second section lyrically examines the sharp contrast between Partch’s carefree childhood and the overly law-filled “Do not loiter!” mentality of modern day society. Partch’s homosexuality is also touched upon, making this work a “coming out” of sorts. Instrumentally, the highlight arrives at the very end as a sublimely droning Harmonic Canon closes the piece with some stunning last strums. To the best of my knowledge, prior to this CD, “The Dreamer That Remains” was only available as a rare video.

    “Rotate the Body in All Its Planes” (1961) is a highly rhythmic, rollicking, circus-like work that combines gymnastics with music and theater, an ancient practice that went out of vogue centuries ago. Musically, perhaps the most surprising aspect is the insistent rolls on a standard drum, which I’ve never noticed in any other Partch work. A funny black and white movie version of “Rotate” was shot by Madeline Tourtelot. Also filmed by her, “Windsong” is an 18-minute black and white meditation on the Greek myth of Daphne and Apollo set in the desolate sand dunes of Lake Michigan. Musically, it flits back and forth between whole boatloads of subdued yet varied rhythmic percussion workouts that match the fast-cut, beautiful nature scenes from the film, and later mellows into some otherworldly Harmonic Canon territory. Partch re-visited this work a decade later and renamed it “Daphne of the Dunes.” All three of the aforementioned films are available on DVD from Innova.

    Finishing this CD, “Water! Water!” presents excerpts from an evening-long farce that poke fun at the classical concert phenomenon of the intermission, when relieved audience members storm out of the theater for some much needed thirst-quenching, socializing and escape from the tedium of the performance. The story takes place in the fictional town of Santa Mystiana, where the progressive battle the regresssive for control of the local dam. Musically, the work ranges from sleepy and somber to loud and boisterous, complete with the absurd outbursts of silliness typical of a staged, popular musical. If you want to know what a less microtonal slightly more pop Harry Partch would sound like on Broadway, start here. On the vinyl front, “Water! Water!” is quite possibly the rarest Gate 5 LP, because Partch, who was unhappy that the piece as a whole was uncompleted, withdrew it after less than a year.

    Label: New World Records Catalog Number: 80623-2 Format: CD Packaging: Jewel case Tracks: 15 Total Time: 68:45 Country: United States Released: 2005 More: American Mavericks, Harry Partch Information Center, Innova, Last.FM, Newband, Official, Wikipedia, Yale, YouTube

    Text ©2010 Arcane Candy

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