Research Harry Partch

The material presented on this website was assembled by Eleni Ralli as part of her PhD artistic research. Its purpose is to provide a source of information about the work of “Harry Partch-world” taking place nowadays.

Harry Partch, one of the greatest American pioneers of the music of the 20th century, was one the first composer to invent, design and build all the instruments that are necessary for the performance of his works. Although other composers also constructed their own instruments to serve their theoretical ideas (Smetak, Carillio), Partch followed a strongly systematic tonal system for the tuning of his instruments.

As an exemplary instance of the completely “free” composer, responsible only to himself, Partch’s influence remains strong down to the present day. His theory of music is consistent in itself, and it leaves behind the superficial concept of music as virtuosity – which was a hangover from the 19th century – and instead shifts the focus back to the ear and its subtle perception of different degrees of consonance. This fact is something that is highly topical in today’s postmodern world.

Although Partch is well known to the other side of the Atlantic, there is a lack of information about his music in Europe. Partch traveled a lot through his whole lifetime, and got the theoretical and artistic inspiration and influences for his works, system and instruments form the European culture, nevertheless he didn’t leave an input in the contemporary European music. Only since 2013 has there been an almost complete set of copies of his instruments available. The Ensemble Musikfabrik in Cologne made replicas of all of Partch’s instruments in 2013-14, which are – as well – the one replicas available in Europe and this fact can be used by this research project to take an instrumental, practical perspective in the investigation of Partch’s music, his music theory and his concept’s potential for today’s music.

The information on this webpage is kindly provided – in its bigger part – by partners of the project, like Ensemble Musikfabrik Cologne, the replicas maker/ percussionist Thomas Meixner, the guitarist/ Harry Partch specialist John Schneider, the director of Harry Partch’s instrumentarium (original instruments)/ Harry Partch Ensemble in Seattle, California Charles Corey, composers that composed for the remade – Harry Partch instruments, researches, music theorists etc, who I all want to thank for their contribution and ooperation. This platform refers to anyone interested in the “Harry Partch world”: music, theoretical system, instruments and today’s activities.  

Partch Replicas constructed by Thomas Meixner, Storeroom Ensemble Musikfabrik Cologne, In Mediapark 7. Copyright @ Eleni Ralli 04.06.2015