The Beautiful and Strange Creations of Harry Partch

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(Featured image: Cloud Chamber Bowls and Bamboo Marimba II [or, “Boo II”])

For M.’s birthday, we are going to the University of Washington to see Oedipus: A Music Theater Drama, as imagined by composer, inventor, musician, Depression-era hobo, philosopher, and instrument builder Harry Partch.

Included here are some photos I snapped of a couple of his instruments, which are now housed at the University and which we were able to see (and touch, and play!) a couple of years ago.

Partch didn’t build crazy looking stuff as some whimsical sculptural exercise- he built instruments which suited the needs of his compositional systems and his particular philosophical approach to music making. From the Harry Partch website:

“Among the most iconic of Partch’s instruments, the Cloud-Chamber Bowls are large Pyrex gongs with a beautiful and complex sound.  Partch initially discovered the Cloud-Chamber Bowls at the University of California, Berkeley, where portions of Pyrex carboys were discarded by the Radiation Laboratory. Over the years, he would cut countless new Cloud-Chamber Bowls to expand his set or replace those which had broken.”

“Bamboo Marimba II, or Boo II, uses the same tuning as Boo I, but is made entirely from mottled Japanese bamboo, and each segment is open on both ends.”

harry-partch-exhibit--keys-of-the-chromodilion_22988541482_oChromelodeon II

“Chromelodeon II is an unusual 88-key reed organ, retuned to fit Partch’s system.  The various stops on Chromelodeon II make it possible for full triads to sound with just one key depressed.”

For more about Harry Partch (and great photos of his many instruments) see the Harry Partch website. If you’re in the Seattle area, look out for chances to visit these creations.

Corey, Charles. Harry Partch. Web. 04 May 2017.
Citing this page:
Solomon, Alana. “The Beautiful and Strange Creations of Harry Partch.” Ortolana Studio & Press. Ortolana Studio & Press, 4 May. 2017.


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