Greek Myths and Microtonal Instruments: Harry Partch’s Oedipus

by Maggie Molloy

We all know the ancient Greek myth of Oedipus, the cursed king who slept with his mother—but you’ve probably never heard it told on hand-crafted, rainbow-colored microtonal instruments before.

All photos by Maggie Molloy.

That opportunity comes this weekend with a rare staging of Harry Partch’s avant-garde theatrical extravaganza Oedipus: A Music Theater Drama. The performances, which run May 5-7, are presented through the Harry Partch Instrumentarium currently in residence at the University of Washington.

A pioneer of new music, Partch was one of the first 20th century composers to work extensively with microtonal scales, creating dozens of incredible instruments specifically for the performance of his musical texts and corporeal theatre works. The Instrumentarium houses over 50 of his rare instruments, each hand-crafted out of wood and strings, gongs and glass, gizmos and gadgets.

Chuck Corey, Director of the Instrumentarium.

Directed and curated by Chuck Corey, the Harry Partch Instrumentarium puts on a handful of performances each year—but this spring marks the first time Corey and his microtonal music troupe are staging one of Partch’s full-fledged, evening-length theatrical works.

“I have had the opportunity to work with Partch’s instruments for nearly half my life, and am still amazed by some of the sounds he creates in his music,” Corey said. “Partch is best known for his just-intoned tuning system and the instruments he invented, but if he were not also a great composer I don’t think his work would have gained much of a following. For me, it is rewarding to perform his music and solve the problems his instruments present, and I remain impressed by his distinctive musical language.”

Based on Sophocles’ original Greek tragedy, Partch’s Oedipus is not quite a play and not quite an opera: the story unfolds through a combination of speech and song, augmented by the exotic harmonies of Partch’s notorious 43-tone scale.

“The voice can be used in a variety of ways in Partch’s work,” Corey said. “He often calls for intoning voice (words spoken on precise pitches), and in the case of Oedipus, we will cover the full range between speaking and singing. There are many passages in Oedipus where each character is at a different point on this spectrum.”

Oedipus floats freely in and out of Partch’s microtonal musical world, shifting between spoken monologues and hypnotizing musical settings, dramatic movement and dance. Partch’s orchestra of oddities is percussive, haunting, and hypnotic—almost ritualistic in its depth and drama.

In fact, Partch designed his instruments to be corporeal; he sought to involve the whole body and the entire person in the art. The result, for audience and performer alike, is a deeply immersive experience that brings together music, sculpture, dance, and drama in a fascinating culmination of Partch’s iconoclastic ethos.

To learn more about the magical and mysterious musical inventions of Harry Partch, take our photo tour below:

Diamond Marimba - Photo by Maggie MolloyDiamond Marimba:
This instrument is a physical manifestation of one of Partch’s most crucial theoretical concepts: the “tonality diamond.” Built in 1946, the instrument contains all twelve of Partch’s primary tonalities, each laid out in a series of thirds. It’s used as a prominent percussion instrument in many of his works.


Gourd Tree - Photo by Maggie MolloyGourd Tree: Built in 1964, the Gourd Tree is comprised of twelve temple bells attached to gourd resonators, each of which hangs suspended from a eucalyptus branch. Yes, a eucalyptus branch. The instrument is often played in conjunction with Partch’s Cone Gongs, which are made out of nose cones from airplane fuel tanks.


Cloud-Chamber Bowls - Photo by Maggie MolloyCloud-Chamber Bowls: Partch’s most iconic instrument, the Cloud-Chamber Bowls are made up of large glass gongs of varying sizes suspended in a wooden frame and played with mallets. Partch initially created the instrument in 1950 using Pyrex carboys discarded by the Radiation Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley.


Chromelodeon - Photo by Maggie MolloyChromelodeon: The colorful Chromelodeon, built in 1945, is an adapted reed organ modified to conform to Partch’s tonality system. The instrument plays a 43-tone per octave scale, as opposed to a typical Western keyboard, which plays 12 tones per octave. In addition to a standard keyboard and a collection of stops, the Chromelodeon also includes an additional keyboard of Partch’s own creation called the “sub-bass,” located in the upper left corner of the instrument. Both keyboards have colored and numbered labels representing ratios of the tuning system. Oh, and also: the player has to furiously pump two foot pedals throughout the entire performance in order fill the organ’s bellows and create sound.


Kithara II - by Maggie MolloyKithara II: Towering at nearly seven feet tall, the Kithara II requires the performer to stand on a riser in order to play it. Built in 1954, the instrument has twelve sets of six strings which correspond to Partch’s primary tonalities; four of these sets employ Pyrex rods as movable bridges. The Kithara II is also Chuck’s personal favorite instrument in the collection.


Surrogate Kithara - Photo by Maggie MolloySurrogate Kithara: As the name suggests, the Surrogate Kithara was originally invented as a substitute for Partch’s original Kithara, and was created when he began writing music for the instrument that was too difficult for one person to play. The Surrogate Kithara features two sets of eight strings, each with a Pyrex rod that serves as a movable bridge.


Bamboo Marimba II - Photo by Maggie MolloyBamboo Marimba II (Boo II): Affectionately dubbed “Boo II,” the Bamboo Marimba II (built in 1971) consists of 64 tubes of mottled Japanese bamboo organized into six ranks. Each tube is open on both ends, and tongues are cut into the bamboo at approximately 1/6 of the length of the tube in order to produce a harmonic at 6/5 of the fundamental pitch.


Bass Marimba - Photo by Maggie MolloyBass Marimba: Built in 1950, the Bass Marimba features 11 bars made of Sitka spruce. Just to give you an idea of the massive size of this instrument, the top of the bars are five feet above the floor, and the player must stand on a riser six feet wide and over two feet tall in order to play it.  Each bar is situated over an organ pipe which serves as a resonator, and the lowest bar corresponds to a C2 on piano which, for those of you who don’t play piano, is pretty darn low. The instrument can be played with mallets or by slapping the bars with the pads of your fingers.


The Spoils of War - Photo by Maggie MolloyThe Spoils of War: Created in 1950, this instrument takes its name from the seven artillery casings that hang from the top of the instrument. The instrument also includes four Cloud-Chamber Bowls, two pieces of tongued bamboo, one woodblock, three steel “whang guns,” and a guiro. Just think of it as a Harry Partch drum-set of sorts.


New Harmonic Canon I - Photo by Maggie MolloyNew Harmonic Canon I: Built in 1945, the New Harmonic Canon I is a 44-stringed instrument with a complex systems of bridges. It was built specifically to accommodate a second tuning, allowing the performer to play in either one or both of the different tunings simultaneously. The strings are tuned differently depending on the piece, and are played with fingers, picks, or in some cases, mallets.


Harmonic Canon II - Photo by Maggie MolloyHarmonic Canon II: Nicknamed the “Castor and Pollux,” the Harmonic Canon II (built in 1953) features two resonating boxes with 44 strings across the top. Bridges are placed beneath the strings specifically for the tuning of each composition. Like all of Patch’s Harmonic Canons, the instrument may be played with fingers, picks, or mallets.


Adapted Guitar II - Photo by Maggie MolloyAdapted Guitar II: The ten-string Adapted Guitar II is a steel-string guitar which is played with a slide. Partch first began experimenting with adapted guitars in the 1930s, and by 1945 he began using amplification for them. The ten strings of the Adapted Guitar II are typically tuned either to Partch’s “otonality” or “utonality” (terms Partch used to describe chords whose pitch classes are the harmonics or subharmonics of a given fixed tone). Thankfully, the headstock is specially designed to allow the player to change the tuning within seconds.


Performances of Oedipus: A Music Theater Drama are Friday, May 5 and Saturday, May 6 at 7:30pm and Sunday, May 7 at 2pm at the University of Washington’s Meany Theater. For tickets and additional information, please click here.

New Composed Music: May 2017 Seattle * Eastside * Tacoma

SI_button2Second Inversion and the Live Music Project create a monthly calendar featuring contemporary classical, cross-genre, and experimental performances in Seattle, the Eastside, Tacoma, and places in between! 

thvLYmNB

Keep an eye out for our this flyer in concert programs and coffee shops around town. Feel free to download, print, and distribute it yourself! If you’d like to be included on this list, submit your event to the Live Music Project at least 6 weeks prior to the event and be sure to tag it with “new music.”


Program Insert - May 2017

Racer Sessions
A weekly showcase of original music with a jam session based on the concepts in the opening presentation.
Every Sunday, 8-10pm, Cafe Racer | FREE

Wayward Music Series
Concerts of contemporary composition, free improvisation, electronic/electroacoustic music, & more.
Various days, 7:30/8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15

Eighth Blackbird with Will Oldham (Bonnie “Prince” Billy)
Will Oldham joins Eighth Blackbird for half the program with original songs and Frederic Rzewski’s Coming Together. The program also includes Bryce Dessner’s Murder Ballades, and David Lang’s Learn to Fly.
Thursday, 5/4, 7:30pm, The Neptune Theatre | $33.50

Harry Partch’s Oedipus: A Musical Theater Drama
The UW School of Music presents the rarely performed Oedipus by Harry Partch after the play by Sophocles. This performance is a “multi-genre theatrical work” featuring a unique collection of Harry Partch’s handmade instruments currently in residence at UW.
Friday, 5/5, 7:30pm, Meany Theater | $10-$20
Saturday, 5/6, 7:30pm, Meany Theater | $10-$20
Sunday, 5/7, 2:00pm, Meany Theater | $10-$20

Seattle Classical Guitar Society Presents Antigoni Goni
Award winning guitarist and renowned pedagogue Antigoni Goni performs a solo recital including music by contemporary Greek composers and others.
Saturday, 5/6, 7:30pm, Nordstrom Recital Hall, Benaroya Hall | $38

Angelo Rondello: Music of Our Sister Cities
Seattle Music Exchange Project presents pianist Angelo Rondello.  The program includes music of Seattle’s sister cities in Italy, Japan, Hungary, and Norway.
Thursday, May 11, 7:30pm, Nordstrom Recital Hall, Benaroya Hall | $20-$42

Seattle Symphony: Celebrate Asia
Seattle Symphony is joined by Indian composer, producer, and performer A. R. Rahman is their ninth annual celebration of the musical traditions of Asia, focusing this year on India and Japan.
Friday, 5/12, 7:00pm, Mark S. Taper Auditorium, Benaroya Hall | $40-$105

DXARTS: Music of Today
The UW School of Music and The Center for Digital Arts and Experimental Media (DXARTS) present a concert of audio and video by current DXARTS students and alumni.
Friday, 5/12, 7:30pm, Meany Theater | $10-$15

Gamelan Pacifica: Lou Harrison at 100 Years
Celebrate the centenary of Lou harrison with a rare opportunity to experience his music for gamelan and percussion live.
Saturday 5/13, 8:00pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15

Seattle Rock Orchestra Performs The Beatles
In a Seattle Mother’s Day tradition, Seattle Rock Orchestra performs the Beatles.  Bring your mom.
Saturday, 5/13, 8:00pm, Moore Theatre | $25
Sunday, 5/14, 2:00pm, Moore Theatre | $25

Nat Evans’s Vertical Saxophone Aura Readings at Seattle Art Museum
Nat Evans presents an interactive work for saxophonists on escalators. Two saxophone players serve as personal sound escorts to museum patrons on the escalators leading up to the Seeing Nature exhibition.
Thursday, 5/18, 7:00pm, Seattle Art Museum | free-$20

Ecco Chamber Ensemble: Enough is Enough
Ecco ends their inaugural season with music that protests modern violence and points toward peace, including a premiere by Seattle composer Sarah Bassingthwaighte.
Saturday, May 20, 2:00pm, St. John United Lutheran Church, | $15

Seattle Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra: SPARK.1
This Capitol Hill performance marks the first event in SMCO’s genre-bending SPARK series.  Live SMCO musicians are joined by local DJ Suttikeeree and the Skylark Horn Quartet.
Saturday, May 20, 8:00pm, Fred Wildlife Refuge (21+) | $25

Second Inversion’s Top 5 Blog Features of 2016

2016 was a great year for new blog series and features here at Second Inversion dot org. From unusual instruments to concerts in national parks, our music journalists covered the region far and wide!

#5: New Music Concert Flyers

program-insert-december-2016-onesided

Each month in 2016, Second Inversion and the Live Music Project created a monthly calendar featuring contemporary classical, cross-genre, and experimental performances in Seattle, the Eastside, Tacoma, and places in between. We gave copies to all of the listed groups to distribute to their audiences to help spread the word about similar concerts. It’s been incredibly rewarding to bring unity and support to our vibrant community!


#4: Music in the American Wild

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In August 2016, we took an in-depth look at an exciting project that came to Washington’s national parks in honor of the National Parks Service’s centennial: Music in the American Wild. The touring ensemble performed works commissioned by eleven composers, all Eastman graduates and affiliates. Second Inversion’s Seth Tompkins covered the Washington leg of the tour in three blog posts.


#3: Anatomy of a Prepared Piano for John Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano

The avant-garde and always-iconoclastic composer John Cage liked to think outside the box—the toolbox, that is. In 1940, he invented the prepared piano: a piano that has had its sound altered by placing objects such as screws and bolts in between the strings. His magnum opus for the instrument was the Sonatas and Interludes, a collection of 20 pieces clocking in at over an hour in length. This spring, Seattle-based pianist Jesse Myers performed the work in its entirety and Maggie Molloy went behind the scenes to see what (literally) goes into the piano!

All photos by Maggie Molloy.


#2: Women in (New) Music 

women-in-music-timeline

This year Second Inversion launched Women in (New) Musican ongoing exploration into the past, present, and future of feminism in classical music. This multimedia series will highlight feminist issues within and beyond the classical music sphere, inviting female-identifying musicians, artists, and writers from all areas of the field to share their own experiences. Our posts so far have included a timeline of female composers, Q&As with composers and performers, studies on females in the classroom, and more!


#1: Virtual Tour of the Harry Partch Instrumentarium

Harry Partch was a pioneer of new music. He was one of the first 20th century composers to work extensively with microtonal scales, creating dozens of incredible instruments specifically for the performance of his musical texts and corporeal theatre works. Over 50 of his handmade instruments are housed in The Harry Partch Instrumentarium, currently in residence at the University of Washington and we presented a virtual tour of the instruments by Second Inversion’s own Maggie Molloy!

All photos by Maggie Molloy.

New Music Concerts: December 2016 Seattle * Eastside * Tacoma

SI_button2Second Inversion and the Live Music Project create a monthly calendar featuring contemporary classical, cross-genre, and experimental performances in Seattle, the Eastside, Tacoma, and places in between! 

thvLYmNB

Keep an eye out for our this flyer in concert programs and coffee shops around town. Feel free to download, print, and distribute it yourself! If you’d like to be included on this list, submit your event to the Live Music Project at least 6 weeks prior to the event and be sure to tag it with “new music.”


Racer Sessions
A weekly showcase of original music with a jam session based on the concepts in the opening presentation.
Every Sunday, 8-10pm, Cafe Racer | FREE

Wayward Music Series
Concerts of contemporary composition, free improvisation, electronic/electroacoustic music, & more.
Various days, 7:30/8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15
Check website for complete listings

2
Luke Fitzpatrick performs Cage and Partch
John Cage’s Freeman Etudes plus the first-ever performance of Harry Partch’s 17 Lyrics by Li Po in its entirety, scored for the composer’s handmade adapted viola and intoning voice.
Fri, 12/2, 7:30pm, Jones Playhouse | $10-$20

2-4
The Esoterics: TEASDALE: Across the endless spaces
A journey with The Esoterics’ resident composer emeritus, Donald Skirvin, on his choral “love affair” with the rhapsodic American poetess, Sara Teasdale.
Fri, 12/2, 8pm, St Stephen’s Episcopal Church | $15-$25
Sat, 12/3, 8pm, Holy Rosary Catholic Church | $15-$25
Sun, 12/4, 7pm, Christ Episcopal Church, Tacoma | $15-$25

3
Phil Kline’s Unsilent Night
Experience a beautiful mix of electronica & non-denominational caroling. Download the free mobile device app or free music tracks at unsilentnight.com.
Sat, 12/3, 6pm, On the Boards | FREE

6
Seattle Collaborative Orchestra: Questions & Answers
SCO features a new work by Roosevelt High School and Rice University graduate Brendan McMullen along with works by Ives, Lili Boulanger, and Tchaikovsky.
Tues, 12/6, 7:30pm, Roosevelt HS Auditorium | $10-$20 (18 & under free)

6
Town Music: Blackbird, Fly!
Daniel Bernard Roumain & Marc Bamuthi-Joseph explore their identities, pay tribute to their role models, and inhabit their place in contemporary American society.
Tues, 12/6, 7:30pm, Town Hall | $5-$20

6
UW Modern Ensemble: Steve Reich 80th Birthday Celebration
The UW Modern Music Ensemble presents a program devoted to the music of renowned living composer Steve Reich, celebrating a milestone birthday year.
Tues, 12/6, 7:30pm, Meany Hall | $10

9
STG Presents: Matmos: Ultimate Care II
Matmos celebrates the release of their new album, constructed entirely out of the sounds generated by a Whirlpool Ultimate Care II model washing machine.
Fri, 12/9, 8:30pm, The Vera Project | $15

10
Inverted Space Ensemble performs La Monte Young
This extended performance of Composition 1960 #7 will feature both the Harry Partch Harmonic Canon and Adapted Viola.
Sat, 12/10, 8pm, Gallery 1412 | $5-$15

10-11
Choral Arts Northwest: Not One Sparrow Is Forgotten
Joined by guitarist Bob McCaffery-Lent, this new-music-focused performance is intended as a respite from this usually harried time of year.
Sat, 12/10, 8pm, St. Joseph Parish | $24-$28
Sun, 12/11, 3pm, Plymouth Congregational Church | $24-28

10 & 17
Seattle Pro Musica: Star of Wonder
Music from around the world that evokes the holiday season from medieval chant to recent works by Judith Weir, John Rutter, & Gabriel Jackson.
Sat, 12/10, 3pm & 7:30pm, Seattle First Baptist | $12-$38
Sat, 12/17, 3pm & 7:30pm, Bastyr Chapel, Kenmore | $12-38

18
Serendipity Quartet: Sunnier, Rainier: A String Quartet for Seattle
A balanced program of Shostakovich, Dvorak, and the world premiere of Adam Stern’s Crossroads which explores the dynamic nature of Seattle.
Sun, 12/18, 7pm, Town Hall | FREE

18-19
NOCCO: Solstice Celebration
Celebrate the return of the light with a sonic respite: music of Stravinsky, Respighi, Bach, and Seattle composer Angelique Poteat.
Sun, 12/18, 7:30pm, Magnolia United Church of Christ | $15-$30 (under 18: FREE)
Mon, 12/19, 7:30pm, University Unitarian Church | $15-$30 (under 18: FREE)

Meet the Instruments of the Harry Partch Instrumentarium

by Maggie Molloy

Walking into the Harry Partch Instrumentarium for the first time is a bit like walking into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory—except Willy Wonka’s not a chocolatier, but a luthier of sorts. And Charlie’s not a young protégé, but a grown man named Charles Corey. He goes by Chuck for short.

There’s no candy or chocolate in this factory, but rather, the walls and floor are all covered in colorful, handmade musical instruments created out of wood and strings, gongs and glass, gizmos and gadgets. Oh, and everything you touch turns to microtonal melodies.

Chromelodeon - Photo by Maggie Molloy

All Photos by Maggie Molloy

Chuck is the director and curator of the Harry Partch Instrumentarium, which has been in residence at the University of Washington since 2014. Partch was an innovative and iconoclastic composer, music theorist, and creator of musical instruments—and the Instrumentarium is devoted to preserving and performing his works.

Partch was a pioneer of new music; he was one of the first 20th century composers to work extensively with microtonal scales, creating dozens of incredible instruments specifically for the performance of his musical texts and corporeal theatre works.

Through research, instruction, and performance, Chuck shares Partch’s music and instruments with, well, anyone who is interested.

Charles Corey - Photo by Maggie Molloy

“I have had the opportunity to work with Partch’s instruments for nearly half my life, and am still amazed by some of the sounds he creates in his music,” Chuck said. “Partch is best known for his just-intoned tuning system and the instruments he invented, but if he were not also a great composer I don’t think his work would have gained much of a following.  For me, it is rewarding to perform his music and solve the problems his instruments present, and I remain impressed by his distinctive musical language.”

Chuck first learned about the instruments while doing his undergraduate studies at Montclair State University, which housed the instruments at that time. His instructor was Dean Drummond, a composer and protégé of Partch.

“As a young composer, I was captivated by these unique sounds and a tuning system that I had never heard of, and quickly decided I wanted to be as involved as possible with the Partch program,” Chuck said.

Of course, being the director of the Partch Instrumentarium is no small commitment. Outside of teaching and performing, Chuck also takes care of all of the tuning, maintenance, and repairs on all of the instruments. Just to give you an idea, there are over 50 instruments in the collection—some with as many as 72 strings!

Aside from the peculiar tunings, each instrument also has its own unique performance idiosyncrasies.

Charles Corey with Chromelodeon - Photo by Maggie Molloy“Some of the instruments require an unusual performance technique and many of the instruments have a complicated tablature, so learning the music can be a challenge,” Chuck said. “That said, it can be particularly rewarding to learn the idiosyncrasies of these instruments and discover how to draw just the right sound out.”

In addition to curating, directing, teaching, performing, and maintaining the instruments, Chuck also provides guided small tours of the instruments by appointment. He was kind enough to show me around the Instrumentarium and let me see, touch, play, and take photos of every single instrument in the room.

Please, allow me to introduce you to just a few of them:

Diamond Marimba - Photo by Maggie MolloyDiamond Marimba:
This instrument is a physical manifestation of one of Partch’s most crucial theoretical concepts: the “tonality diamond.” Built in 1946, the instrument contains all twelve of Partch’s primary tonalities, each laid out in a series of thirds. It’s used as a prominent percussion instrument in many of his works.


Gourd Tree - Photo by Maggie MolloyGourd Tree:
Built in 1964, the Gourd Tree is comprised of twelve temple bells attached to gourd resonators, each of which hangs suspended from a eucalyptus branch. Yes, a eucalyptus branch. The instrument is often played in conjunction with Partch’s Cone Gongs, which are made out of nose cones from airplane fuel tanks.


Cloud-Chamber Bowls - Photo by Maggie MolloyCloud-Chamber Bowls:
Partch’s most iconic instrument, the Cloud-Chamber Bowls are made up of large glass gongs of varying sizes suspended in a wooden frame and played with mallets. Partch initially created the instrument in 1950 using Pyrex carboys discarded by the Radiation Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley.


Chromelodeon - Photo by Maggie MolloyChromelodeon: The colorful Chromelodeon, built in 1945, is an adapted reed organ modified to conform to Partch’s tonality system. The instrument plays a 43-tone per octave scale, as opposed to a typical Western keyboard, which plays 12 tones per octave. In addition to a standard keyboard and a collection of stops, the Chromelodeon also includes an additional keyboard of Partch’s own creation called the “sub-bass,” located in the upper left corner of the instrument. Both keyboards have colored and numbered labels representing ratios of the tuning system. Oh, and also: the player has to furiously pump two foot pedals throughout the entire performance in order fill the organ’s bellows and create sound.


Kithara II - by Maggie MolloyKithara II: Towering at nearly seven feet tall, the Kithara II requires the performer to stand on a riser in order to play it. Built in 1954, the instrument has twelve sets of six strings which correspond to Partch’s primary tonalities; four of these sets employ Pyrex rods as movable bridges. The Kithara II is also Chuck’s personal favorite instrument in the collection.


Surrogate Kithara - Photo by Maggie MolloySurrogate Kithara: As the name suggests, the Surrogate Kithara was originally invented as a substitute for Partch’s original Kithara, and was created when he began writing music for the instrument that was too difficult for one person to play. The Surrogate Kithara features two sets of eight strings, each with a Pyrex rod that serves as a movable bridge.


Bamboo Marimba II - Photo by Maggie MolloyBamboo Marimba II (Boo II): Affectionately dubbed “Boo II,” the Bamboo Marimba II (built in 1971) consists of 64 tubes of mottled Japanese bamboo organized into six ranks. Each tube is open on both ends, and tongues are cut into the bamboo at approximately 1/6 of the length of the tube in order to produce a harmonic at 6/5 of the fundamental pitch.


Bass Marimba - Photo by Maggie MolloyBass Marimba: Built in 1950, the Bass Marimba features 11 bars made of Sitka spruce. Just to give you an idea of the massive size of this instrument, the top of the bars are five feet above the floor, and the player must stand on a riser six feet wide and over two feet tall in order to play it.  Each bar is situated over an organ pipe which serves as a resonator, and the lowest bar corresponds to a C2 on piano which, for those of you who don’t play piano, is pretty darn low. The instrument can be played with mallets or by slapping the 
bars with the pads of your fingers.

The Spoils of War - Photo by Maggie MolloyThe Spoils of War: Created in 1950, this instrument takes its name from the seven artillery casings that hang from the top of the instrument. The instrument also includes four Cloud-Chamber Bowls, two pieces of tongued bamboo, one woodblock, three steel “whang guns,” and a guiro. Just think of it as a Harry Partch drum-set of sorts.


New Harmonic Canon I - Photo by Maggie MolloyNew Harmonic Canon I: Built in 1945, the New Harmonic Canon I is a 44-stringed instrument with a complex systems of bridges. It was built specifically to accommodate a second tuning, allowing the performer to play in either one or both of the different tunings simultaneously. The strings are tuned differently depending on the piece, and are played with fingers, picks, or in some cases, mallets.


Harmonic Canon II - Photo by Maggie MolloyHarmonic Canon II: Nicknamed the “Castor and Pollux,” the Harmonic Canon II (built in 1953) features two resonating boxes with 44 strings across the top. Bridges are placed beneath the strings specifically for the tuning of each composition. Like all of Patch’s Harmonic Canons, the instrument may be played with fingers, picks, or mallets.


Adapted Guitar II - Photo by Maggie MolloyAdapted Guitar II: The ten-string Adapted Guitar II is a steel-string guitar which is played with a slide. Partch first began experimenting with adapted guitars in the 1930s, and by 1945 he began using amplification for them. The ten strings of the Adapted Guitar II are typically tuned either to Partch’s “otonality” or “utonality” (terms Partch used to describe chords whose pitch classes are the harmonics or subharmonics of a given fixed tone). Thankfully, the headstock is specially designed to allow the player to change the tuning within seconds.

So there you have it
a little taste of the magical and mysterious musical inventions of the Partch Instrumentarium. In order to fully understand, you’ll have to see and hear them for yourself next Tuesday. After all, the instruments are meant to be played.

“Physical possession of scores and instruments is meaningless unless the knowledge, the usages, the traditions, the ethos, the daimon that underlie and permeate them are somehow present,” Partch wrote in a 1967 statement to UCLA. “If my music is considered important by some future generation, these realities are basic.  If it is not, my instruments become a pile of sculptural junk, and the scores fragments in a whirlwind.”

But these instruments are so much more than just a pile of junk, and this concert is a testament to the significance of Partch’s innovations in 20th century classical music. Partch may have died in 1974, but his musical legacy lives on in the hands of anyone who picks up his instruments.
Charles Corey with Cloud-Chamber Bowls - Photo by Maggie Molloy“These musicians have been working very hard to learn new instruments, new music, and new ways of performing,” Chuck said, “And there’s a great satisfaction in sharing something so unique with a new audience.”

And trust me, these instruments are nothing if not unique. To some, the far-flung musical contraptions of the late Partch may look like the work of a mad scientist—but I prefer to think of them as the work of a musical scientist. And Harry Partch was one hell of a Willy Wonka.

The Music of Harry Partch will be performed on Tuesday, April 26 at 7:30 p.m. at the University of Washington’s Meany Theater. For tickets and additional information, please visit this link.

New Music Concerts: April 2016 Seattle * Eastside * Tacoma

SI_button2Second Inversion and the Live Music Project create a monthly calendar featuring contemporary classical, cross-genre, and experimental performances in Seattle, the Eastside, Tacoma, and places in between! 

thvLYmNB

Keep an eye out for our this flyer in concert programs and coffee shops around town. Feel free to download, print, and distribute it yourself! If you’d like to be included on this list drop us a line at least 6 weeks prior to the event.

Program Insert - April 2016 - onesided

Racer Sessions
A weekly showcase of original music with a jam session based on the concepts in the opening presentation.
Every Sunday, 8-10pm, Cafe Racer | FREE

Wayward Music Series
Concerts of contemporary composition, free improvisation, electronic/electroacoustic music, & more.
Various days, 7:30/8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-15

Kaley Lane Eaton: ANIMAL
A psychedelic, post-minimalist kaleidoscope of Eaton’s recent work, dancing the tension lines between the body, the mind, the instrument, & the computer.
Fri, 4/1, 8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15

Second Inversion Presents: SRO Quintet
The Seattle Rock Orchestra Quintet transforms popular song into art song with Radiohead, Beck, Bjork and original emotional chamber works.
Sat, 4/9, 8pm, Resonance at SOMA Towers, Bellevue | $25

Seattle Modern Orchestra: Musica Electronica
SMO presents three electronic works from three different generations including works by Berio, Saariaho, & a world premiere by Ewa Trębacz.
Sat, 4/9, 8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $10-$20

Cornish Presents: A Tribute to Janice Giteck
Cornish celebrates the dedicated teaching career of Janice Giteck with a concert of her music performed by long-time friends & former students.
Tues, 4/12, 8pm, PONCHO Hall | $5-$10

Seattle Symphony: Silvestrov U.S. Premiere
Guest conductor Mikhail Tatarnikov leads SSO in the U.S. premiere of Silvestrov’s Symphony No.8.
Thurs, 4/14, 7:30pm, Benaroya Hall | $21-$121
Sat, 4/16, 8pm, Benaroya Hall | $21-$121

2Cellos
This Croatian cello duo breaks down boundaries between different genres of music, equally comfortable playing Bach or rocking out to AC/DC.
Sun, 4/17, 7pm, McCaw Hall | $36.50-$56.50 (+ fees)

Cornish Presents: Friction Quartet
This San Francisco quartet has established a reputation for edgy programming and exhilarating performance of contemporary string quartets.
Thurs, 4/21, 8pm, PONCHO Hall | $10-$20

(re)MOVE: Back Toward Again the (re)TURN Facing
This evening of dance & live music (by Horvitz, Owcharuk & Omdal) ventures into personal and feminist injustices of earth and the female body.
Fri, 4/22 & Sat, 4/23, 7:30pm, Velocity Dance Center | $15-$50
Sun, 4/24, 6:30pm, Velocity Dance Center | $15-$50

Erin Jorgensen
Soundscapes from a five-octave marimba, with intimate vocals, backing electronics, and destream-of-consciousness thoughts ideal for closed eyes.
Sat, 4/23, 8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15

Philharmonia Northwest: The New World
This performance features a world premiere by David Schneider, illuminating new forms of communication between computer and orchestra.
Sun, 4/24, 2:30pm, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church | $15-$20

Music of Today: The Music of Harry Partch
This performance of music by Harry Partch features the composer’s collection of handmade instruments, currently housed at the School of Music.
Tues, 4/26, 7:30pm, Meany Theater | $10-$15

UW Guest Artist Concert: Decoda
This Affiliate Ensemble of Carnegie Hall presents fresh insights into works both new and old as a culmination of a week-long residency at UW.
Thurs, 4/28, 7:30pm, Meany Theater | $10-$20

UW World Series: Daedalus Quartet
Daedalus Quartet makes their Seattle premiere with Beethoven quartets and a commissioned work by UW School of Music composer Huck Hodge.
Fri, 4/29, 7:30pm, Meany Theater | $34-$38
uwworldseries.org

Northwest Symphony Orchestra: Johnston, Bassingthwaighte, Dvořák
Join the Northwest Symphony Orchestra for a world premiere flute concerto by Sarah Bassingthwaighte.
Sat, 4/30, 8pm, Highline Performing Arts Center, Burien | $12-$15

LIVE CONCERT SPOTLIGHT: May 20-26

by Maggie Molloy

Spice up your week with Southern soul, contemporary clarinet, and microtonal music!

Rhiannon Giddens and the Carolina Chocolate Drops

Giddens

We may live in the Northwest, but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate some serious Southern soul music. This weekend blues vocalist, violinist, and banjo player Rhiannon Giddens is coming to Seattle to perform songs from her new solo album, “Tomorrow Is My Turn.”

Giddens is known for reimagining gospel, folk, and bluegrass tunes, bringing her incredible vocal control and classical rigor to a wide range of musical styles. Backed by her Grammy Award-winning old-time string band, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Giddens will perform music made famous by female music icons like Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, Odetta, and Nina Simone.

Sri Lankan-American singer-songwriter Bhi Bhiman will open the show.

The performance is this Wednesday, May 20 at 8 p.m. at UW’s Meany Hall.

Clarinetist Sean Osborn and Pianist Jessica Choe

SeanBazooka1smallThe clarinet is frequently overshadowed by its flashier, jazzier cousin the saxophone—but trust us, this often-overlooked instrument has a wide range of musical possibilities. This weekend, tune into the sounds of clarinet soloist Sean Osborn and pianist Jessica Choe as they perform an evening of dynamic and diverse clarinet works.

The program features everything from classical to contemporary clarinet repertoire, ranging from composers like Franz Anton Hoffmeister to Joseph Horvitz. The evening will also feature Osborn’s own musical portraits titled “Three Women and Three Girls,” as well as local composer Karen P. Thomas’s “When Night Came,” a piece written in response to events from the Bosnian War of the 1990s.

The performance is this Friday May 22 at 7:30 at Richmond Beach Congregational Church United Church of Christ. All proceeds from the performance will benefit Emergency Financial Assistance at the Shoreline Hopelink.

Music of Today: The Music of Harry Partch

partch4

For classical music buffs, being inside a microtonal music instrumentarium would probably be on par with being a kid in a candy store. Lucky for us, the Harry Partch Instrumentarium recently took up residency at the University of Washington School of Music.

Partch was one of the first 20th century composers in the West to work with microtonal scales, building his own custom-made instruments in different tunings in order to perform his compositions. Next week, you can hear these extraordinary instruments in all their microtonal magnificence as UW music students and faculty perform works written by Partch on the composer’s own handmade instruments.

The performance is Tuesday, May 26 at 7:30 p.m. at UW’s Meany Studio Theater.