Just When You Think You’ve Heard it All!

This was a night like any other night. I returned home from work and put on a familiar favorite record. A quick skim of Facebook and a forum or two are part of my routine method of relaxation before I get in to the evening’s project. But, as fate would have it, this would not be just any ordinary evening.

I’d felt disheartened of late, fearing that my obsessive exploration of 20th century music had exhausted all possible niche and microgenres and that there were no real surprises left to experience. I understood each of the major artistic musical shifts which had occurred aligning with the ever-changing social identity and value sets of each generation. It was a melancholic notion – that perhaps I’d heard it all.

But this evening, something caught my eye as I scrolled passively through my Facebook feed. WFMU had shared an image from Alex Ross’ website. (Ross is the author of the ultimate guide to the music of the 20th century – The Rest is Noise.) The image was a print advert which appeared in the Village Voice on June 19, 1969. The ad reads:

This album will probably make a lot of rock musicians feel insecure.

It’s probably hard for you to imagine anyone more creative and more fluid in his approach to music than today’s great rock composer/musician/stars.

That’s why this album will shock you.

Harry Partch is a man who’s been blowing minds with his music for years. For those that have been lucky enough to hear it.

And today, when it seems like everything’s been done, his music is not only fresh and different… it’s actually revolutionary. Partch doesn’t stop at composing and performing his music. He uses his own scale. (Forty-three tones to the octave instead of the usual eight. His music is richer sounding and more subtle than anything you’ve ever heard.)

And he even makes his own instruments. Every instrument you’ll hear on this album was built by Harry Partch.

Field that one, Frank Zappa.

– Columbia Records

Well that certainly grabbed my attention. I jumped over to RYM and looked up Partch’s most celebrated work, which was Delusion of the Fury. Cross-referencing the title at Discogs.com revealed that a 3LP box set edition was issued in 1971 with a book featuring the unique instruments featured on the recording as well as a bonus LP showcasing each instrument.


Only the album’s opening track was available on YouTube, so I queued it up and was wowed at first-listen. Before the track had completed, I tracked down a clean copy of the deluxe edition for my collection and it is presently en-route to my address.

Thank you, Mr. Partch for dispelling my silly fear that I’d heard it all, and thank you WFMU for waving the 1969 advert in front of my face.

December will be a month of microtonal bliss.



Published in: on December 2, 2015 at 7:50 pm  Comments (1)  
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