In my opinion, the only thing better than a recording of Harry Partch’s music is a new recording of Harry Partch’s music. Partch was an American original; he created a new system of tuning, a new set of music theory to describe its workings, new compositions using that theory, and new instruments to play them on.
For a long time, the only recordings of Partch’s music available were those made with in in the 1960’s. Because his instruments were one-of-a-kind originals, there simply wasn’t any way for others to perform his works.
Since his death, these unique instruments have become museum pieces, and as such, are seldom played. Until Partch, a new music ensemble devoted to the composer’s work, commissioned reproductions of the instruments. With these new instruments, Instruments that can be taken on tour and played regularly.
One of the results of that happy solution is “Plecta and Percussion Dances,” the second volume in Bridge Records’ Music of Harry Partch series. This release presents three dance/theater works; Castor & Pollux, Ring Around the Moon, and Even Wild Horses.
Partch’s original recording of this triptych was something of a compromise. The performances were riddled with errors, some of the movements had to be dropped for time considerations, and the tenor sax part in “Even Wild Horses” was omitted.
Partch (the ensemble) redresses all that. “Castor and Pollux” is performed as intended, with all its movements, and there is finally a tenor sax heard in “Horses.” And there’s an added benefit — this group has studied, practiced, and lived in Harry Partch’s musical world for some time, and that internalization comes through in the music. These musicians don’t have a tentative grasp on the material (as some of the original performers did), they own it.
And that makes this an album to own. If you love Harry Partch, you’ll appreciate the superior sound quality of the recording, the quality of the performances, and the fuller realization of Partch’s vision. This is also a great album to introduce Harry Partch to a new listener. It’s music that sounds exotic, timeless, and avant-garde all at once. What could be better than that?
Harry Partch: Plecta and Percussion Dances
The Music of Harry Partch, Vol. 2