by Frederick D. Fairchild
(b. Oakland, Calif., USA June 24, 1901; d. Sept. 3, 1984)
Composer Harry Partch created a music that by its nature led to the invention of a fantastic array of percussion instruments. Rejecting equal temperament and much of Western musical heritage, he developed a system based on Just tuning and conceived of a "corporeality" that demanded special instrumental resources. He spoke of himself as "a musician seduced into carpentry" and built sculpture-like instruments such as the Diamond Marimba, Bass Marimba, Cloud Chamber Bowls, Spoils of War, and Quadrangularis Reversum. His music, mostly dramatic, was influenced by, among other things, Chinese lullabies, Yaqui Indian music, Christian hymns, his experiences as a hobo, Greek philosophy and drama, and jazz. His large-scale dramas required that the percussionists become actor-dancers. Among his major works are "Delusion of the Fury," "The Wayward," "Revelation in the Courthouse Park" and "Oedipus."