Bitter Music
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Bitter Music : Collected Journals, Essays, Introductions, and Librettos

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Now in paper for the first time, "Bitter Music" is a generous volume of writings by one of the twentieth century's great musical iconoclasts. Rejecting the equal temperament and concert traditions that have dominated western music, Harry Partch adopted the pure intervals of just intonation and devised a 43-tone-to-the-octave scale, which in turn forced him into inventing numerous musical instruments. His compositions realize his ideal of a corporeal music that unites music, dance, and theater. Winner of the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award, "Bitter Music" includes two journals kept by Partch, one while wandering the West Coast during the Depression and the other while hiking the rugged northern California coastline. It also includes essays and discussions by Partch of his own compositions, as well as librettos and scenarios for six major narrative/dramatic compositions.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 520 pages
  • 153.7 x 228.3 x 29.7mm | 746.47g
  • University of Illinois Press
  • Baltimore, United States
  • English
  • Revised ed.
  • 0252069137
  • 9780252069130
  • 1,087,983

Back cover copy

Now in paper for the first time, Bitter Music is a generous volume of writings by one of the twentieth century's great musical iconoclasts. Rejecting the equal temperament and concert traditions that have dominated western music, Harry Partch (1901-74) adopted the pure intervals of just intonation and devised a 43-tone-to-the-octave scale, which in turn forced him into inventing numerous musical instruments. His compositions realize his ideal of a corporeal music that unites music, dance, and theater.Bitter Music includes two journals kept by Partch, one while wandering the West Coast during the Depression and the other while hiking the rugged northern California coastline. It also includes essays and discussions by Partch of his own compositions, as well as librettos and scenarios for six major narrative or dramatic compositions.show more

Review quote

"Bitter Music [is] a collation of Partch's miscellaneous writings and lectures, edited by Thomas McGeary and published by the University of Illinois Press with the unPartched elegance typical of their admirable series, Music in American Life... [The] book offers occasion for gratitude, for it reminds us that (in the words of Lou Harrison, the Californian composer who has to a degree assumed Partch's mantle): 'Harry told the truth about tune, as Kinsey did about sex.'" -- Wilfrid Mellers, Times Literary Supplement "Perhaps the fullest representation of the early Partch... A powerful document of its era, a work that should take its place in social as well as musical history." -- Bookforum "This important book documents an often overlooked, yet influential contributor to twentieth-century American musical life, and deserves a wide audience." -- Richard Kassel, Notes "This splendid collection is a great step forward for Partch." -- Peter Dickinson, Musical Times "Especially noteworthy ... for Partch's interest in capturing the music of speech inflections -- sayings of his fellow hobos, truck drivers, and policemen are all notated with precise pitch inflections matching the texts." -- Kevin Holm-Hudson, American Music ADVANCE PRAISE "Evocative, direct, clear, opinionated, argumentative, persuasive, idiosyncratic, and a delight to read... This is not only a welcome addition to the literature on American music; it comes very close to great American literature in its own right." -- J. Peter Burkholder, author of Charles Ives: The Ideas behind the Music Review of earlier edition (?) "Leaves us in no doubt that for Partch life and music were one; personal reflection intermingles with snatches of hobo speech and song, presented in rudimentary notations that demonstrate how 'words are music', in rockbottom America no less than in ancient Greece, in Gregorian chant, or Provencal troubadour song." -- Times Literary Supplementshow more

Rating details

37 ratings
4.4 out of 5 stars
5 54% (20)
4 32% (12)
3 14% (5)
2 0% (0)
1 0% (0)
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