"The creative person shows himself naked. And the more vigorous his creative act, the more naked he appears, sometimes totally vulnerable, yet always invulnerable in the sense of his own integrity. I am now 69 as this is being said, and I've been Doing My Own Thing for five and a half decades. This "Thing" began with Truth, and Truth does exist. For some hundreds of years, The Truth of just intonation (which is defined in any good music dictionary) has been hidden, one could almost say maliciously, because truth always threatens the ruling hierarchy, or, they think so."
So Harry Partch dramatically begins his Prologue in the original LP release of "Delusion of the Fury: A Ritual of Dream and Delusion." Harry Partch's "Delusion of the Fury" has long been heralded as his masterwork. The piece is a music & theatre piece (to describe it as "musical theatre" would be misleading), in which musicians and dancers perform the continuous 90-minute piece, blurring the lines of musical concert and performance piece. Until The Japan Society commissioned a performance of the piece in 2007, the 1969 premiere was the only performance of "Delusion," and the premiere, released originally as a two-disc release by Columbia Masterworks in 1971, remains the standard recording of the piece.
Harry Partch, "Side A-Partch in Prologue; Adapted Viola; Chromelodeon I Blo-Boy; Adapted Guitar; Kithara; Harmonic Canon II; Diamond Marimba; Bass Marimba; Cloud-Chamber Marimba; Spoils of War; Marimba Eroica; Surrogate Kithara; Kithara II"
In the original release, an additional third disc was included, the bonus disc featuring "The Instruments of Harry Partch." This third disc, billed as a "Glimpse into the World of Harry Partch," is made up of commentary and demonstrations by Partch of 27 unique instruments he modified and created in his musical career. Listening to this third disc feels like a sort of ethnomusicological excursion, an anthropology of Partch's own "musical universe."
Listening to Partch's music is an engrossing, sometimes even transformative, experience. The nature of the sounds created is otherworldly. Getting to hear Partch himself explaining the history behind each of his creations, as well as playing a range of the sounds of each instrument on its own, gives you a real feel for Partch's taste and creative process. After all, Partch considered himself not just a "composer," but a creator, and the creation of his instruments was critical to his existence and to his art. Partch once even described himself as, "A music man seduced by carpentry."
Harry Partch, "Side B-Boo; Koto; Harmonic Canon I; Chromelodeon II; Chromelodeons I & II; Crychord; Zymo-Xyl; Mazda Marimba; Gourd Tree & Cone Gang; Eucal Blossom; Quadrangularis Reversum; Harmonic Canon III (Blue Rainbow); Hand Instruments; Partch in Epilogue"
If you can disregard the hip 60s lingo employed in Eugene Paul's liner notes, some truly poignant points on the life and times of Harry Partch emerge. It's important to remember that, while a legend now (though obviously not quite a household name), Harry Partch emerged as the influential, deservedly well-known artist he is now because of "Delusion of the Fury" and similar pieces. Paul accurately notes that Partch's attitude, of re-making music, through his 43-tone scale, innovative performative and compositional techniques, and incorporations of "foreign" musical influences, was not universally smiled upon by the academic and concert music establishment.
Paul writes that Partch was, "An original Original." He attributes the importance and originality of Partch's work to the actual means through which it was created. That Partch made his own instruments was not merely a quirky point of interest in the composer's life, but rather a fundamental aspect of his artistic creation. Paul writes, "The one-of-a-kind, unique-in-this-world, far-out, beautiful works of sculptural grace that are his instruments defy description. They have to be seen as well as heard. To be able to play his own multi-tone scale, Partch has to design and build every one of them."
Partch's commentary, in between the demonstrations of each instrument's capabilities, ranges from giving the specifics of who gave him what when, to the mechanics and history of his extended playing techniques, to overarching manifestos on the very nature of humanity. Partch ends the second side by declaring, as percussion in the background gets louder and louder, "True creativity is present - it is here, because man is here, in his true, deep self, unmutilated."