Performance CreditsHarry Partch Primary Artist
Ronnie Engel Percussion
This three-CD set of works from American composer and instrument creator Harry Partch consists of two major works, "King Oedipus" and "The Bewitched," along with a half dozen smaller works or portions of works. A spoken introduction to "Oedipus," by Partch, explains his aims in seeking an historically rooted purity of theater unifying the importance of dialogue, story and music. The lyrics to "King Oedipus" is none other than the verse of the great wordsmith, W. B. Yeats. Through most of the work, Partch's music is played on such exotic creations as diamond marimbas, chromelodeons and adapted microtonal stringed instruments which take a backseat to the exchange of dialogue. One is reminded that Partch spent part of his life as a Depression-era hobo when one hears the potent language exchanged, as if by rootless cynics over a bowl of Mulligan stew. I would image a production of Steinbeck's Tortilla Flat would bear the same curious juxtaposition. "The Bewitched," subtitled "A Ballet Satire," is a purer exhibition of Partch's musical vision. Constantly underpinned by marimba, the angular melodies of flutes and strings, along with vocalizations, gives an edgy, Oriental feel to interpretive pieces like "Background for the Demonic Descent of the Cognoscenti while Shouting over Cocktails" and "Background for the Visions of a Defeated Basketball Team in the Shower Room." Greek themes are treated in "Ulysses Departs from the Edge of the World" and "Revelation in the Courthouse Park based on Euripides." Originally written for an interested Chet Baker, "Ulysses" is perhaps the most accessible piece, thanks to the constant presence of a trumpet melody. Partch is a large intelligence, full of creative vision. Enclosure goes very far toward giving proper treatment to his under appreciated body of work.