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Rebecca Lentjes

Harry Partch's <br><i>Bitter Music</i> & <i>Delusion of the Fury</i>

Harry Partch's
Bitter Music & Delusion of the Fury

Review by Rebecca Lentjes

Despite his lifelong resentment towards the educational and musical establishment, Partch’s curiosity persisted throughout his whole career, and it was this curiosity that led him to seek out ignored sounds, found sounds, and new sounds. He heard music everywhere: in the forests of California, in the grunts and growls of illiterate hoboes, and in the tones between the notes of the ever-dreaded twelve-tone scale. Even more significantly, he heard this music as an element of storytelling rather than as an event in itself. Partch never allowed any one element of his music theater—not even the music—to dominate the whole. Instead, the usually “separate and distinct” elements of music theater coalesce to form another world, so that the parsing of these elements is made impossible. With Bitter Music, Partch conveyed his memories of the Great Depression via speech and graffiti, letting the music of the human voice transmit both the drama and realism of the human experience. Thirty years later, with Delusion of the Fury, he had transcended the limitations of words, and was able to convey tragedy, comedy, and divine justice in the knowledge that “reality is in no way real.”