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WWII Avant, Part 2/5: Harry Partch download (1941)

The half-spoken, half-notated text that accompanies the percussion instruments in Harry Partch‘s Barstow (1941) may be a bit off-putting to folks whose primary listening more easily serves as background. But speaking of background, all that twangy percussion back there is essential to the history of homemade music. Partch created an extensive collection of instruments in his lifetime, each forged, often out of spare parts, with the intent of matching the sound in his head and in his score.

Barstow was one of three tracks included on the album The World of Harry Partch, which served for many as an introduction to his work. The full album is available for free download at avantgardeproject.org. Barstow is a set of anecdotal text set in a sing-songy format against tuned mallets and otherwise plucked and bowed accompaniment. The words, their cadences moving between hobo banter and classified advertisements, have a found quality that matches the thrift-store instrumentation.

The file is available not as an MP3 but as a FLAC, a so-called “lossless” file, which is to say it is many times the size of an average MP3, in the interest of maintaining fidelity to the original recording. More info on Partch at harrypartch.com and on the FLAC format at flac.sourceforge.net.

Tomorrow: Part 3/5, An evening with John Cage.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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