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Work of the Week – Harry Partch: Delusion of the Fury

Partch: Delusion of the fury - Musikfabrik Ruhrtriennale 2013

In 2013 the Ruhrtriennale Festival of the Arts set in motion a renaissance of Harry Partch’s music when Ensemble Musikfabrik presented his theatrical work Delusion of the Fury.  The ensemble have subsequently performed the work in Oslo, Geneva, Amsterdam, Edinburgh, New York and Paris, and now they will take the work to Taichung, Taiwan where it will receive its Asian premiere on 7 October 2016, followed by a second performance on 8 October.

Harry Partch: A maverick of modern music.

Harry Partch (1901-1974) is remembered as one of the pioneers of microtonality and a highly imaginative philosopher and composer of music.  He invented his own tonal system based on 43 closely spaced, pure microtones per octave and developed an array of his own unusual, mostly percussive, instruments.

Inspired by Japanese and African myths, Delusion of the Fury is a unique musical theatre work. Partch integrates theatrical elements such as light, movement, and singing, as well as the extraordinary presence of his own instruments, to create an experience that exists between dream and illusion. The drama takes place without reference to a specific time or place and brings to mind cultures which seem simultaneously strange and familiar.

Delusion of the Fury: An Opera of lamps and bottles

Many of Partch’s instruments are related to the marimba. The “Marimba Eroica,” for example, consists of four giant keys with an echoing body, while the “Mazda Marimba” is made of light bulbs, and the “Zymo-Xyi” of liquor and wine bottles.  From a distance, the “Cloud Chamber Bowls” appear as a collection of lamps, but are rather broken cups that have been reshaped, tuned and hung from a wooden frame. Played with felt-muted mallets, these massive glass tubes resonate like chimes.

I think my music is really corporal. It has a corporal feeling. I believe the look of the instruments is important. They are objects in a room and they are spatial products. Therefore the instruments must look amazing; they must be inspiring by themselves. Next, the person who plays the instrument is a part of the instrument. It is a unity, a totality. And my god, if I should have something to say about that, he will not look like a Californian amateur-plum-picker! – Harry Partch

Inspired by Musikfabrik’s production and the Partch focus at the Ruhrtriennal Festival, Schott has developed a new series of facsimile study scores featuring Partch’s remarkable handwriting, available as printed study scores or as digital downloads. You can preview the manuscript of Delusion of the Fury on, using the link below.