Among the few truly experimental composers in our cultural history, Harry Partch’s life (–) and music embody most completely the quintessential . Original preface to “Genesis of a Music” Harry Partch Foundation To promote a youthful vitality in music we must have students who will question every idea. Genesis of a music: an account of a creative work, its roots and its fulfillments. Front Cover. Harry Partch. Da Capo Press, – Music – pages.

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For they exist on the patrimony genezis standardization, which means degeneration. They dominate because they are to the interest of some group that has the power to perpetuate them, and they cease to dominate when some equally powerful group undertakes to bend them to a new pattern.

It is not difficult for the alert student to acquire the traditional techniques.

Under the pressures of study these are unconsciously and all too easily absorbed. The extent to which an individual can resist being blindly led by tradition is a good measure of his vitality. Traditions remain undisturbed when we say: They remain undisturbed when we say: Traditions remain undisturbed, uninvestigated, and therefore a culture of music based upon such palpably noble precepts is already senile. The quality of vitality that makes any culture significant involves something else, the presence of which constantly undermines tradition; it is found in the perceptive freshness of the Tang Dynasty poets, the bold curiosity of the Renaissance Florentines.

In large measure it is compounded of investigation, investigation, investigation. In poetry and in many other forms of creative expression investigation may take an entirely intellectual and metaphysical path, but in music, because of the very nature of the art, it must also take a physical path.

A phalanx of good pianists, good teachers, good composers, and “good” music no more creates a spirit of investigation and a vital age in music than good grades in school create a spirit of investigation and a body of thinking citizens. To promote a youthful vitality in music we must have students who hagry question every idea and related physical object that they encounter.

Good grades in school are the result of a less commendable ability, and no aspect of the musical scene could be more depressing than the prospect that those with the ;artch to get good grades in school, to copy others, to absorb and apply traditions with facility, shall hold the fort of “good” music.

Music, “good” or not “good,” has only two ingredients that might be called God-given: These two ingredients can be studied and analyzed, but they cannot be changed; they are the comparative constants. In other words, all else is subject to change. Implicit in the man-made part of the musical art are 1 an attitude toward one’s.


These disparate ingredients, which operate through various degrees of the paartch and premeditated and the unconscious and spontaneous, are listed above at random and for three reasons: The creative individual, in developing the man-made ingredients and in examining the God-given, finds the way to a special kind of truth.

This truth is the product of each new day, of each complex organism, its singular environment, experience, and emotional needs. It is the realization of the narry. Musical creators have been, and are, the yenesis and the victims of system, philosophy, and attitude, determined for them by textbooks and classrooms, and by the atmosphere in which they grow; in short, by their milieu. The canons of music do not comprise a corpus juris, common or codified, and the prevailing attitude is a symptom, a danger signal, of possible decay that no person imbued with a spirit of investigation can perceive without misgivings.

But it is a dynamic reverence.

In a healthy culture differing musical philosophies would be coexistent, not mutually exclusive; and they would build from Archean granite, and not, as our one musical system of today builds, from the frame of an inherited keyboard, and from the inherited forms and instruments of Europe’s eighteenth century. And yet anyone who even toys with the idea of looking beyond these legacies for materials and insight is generally considered foolhardy if not actually a publicity-seeking mountebank.

The door to further musical investigation and insight has been slammed shut by the inelastic and doctrinaire quality of genexis one system and its esthetic forms. Under the circumstances it is not incumbent upon a composer to justify his investigation, his search. The burden of explanation for dissatisfaction rests elsewhere.

Genesis Of A Music : Harry Partch :

It belongs to those who accept the forms of a past day without scrutinizing them in the light of new and ever-changing technological and sociological situations, in the light of the interests that stand to profit by the status quo, and in the light of their own individualities, this time and this place. This time and this place offer today’s composer an inestimable advantage over the composer of even a hundred years ago; hwrry the agent that is able to free music from the incubus of an external body of interpreters is now actually with us.

Never before in the history of the art has the composer been able to hope for a situation at all similar to that of the visual artist, who paints a picture only once.

That time is past.

American Mavericks: Genesis of a Music Preface

Twenty-four years ago, when I first began groping for answers to problems of intonation, I was a composer. I am still a composer, and my every musical act has been geared to that premise. Not a ratio of vibrational lengths has been harryy on paper nor one piece of wood glued to another which did not have as its ultimate objective parrch creation of music.


The music which is the result of this groping has been in the process of composition for seventeen years, and virtually every presentation of genewis has prompted numerous questions about its acoustical basis, its sociological postulates, its historic antecedents, and its compositional mechanics, the sum total of which cannot be treated adequately in less than a volume such as this.

The work is not offered as a basis for a substitute tyranny, the grooving of music and musical theory into another set of conventions.

Genesis of a Music

To influence, yes; to limit, no. This is not umsic say that my attitude toward this work is objective. Objectivity would imply a lack of passion and a complete disinterest, which, if it is not an anomaly in any human being, is at least an anomaly in a composer faced with the subject of music.

Sincewhen a first draft of Monophonic principles was completed, the work has undergone many evolutions. In its original form it was compounded of a measure of experimentation on violins and violas and an even larger measure of intuition. In time lartch knowledge of similar work by others led to several revisions in which history and the comparative aspects were stressed, although the basic principles remained unchanged.

Partxh I have concluded, as with theses propped by the Bible, that any musical attitude can be justified by historical precedent, and that an individual experience in a given medium is by far the best substantiation conceivable. Consequently, what the book contains of history and comparative analyses is presented to clarify the bases of present-day practice and of possible expansion in the future, and not as a basic factor in the evolution of this theory and its application, except in the most general sense.

The basic factors are still: The word Monophony applies to both music and intonation, tenesis reasons that will become evident in due course. For purposes of presentation the subject matter falls naturally into two divisions: Part IV aprtch a brief presentation of historic and proposed intonations.

At the same time that I acknowledge my great indebtedness to many workers in music, especially workers in intonation, I should make it clear that I do not intend this book for musicologists, nor even for musicians in the ordinary sense. It is addressed hsrry those who are searching for more than intellectual openings into the mysteries of music and intonation. I have written it for those with a musically creative attitude: