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Santa Monica Library to Showcase the Strange Sounds of Harry Partch

Bob Kronovetrealty
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Santa Monica Convention and Visitors

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By Jorge Casuso

October 24, 2019 -- The other-worldly sounds of Harry Partch -- one of America's most eccentric artist-inventors -- will be the subject of a presentation at the Santa Monica Public Library next month.

Partch called himself "a philosophic music-man seduced into carpentry," and it is the sound of the microtonal instruments he invented that make his music so strange and unmistakable.

On November 7 at 7:30 p.m., John Schneider and TJ Troy of the Grammy-winning Partch ensemble, will "show films of Partch, demonstrate their replica instruments, and play several short pieces" by the composer.

Cloud Chamber Bowls
Cloud Chamber Bowls (Courtesy

Partch's instruments, which include the Chromelodeon, the Quadrangularis Reversum and the Zymo-Xyl, were fashioned from the detritus of modern society -- from hubcaps to nuclear cloud chambers.

"The musical world of Harry Partch is new and strange," read the liner notes to the 1969 Columbia LP "The World of Harry Partch," his music's first release on a major record label.

"His instruments, all hand made by himself, have rarely been seen, and the sounds they produce have seldom been heard, at least not on this planet."

Partch was one of the first modern Western composers to work with microtonal scales, dividing the octave into 43 unequal tones, instead of the traditional 12-tone equal-tempered scale.

When played on Patch's percussion instruments, the music evokes an eastern sound similar to a gamelan, the traditional ensemble used in Indonisain music.

Partch also fashioned his lyrics from unusual sources. His most famous vocal work "Barstow" uses the graffiti scrawled on box cars by Depression-era hobos in the San Bernardino County town.

Next month's performance, which is part of the library's free Soundwaves new music series, is a partial preview of the November 9 Jacaranda Music concert of Patch's music.

The concert will feature the complete Partch ensemble and distinguished guests performing "The Wayward," "Castor & Pollux," and "Dark Brother."

Tickets for the Jacaranda concert are available through

The monthly Soundwaves series presents artists who appear on the DRAM (Database of Recorded American Music) streaming service. The Santa Monica Library is the first public library to offer this service to its cardholders.

Listings of past and upcoming Soundwaves shows as well as sound and video recordings can be found at

This event is free and open to the public. Seating is limited and on a first-arrival basis.

The Main Library is served by Big Blue Bus routes 1, 7, R7, R10 and 18 and provides bicycle parking racks.

For more information, visit or contact the Santa Monica Public Library at (310) 458-8600.

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