Harry Partch: And on the Seventh Day, Petals Fell in Petaluma (excerpt, date unknown, possibly Sixties)

 |   |  1 min read

Harry Partch: And on the Seventh Day, Petals Fell in Petaluma (excerpt, date unknown, possibly Sixties)

When Tom Waits swerved left from his barroom piano ballads and into using new or found sounds on his clank'n'grind albums in the mid Eighties, he was hailed as an innovator . . . but conspiciously few followed him down that path.

These days albums where musicians use unusual instruments are increasingly common and any number will name-check American composer/instrument builder and musical eccentric Harry Partch. (Longtime fan Beck released a track called Harry Partch on his website.)

Partch was an interesting character who came to music through his own path. He'd grown up in small towns in Arizona and New Mexico, taught himself music and during the Depression he decided music needed to free itself of the shackles of the European classical tradition. As with the Dadaists after World War I, he saw that the codes and accepted ways of the old world had failed.

He burned everything he had written up to that point and set out on his own direction adopting a whole new notation and scale system, building his own instruments and battling to have his music and approach accepted.

He died in '74 and after his death his influence seemed to gain momentum, notably through the agency of people like Waits and the Harry Partch Foundation in San Diego. These days it isn't hard to get Partch recordings and you can play some of Partch's instruments on-line and and hear him explain them here .

There are also plenty of websites dedicated to odd instruments (like this one). Or you could just do what Harry did, make your own -- and your own noise.

For more oddities, one-offs or songs with an interesting backstory use the RSS feed for daily updates, and check the massive back-catalogue at From the Vaults.

Share It

Your Comments

kedron - Jun 8, 2011

indeed agreed - by the way much of the clank 'n grind of Tom Waits 80s work was provided by Stephen Hodges, who visited NZ last month as the drummer of Mavis Staples' band. I've seen him do the clank n grind in another group and its a treat to behold.

post a comment

More from this section   From the Vaults articles index

Damien Rice: Cannonball (2002)

Damien Rice: Cannonball (2002)

Irish singer-songwriter Damien Rice is perhaps the one we should thank – or blame – for Ed Sheeran, as this song was the young Sheeran's epiphany. Sheeran was 11 when, by his own... > Read more

The Goldebriars: Sing Out Terry O'Day (1964)

The Goldebriars: Sing Out Terry O'Day (1964)

One of the pleasures of digging around through old vinyl for Elsewhere's pages From the Vaults is in discovering the occasional overlooked classic, the rare or the just plain peculiar. Rummaging... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Barbra Streisand: Walls (Sony)

Barbra Streisand: Walls (Sony)

Despite what many might wish to think, President Trump has actually managed to achieve a lot in his reign . . . like inspiring 76-year old Barbra Streisand to start writing her own songs again.... > Read more

CARLA BLEY, PAUL HAINES. ESCALATOR OVER THE HILL, CONSIDERED (1972): Are you along for the ride?

CARLA BLEY, PAUL HAINES. ESCALATOR OVER THE HILL, CONSIDERED (1972): Are you along for the ride?

In the almost five decades since I bought this triple album by jazz composer/ keyboard player Carla Bley, lyric writer/conceptualist Paul Haines and Bley's Jazz Composer's Orchestra, I must have... > Read more