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

Jerry Lee Lewis: Another Place, Another Time (1968)

Jerry Lee Lewis: Another Place, Another Time (1968)

By the end of 1967, Jerry Lee Lewis, one of the greatest -- and certainly the most outrageous -- stars of the rock'n'roll era was washed up. The times had changed. It was the world of peace and... > Read more

Sylvester Weaver: Guitar Rag (1927)

Sylvester Weaver: Guitar Rag (1927)

Blues guitarist Sylvester Weaver was -- until someone finds another earlier -- the first man to have slide guitar recorded, and this tune -- along with his Guitar Blues laid down at the same time... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Sonic Youth, Daydream Nation (1988)

Sonic Youth, Daydream Nation (1988)

There are some albums (such as Sgt Peppers) which so crystallise their period that you cannot imagine that era without them. Then there are others (The Velvet Underground's debut) which appear to... > Read more

FANTASTICA: THE WORLD OF LEO BENSEMANN by PETER SIMPSON (2011): A man apart

FANTASTICA: THE WORLD OF LEO BENSEMANN by PETER SIMPSON (2011): A man apart

Shortly after Leo Bensemann's death in January 1986, Dennis Donovan wrote a tribute to him in Landfall, the magazine which the artist and graphic designer had long been associated with, and... > Read more