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Album Review

The first volume of Bridge's Music of Harry Partch consists of a reading of his Depression-era journal and fragmentary pieces he wrote while traveling up and down the west coast of the United States, living as a hobo. During 1935 and early 1936, Partch kept a diary he called Bitter Music, which included drawings and musical sketches about the people and songs he heard around him. Over time, the book was destroyed, though it was preserved on microfilm; some of Partch's drawings and musical ideas are presented in the booklet included with this three-CD set by the PARTCH ensemble. The text is read by John Schneider, and Garry Eister provides the vocals and piano for the pieces that appeared in the diary or were referred to in its pages. This is a prodigious amount of material for listeners to get through, since most of the tracks are spoken word, and the musical snippets are intermittent and easy to miss because of their brevity. Students of Partch's music will recognize certain idiosyncrasies of melody and the colloquial delivery that informed later pieces, such as Barstow and U.S. Highball, though little here anticipates the novel tunings, instrumentation, and techniques of his mature works. Instead, this is a revelation of Partch's life as a transient, and day-to-day concerns dominate his entries. The last track on the third disc is a short recording of Partch's voice, briefly recounting the origins of Bitter Music., Rovi

Harry Partch: Bitter Music, Partch
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