Group of 5 autograph and typed letters signed to fellow-composer Lee Hoiby. Harry PARTCH.

Group of 5 autograph and typed letters signed to fellow-composer Lee Hoiby.

All signed "Harry" and with original envelope.

1. September 15, 1948, California
Autograph letter signed. 2 pp. Quarto. In pencil. Undated, but with postmark to envelope. Partch writes about being lonely, the hard work he is doing moving redwood logs, his financial situation, and Hoiby's potential visit and his wish that Bill not accompany him: "I am allergic to wisecracks and arguments over the tempos of Mozart... I belong neither to this age nor this culture... But if I do project myself into this age I can't agree with your choice at all - at all..." Partch goes on to mention [Samuel] Barber and a bookseller in Berkeley selling his "U.S. Highball" recordings. With autograph envelope addressed in pencil. Creased at folds.

2. June 6, 1950
Typed letter signed. 1-1/4 pp. Quarto.
A highly interesting letter commenting on critical accounts of his works. "Whether I'm doing anything worthwhile in my direction is of course anyone's opinion, but I like to have the direction understood... perceived, at least, intuitively... I am an utter failure, because I am quite aware that there is little chance that my ideas will ever be understood..." Partch then comments on Menotti ("He is re-soaping the runners of tyranny..."), on works he has written, and a bass marimba he has built. To the recipient, Hoiby, he writes: "I consider you, in your way, the most talented person I have ever known. If you don't know what way I mean, I'll tell you sometime." With several autograph annotations in blue and red pencil. Creased at folds. Envelope torn at right edge with some paper loss.

3. October 17, 1951
Typed letter signed. 1-1/4 pp. Quarto. Partch has received a letter from the composer Otto Luening informing him that Luening would like to perform Partch's work King Oedipus at Columbia University, for which Partch asks Hoiby to play the kithara, diamond marimba, or bass marimba. Other subjects touched on include a radio interview with Gian-Carlo Menotti, the students at Mills College and their availability to perform, and Partch's loneliness at the college: "... they are quite interested in my work, but as a human being I do not exist." With autograph envelope. Creased at folds. Envelope torn at right edge with some paper loss.

4. December 12, 1951
Typed letter signed. 1 page. Small quarto. Partch discusses poems by the Californian poet Arthur [Art] Carson, who had given Partch "a sheaf of some three or four hundred poems to look at. I wasn't surprised that I found some of them very good, but I was amazed to see that he has a bent toward what I and I alone (it seems) consider poetry. He is going straight in the face of modern idioms and trends to write simple, direct and subtle groups of words that now and then bowl me over..." Partch goes on to discuss potential performers from Mills College on his custom-designed instruments: the chromelodeon, marimba eroica, and harmonic canon; new plans for performing Oedipus in New York at Juillliard instead of Columbia, and the possibility of Martha Graham choreographing the work. Creased at folds.

5. July 23, 1958, Evanston, Illinois
Typed letter signed. 1 page. Quarto. Partch is coming to New York after the "U.S. Highball" records are distributed, and is thinking of moving there if he can find "some sort of congenial milieu... The stereo recording is sensationally good... I thought of you often and wished that you could be at your old place on the kithara." He comments on the performance and who was playing which instrument, describes how the recording took place, and mentions the continual stops so that the performers could change instruments: "Editing and splicing all those sections consumed 15 hours..." Partch also writes of friends and of a young assistant named Danlee Mitchel, who had "devoted his entire time to all the Partch problems as well as performing on many instruments... and when I felt trapped on the fifth floor of the Northwestern U. Sch. of Music (!) he rented a garage... and virtually single-handed moved about 2,000 pounds of instruments." Creased at folds. Envelope torn at right edge with some paper loss.

Partch was an American composer, theorist, instrument maker and performer. "He dedicated most of his life to implementing an alternative to equal temperament, which he found incapable of the true consonance his ear and essentially tonal aesthetic demanded. He invented an approach to just intonation he called ‘monophony’; realizing that traditional instruments and performers would be inimical to his system, he designed and constructed new and adapted instruments, developed notational systems, and trained performing groups wherever he was living and working. By the 1940s he had transformed a profound antipathy to the European concert tradition into the idea of ‘corporeality’, emphasizing a physical and communal quality in his music..."

"... interest in Partch has increased greatly since his death, and overtaken the view held of him in life as quixotic or worse. His eclecticism, especially his unfettered use of traditional music from around the world, anticipated many post-serialist trends, and he has served as a model for developments in intonation, acoustic instruments and timbre, even as computer programs produce the fine tunings of his ‘monophony’. He influenced the percussive motor-rhythm music of the minimalists of the 1960s and 70s, and his theatre works are precursors of numerous experiments since the mid-1950s. His life provides an example of curmudgeonly but humane courage." Richard Kassel in Grove Music Online.

Danlee Mitchell (b. 1936) became a close associate of and assistant to Partch, performing in many premieres of Partch's works. He subsequently became musical director of performances of the composer's works both throughout the United States and abroad.

"As a composer Hoiby (1926-2011) was a modern Romantic from the lineage of Barber and Menotti. The influence of the former is evident in his warm lyricism, while that of the latter is found in a propensity for light, genial humour. Though much of his music is characterized by a disarming diatonic simplicity, his ambitious works tend towards greater harmonic and textural complexity. Interest in his music has centred chiefly around his operatic, choral and vocal works, which seem to stimulate his most deeply felt efforts. Some of these works… achieve an eloquence comparable to the later works of Barber. With greater critical acceptance of more conservative musical styles from the early 1980s onwards, Hoiby’s music has been performed and recorded with increasing frequency." Richard Jackson and Walter G. Simmons in Grove Music Online.

Partch's version of the kithara was inspired by the ancient Greek instrument of the same name; Hoiby participated in performances of many of Partch's works, quite often on this particular instrument.

A fascinating correspondence with a fellow-composer and performer, quite revealing of Partch's personality as well as his musical and philosophical concerns. Item #31214

Price: $1,800.00  other currencies

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