Gate 5 Ensemble, The Harry Partch Collection, Volume 2
An extreme experimentalist's most good-natured work
One of music's most eccentric figures, Partch rode the rails as a hobo during the Great Depression, turned his back on conventional music notation and, eventually, on conventional music instruments and modes of singing. Captivated by the rhythms and the microtonality of American speech, he devised an entirely new way of dividing the octave that allowed for a kind of declaimed, pitched speech, and then created over the years the unique instruments that to this day are known collectively as the Partch Instrumentarium. Indie-rockers who think they invented the DIY approach may be surprised to find that Partch, an outsider's outsider, pressed his own records and sold them through the mail. This particular volume of his collected works is particularly strong: "Barstow" is a collection of hobo inscriptions from a highway railing near the eponymous California town (and requires a Parental Advisory sticker for crude language) that is possibly his most accessible and good-natured work.