Delusion’s Enclosure: on Harry Partch (1901-1974)
WM Hunt

Delusion’s Enclosure: on Harry Partch (1901-1974)

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                     “This is my trinity: sound-magic, visual beauty, experience-ritual.”
                                                                                                   –Harry Partch


a gist (of origin) to say born Oaklandia on 6.24.01

                                             child of deserts


                                                               “the dying gasps of the old West”

                                                                        til in Tucson

                                                                                  Benson (three hundred people and eleven saloons)

                                                               &   @     Albuquerque

                                             in nights, long freight trains passing
                                                                                                  antiphonal then
                                                                                                                             steam whistle 60 miles yonder

                            small garden : Phoenix : rising, then falling

                                                                                                                                                     books in Mandarin(parents who lost their missionary zeal)

trips to Kansas City & musical studies & jobs as porters

                                                               but at 14, he knew that it was                    SOUND


                                                               what early music?

Chinese lullabies
Yaqui Indian puberty rituals
Hebrew chants
Edison cylinder records
Okie songs
                                                                                                    (working the vineyards)

took a trashing from proper musical lessons in Los Angeles but


                           mother struck dead by a streetcar

                           father dead a couple of yrs


                                                           age 20 / alone from there on and ever

this young metropolis and trips to Philharmonic hall

                                                                                                                        triumphant       love
                                                                                                                                  a roll/hay roll with
                                                                                                                                    Ramon Novarro
                                                                                                 (murdered by two hustlers four decades later)

                                                                                                           always a love for the body





with parts


                                     study : history of tone

                             fifty-three tone system proposed          by the Chinese in the first century
                                                                                                 by Nicolas Mercator in the 17th

– microtonal mishaps in the west –

                            as if to say

                                                                                                  just-intonational scales




then to New Orleans and New York and London and Malta

                                   a return to

                           Li Po verse

                                            on adapted viola

                           where do you live?

                                                                                                off a city street
and ten thousand houses among drooping willows


1930-1947 singing Biblical passages, hitch-hiker transcripts.

                                                                                                                                Why all the trouble?


                                                    “a language in itself”




Greek &





dramas containing music, dance, mime, shouting, whistling, and slapstick

so early (to have known) so late (to have been discovered to have known)








                         back from San Joaquin

                                                                                           (keeping music in hobo bundle)

at Big Sur
                 coast work camp
                        met Jean Varda

                            an understanding, as if to say we’re in    synchrony
                                                                                                                  for painters


                                     always loving, loving, loving, loving



                                                                                VI. BITTER MUSIC (DEPRESSION ERA SUITE)

                                                                                                                                                – alpha –

                                     convict camps, coast of magnificent



                                     black mountain to coast(line)
                                                                                                                                       every starry


coast road
                                                                                                                   in moves north
and east

                            return south to

                                                                                                                                 –  beta –

                            warm (to) sleeping bag
                                                                        Pablo’s soup in hand
                                                                                                 willowed sands
                                               entihillion stars

                                                                                                “Why wander?”

                                                       gone away for-ever
                                                                                                 in the eternity of infinity

                                                                           & thumb my nose at tomorrow



                                                                                                                                – gamma –



                                Slate’s hot springs

                                                 long since

                            an ownership                         a Bright Angel leads to the baths

                                                                                                      on board to Big Creek (wink, wink)

                                   evening campfire, San Simon
                                                                                                               at Cone Peak



                                                                                                                             – delta –



at Ojai dry leaved pepper tree body
                                                            riddled white snaked water
                                                   in the blackness
                                            an inky o-high oak
                                                   a beauty of hands stroke




August beach, ocean breath


Mount Diablo
                            sinking beneath the horizon

                                                                                                 stay & move

                                     to pass peak

                                                                    with men

                                     food and flops and “well-made chaps”

                                                                                                                                yes yes
                                                                                                                                       all this
                                                                                                                                brazen talk

                            by creeks and woodsheds and more along side the highway






to make:

                                   “U.S. Highball,” hobo trip with music



going East mister? (plucked)

                                                                       Freeze another night tonight

                                    Stay out of Denver

                                                                       It moves back and forth

                                    Is that blanket big enough for two?

                                                                       Chicago, Chicago, Chicago



                                    end at Sparks division yards







                                 in                 red-

                                                 groves of


                                                                after several durations at Ithaca and Madison

                                                                                          for isolation, interview

                                                                                                   founded his instrument workshop


                                 “a philosophical man seduced into carpentry”

                                                                                              river camper


                                “an acoustical ardor and a conceptual fervor”


                                         tuning: total gambit of dissonance and consonance






Orchestra at Gualala:


                a. zymo-xyl
                                                         “exercise in hither and thither aesthesia”
                                                         with kettletop, oak block, on hubcap, wine and booze bottles


                b. Gourd Tree Gong
                                                         twelve bells (exotic fruit) on eucalypt bar
                                                                                   & piece of aircraft bomber

                c. Mazda Marimba
                                                         god of light sounds like the percolations of a coffee pot


                d. Spoils of Wars
                                                         seven brass artillery casings hanging here “instead of
                                                         shredding young men’s bodies on the battle field”

                e. Cloud-Chamber Bowls
                                                         chemical-solution jars from the university’s radiation lab





activation of investigation and interventions with Yeats

                                                                        and enticement

HP: “I have read his prefaces—I love his prefaces, incidentally.”

WBY: “A California musician called a few days ago and is coming
again tomorrow. He is working on the relation between words and
music…. He speaks to this instrument.”

HP: “The minute I brought out my viola and sang, Yeats just loved it.
He’s not one for theory.”


                       the taking of Oedipus an opera written.

                               happily written here, the land of no there there.






compelled by kithara

Partch built a great lyre of 72 strings.


Orpheus’s lyre had three stings.


Timotheus (446-357 BC), who dared to expand the scale on the Kithara by
adding four strings to the eight approved of by Pythagoras was driven out of
Sparta forever.


“These days, when someone does something different, they ignore him to death.”







intoned dialogue god, then help us assemble

                                            by way of chorus

                                                                                                     Oh— Oh— Oh— Ah— Ah— Ah—


                          in way of supplicant’s branches

                                                                                                             with such cries of sorrow

                                                                     good news of lights, curtains


                          suffering in homeless sea, thunder, lightning, lost to

                                                                                               as “death himself is dead”

                                                                     Tiresias, presented by spokesman,
                                                                                                                                 regales Creon

anger of mattering, basest of men,
                                                                                                      a filling
                                                                                                      this rage
                                                            evidence  of

                                              a tumult of iron, prophets forgotten

                                                       Oh- Oh-                      Lo-       Oh-      Lo- Oh-


where is Bold Oedipus?

                                   (quick sketches by Lebrun, Baskin, Kolwitz)



                                                    appointed end, free from                     pain







                                                                                                                     in scene six from 1956

                                                 baroque leaps



                     “Anyone can dream of bringing control to a Sausalito love affair.”



                                                                                                   but only the witch can accomplish it.





                               back from Urbana:


Ancient Chorus in “Revelation in the Courthouse Park”

                                                                                                  this palace
                                                                                                  alights to be seen by



                                                                                                  (Dionysus, Pentheus, Agave, Cadmus,
                                                                                                  Tiresias, Guard, Herdsmen, and Chorus)

                                                                                                  Greek melodrama arrived in
                                                                                                  rural Illinois

                                                                                                  kithara & instruments




here, on the seventh day,


                                    fell on



                                                                                                  in voiceless score




                          west Los Angeles boulevard:


chromelodean, counts six 2/1 harmonium


                                   a monophony: the might of the HUMAN e-a-r


the breeze as perceived by Marin Mersenne, on the throat.

                                            equivocation of the klang

                                                                                                        in components of tone

                          in ratios,
                          in intervals,
                          in frequencies
                          in procedures,


                                                       tasks to Pasadena Museum


All to be tasked by “Delusions’ Fury,” chance dramas on stage.


HP:   I would choose to be anonymous.
Who cares who wrote it?

Who cares what the name was?




The Dreamer that Remains

                          Viet’s time

        soul’s chance, five decades apart, was Stephen Pouliot


        “turn left on Orpheus Drive, left on Sunset”
                                   in this small town

                                            Pacific, a sexy beach

        where, to find


                                    stairway’s chant


                                              volcanic Harry: looking down, laughing

                                                       Etruscan touchstone


how to see him, on film, all too late

                         kimono purple
                                           Partch sees
                                                            a loss of rose petal jam
                          a harmonic convergence



in this study for loving (underwritten by Betty Freeman):

                                   in red/yellow/pale blue tank tops & jeans

                                            a set of constructions to hold beautiful boys
                                                            in floating atmosphere of white
                                                                                                        at San Diego State



         “tongue must couple with the cavity or there’s no resonant tone. yes, this is sexy.”





and with Lou Harrison

                            stackside, found each other in the SF public library

                                                                                                clearing house for books, for s-x years

         to speak to each other.
                                                    mentorship. of generosity. and. of knowing.

                                          teased about inflexibility of his “systems”

                                                  hosted in redwood park






1974: back again: Genesis of Music springs from the Dreamers creation.

“Note: the widely current practice of using the word note to indicate amusical sound, or pitch, is not followed in this work.”


final interview after interview, lost road, the sign ever propped before


generation of youth



pied piper

red-lamped night

shaded Socrates


looking out, a letter to the world, in this enclosure.




“I went outside. I’m still going outside.”








Stephen Motika is the editor of Tiresias: The Collected Poems of Leland Hickman (2009) and the author of the poetry chapbooks Arrival and At Mono (2007) and In the Madrones (2011). His first book, Western Practice, is forthcoming from Alice James Books in 2012. Recent work has appeared in The Brooklyn Review, Eleven Eleven, The Boog City Reader 4, and The Poetry Project Newsletter. A 2010-2011 Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Workspace Resident, he is the program director at Poets House and the publisher of Nightboat Books.


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