Walking with Partch

‘Walking with Partch’ took as its starting point Harry Partch's sensibilities… in his work and life Partch challenged the status quo, living a great deal of it on the road, walking, observing, listening and looking at the world around him. I think Partch might have agreed with Rebecca Solnit’s understanding of the creative process: “The ways creative work gets done are always unpredictable, demanding room to roam, refusing schedules and systems.” So if I was going to engage with Partch’s idiosyncratic ways, to make a piece that incorporated his instruments built with such idealism, then this new piece should surely question some compositional conventions itself.

In ‘Walking with Partch’ I wanted to unsettle the “standard” compositional path, which can be described as: composer generating material - performer making it resonate in the world (of course this is somewhat over-simplifying the process!) Instead I was looking for a way in which to allow the individual creativity and musicality of each member of Musikfabrik to a) influence my compositional decisions (which I did by visiting, listening to and recording them) and b) to be foregrounded in the performance itself (which was achieved by a mixture of tightly composed material, improvisation and field-recordings).

In essence this project felt to me like an equally generated collaborative piece between the musicians and myself, and I hope Musikfabrik feel the same and that Partch would approve of the underlying motivations of the processes to create this work: day-dreaming and sharing as resistance to consumer capitalist pressures of production!

The work was written for Ensemble Musikfabrik and performed at hcmf// 2016.

Listen to John Schaefer's radio programme about Walking with Partch on WNYC Radio.