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Bitter Music by Harry Partch (c) 1991 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois ISBN 0-252-01550-2 excerpts 736w

A Soul Tormented By Contemporary Music Looks for a Humanizing Alchemy: The Bewitched 1957

- pg 240 -

During the past nine years in California, my work has been sponsored through the energies of a microwave laboratory; and lectures and performances of my music have been programmed through the energies of a department of speech and drama, a department of philosophy, and a heterogeneous group of painters; and at other times through the energies of a department of sociology and anthropology and a department even of zoology. Now it would seem pointless to confess musical sins before microwavists, dramatists, philosophers, painters, sociologists, anthropologists, and zoologists. The occasion on Tuesday evening I may say is almost auspicious one in my life -- because a large performance of my music is being brought off through the energies of a school of music. This is the right altar, and if my confession on this singular occasion seems to take a whimsical or an inexplicable turn, or even a slightly belligerent one, please remember that I am trying to cross a gap of thirty-five years of comparative isolation from my own profession.

- pg 242, 243 -

The musicians you see here are not in an orchestra pit. They are onstage. They are neolithic primitives in their acceptance of magic as real. They are at once both ancient and modern. They don't have time to get bored, to go offstage to play cards, because they are part of the cast of characters. They are part of the act: they sing, whistle, say Woof and Bah, and stamp their feet.

One always wonders just how a dramatic idea happened to develop. To me the germination the The Bewitched was one of the most natural things in my life. The germ of the idea was the fact of The Lost Musicians. In 1952 my music drama Oedipus was performed at Mills College in Oakland, California, through the interest of a man in theater, Arch Lauterer. It attracted a good deal of publicity simply because of the unusual nature of my instruments. Therefore, the musicians in the San Francisco Bay area were somewhat aware of my ideas. And after leaving Mills College, I found a studio in Sausalito, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco.

During the four years I was there, young musicians came in to see me now and then; and I would say that easily 90 percent of them fell into a certain category. They grew up, musically, in dance bands, became bored and dissatisfied, and so went to music schools looking for different and broader perspectives. Here they found what they wanted, for a time, but eventually realized that their music professors, generally speaking simply marked certain areas terra incognita like the ancient geographers -- and the less said about them the better because they weren't worth exploring. These musicians did not feel really at home in either musical world, either the serious or the not-so-serious. In my studio they generally played music I had written, although now and then they had jam sessions, one of which started at 9 P.M. and ended only at 4 A.M.; but they occasionally achieved a kind of magic perception through their music. Thus was created the Chorus of Lost Musicians, which is the basis for the dance-satire The Bewitched.

The titles of the scenes of this work take me again to Mills College. Shortly after the Oedipus performances, a man from a broadcasting organization visited me and suggested that, if I would put out a record of various strange sounds that radio and TV could use as background music wherever they wanted it, I might make a lot of money. There was something fascinatingly repulsive (or repressively fascinating) about this suggestion, and I began to work on it. But I'm afraid I got carried away with the idea because my satiric sense gained the upper hand in no time at all, and I ended up with such impractical and visionary little items as "Background Music for Filibusters in the United States Senate." But some of this background music and the dramatic situations that I worked out then are actually a part of The Bewitched. It seems thoroughly right to me now that the Chorus of Lost Musicians should become the instrument for inducing perception.


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