Still from an outtake of Harry Partch – The Dreamer That Remains (1972)
I’m currently working on a piece about American avant-garde composers from the first half of the 20th century. Among many others, it features the remarkable and singular Harry Partch. With John Cage and Conlon Nancarrow, Partch’s music was among my first love affairs with the avant-garde – the result of chance encounters had during my early to mid teens. His importance in my life and listening habits has remained ever since. I wrote about him back in March, within my review of New World’s new collection of his work – which I highly recommend for those who have yet to check it out.
Harry Partch Makes Rose Petal Jam – Outtake from Harry Partch – The Dreamer That Remains (1972)
Yesterday Lori Goldston, who for those unaware of her, was that cellist we grew up catching glimpses of in Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged, a member of Earth, and one of the most exciting players of her instrument working today (you can listen to her most recent record on Mississippi here) sent the above video out into the world. I’ve spent a reasonable amount of time culling through ephemera relating to Partch. I was shocked to have missed such an amazing artifact. It’s an outtake of the fantastic 1972 film Harry Partch – The Dreamer That Remains, featuring what the title suggests. The composer making rose petal jam. Then again – it’s more. As I watched, a smile spread across my face and a tear formed in my eye. Not only was I witness the wild voice and gesticulations of a figure who had first drawn me toward the avant-garde, but the freedom, singularity, and otherness which had folded me in its arms. Partch was an eccentric, a radical, a free thinker of unparalleled bounds, and a misfit whose principles left him poverty stricken at margins. His tattered tee shirt, and wild eyes speak all too well. In two minutes, without a note to be heard, this document manages to sum up so much of what drew me in. The avant-garde is a social proximity, with a remarkably brave willingness to pursue creative ambition above all else, and embrace the wildest and most diverse spirits. This music isn’t just made of tones, structures, and musical ideas. It proposes a way to be. The Partch featured here, is not just the man, but embodiment of a spirit which once made this world great. Years ago, it seemed like people like Partch – the wild unpredictable ones, were the people I knew. I’m not sure where they’ve gone. Until I find them again, this film will have to do. In anticipation of my series Impressions of the American Avant-Garde, the first installment of which should be up in the coming week, I’m also including Harry Partch – The Dreamer That Remains, the film from which Rose Petal Jam was cut. It’s equally fantastic in its own way – highly recommended viewing. Many thanks to Lori for bringing the remarkable fragment into my line of sight.
Harry Partch – The Dreamer That Remains (1972)