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MUSA 9 - Harry Partch

MUSA 9
Harry Partch
Barstow - Eight Hitchhiker Inscriptions from a Highway Railing at Barstow, California (1968 Version)
Edited by Richard Kassel


Composer, theorist, instrument builder, and performer Harry Partch (1902--1974) is a crucial figure in twentieth-century American music; yet his achievements are more legendary than genuinely known. By rejecting equal temperament as "the basic ingredient of the chaos" of Western music, and choosing to compose in the ancient system of just intonation, Partch limited accessibility to his music. His expression of pitches as ratios ("Monophony") and the need to invent many incompatible tablatures have limited the amount of serious musical criticism which has focused on Partch's personality and aesthetic.

Partch exemplified musical liberation, casting off European tradition when it burdened him artistically. Yet for all of his rebelliousness, he "never thought of [his] work as revolutionary, but only as evolutionary," insisting that "meaningfulness must have roots." Barstow, a watershed Monophonic work, was based on "very unusual inscriptions on a highway railing" in that southern California town in 1940. This "hobo concerto" was first written for voice and adapted guitar the following year; it went through several revisions until its final 1968 version for two voices and four instruments. This volume presents a facsimile of this version (long out of print), a new transcription into expanded standard notation, and an essay on Barstow's background and evolution.

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Gann, Kyle. “Songs of the Open Road.” Review of Barstow-Eight Hitchhiker Inscriptions from a Highway Railing at Barstow, California [1968 version], by Harry Partch. Edited by Richard Kassel. The Village Voice, 46, no. 4 (January 30, 2001): 114.


Gilmore, Bob. Review of Barstow-Eight Hitchhiker Inscriptions from a Highway Railing at Barstow, California [1968 version], by Harry Partch. Edited by Richard Kassel. Notes 59, no. 3 (2003): 739-743.