U.S. Highball Premieres in New York (Great Events from History II: Arts and Culture Series)
Article abstract: Iconoclastic American composer Harry Partch’s U.S. Highball and other works received their New York premiere, calling attention to a composer who invented his own notation and instruments.
Summary of Event
The premiere in the Carnegie Chamber Music Hall of U.S. Highball (“highball” is railroad slang for going somewhere in a hurry) as well as some of Harry Partch’s other works of the 1940’s was the culmination of his Guggenheim Fellowship and the chance for him to expound his theories of music to a wide audience. The program included also Barstow (musical settings of graffiti left in a desert town by hitchhikers) and San Francisco (settings of the cries of two newsboys); U.S. Highball, a musical account of a 1941 hobo trip from San Francisco to Chicago, was the longest work on the program. All these works were scored for a reciting voice (Partch’s) and for the instruments that he had invented.
The reviews were mixed: The New York Times opined that the value was mostly literary, with the instruments adding atmosphere, whereas the composer Lou Harrison, writing in Modern Music, argued that the sounds were often interesting but that the manner in which the instruments were used was too repetitive and that the actual music was negligible. An unsigned review in The New Yorker, printed in the magazine’s “Talk of the...
(The entire section is 2355 words.)
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