pitch 43_tuning the cosmos

The godfather of the American just intonation movement, the composer, theorist, visionary and instrument-builder, Harry Partch (1901-1974), developed a highly complex tuning system that divides the octave into 43 pitches: an improbably large number of microtonal intervals that made the realisation of his music impossible on conventional instruments. In the course of his life, Harry Partch developed and built an extensive collection of instruments: resonating sound-sculptures of idiosyncratic beauty and remarkable stage presence.

In 2012, Thomas Meixner built the entire collection of microtonal instruments for Ensemble Musikfabrik. This is the only large-scale project of its kind in the world, in which more than 50 instruments – string, percussive, bell and keyboard instruments as well as smaller hand-held instruments, some of which sculptural in quality – were built.

Until 2012 there was just one single complete set of all the original instruments. The fragile and partly bad conditioned instruments today are stored at the School of Music of the Univeristy of Washington in Seattle and are exclusively accessible for a small amount of people. This is the reason for which until today Partch’s microtonal Œuvre - outside the United States - is as good as unknown.

Through the building of these instruments and for the first time in Europe, Ensemble Musikfabrik has been able to realise the conditions under which the fascinating and exotic Harry Partch Œuvre can be offered to a wide audience, in the form that the composer intended, namely, a LIVE event.

During pitch 43_tuning the cosmos for the first time composers in Europe will receive the opportunity to study the Partch instruments and to compose new works for them. As further initiative Ensemble Musikfabrik will commission a native composer from each presenter’s country to write a new work for the Partch instruments, this work then being presented at the country’s corresponding festival. Commissioned works by other participating European presenters will complement this programme. Hereby a unique European network of compositions of new microtonal works combined with performances of unknown pieces by Harry Partch will arise.

Through pitch 43_tuning the cosmos new impulses are provided to work with the rich musical heritage of Harry Partch. The project is an exhibition as well as a laboratory: the presentation of a nearly unknown, colourful und exotic facet of contemporary music of the 20th century and, at the same time, a brand new view of how young composers of the 21st century approach this musical heritage.

With its acquired know-how in learning and playing the Partch instruments Ensemble Musikfabrik is at the composer’s disposal as the only European “Partch orchestra” and thus is providing new impulses for the musical as well as the academic involvement with the tradition and future of microtonal techniques of composition.

To date the composers Simon Steen-Andersen, Caspar Johannes Walter, Carola Bauckholt, Klaus Lang, Sampo Haapamäki and Helge Sten among others have been commissioned.

The construction and learning of the instruments was supported by the German Federal Cultural Foundation and the Arts Foundation of North-Rhine Westphalia.

 

Upcoming pitch_43 concerts

10.07.2017
Monday concert
Köln, Studio of the Ensemble Musikfabrik
Claudia Molitor
More information here.

13.07.2017
Raumklänge
Leverkusen, Schloss Morsbroich
Claudia Molitor
More information here.

16.09.2017 and 17.09.2017
Ruhrtriennale
Jahrhunderthalle Bochum
Simon Steen-Andersen, Helge Sten, Harry Partch and Phillip Sollmann

02.11.2017 and 03.11.2017
Greatest Hits
Hamburg, Kampnagel
Simon Steen-Andersen, Helge Sten, Harry Partch and Phillip Sollmann

 

Roundtable about the Future of the Partch Instruments

During a roundtable on 28.01.2015 Graham McKenzie (director Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival), Caspar Johannes Walter (composer), Roman Brotbeck (musicologist), Matthias Osterwold (director Klangspuren Schwaz) und Marco Blaauw (Ensemble Musikfabrik) discussed the potential offered by the permanent presence of the entire Partch instruments in Europe. The talk can be listened to at voicerepublic.com: