© Janet Sinica

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.

© Janet Sinica
© Janet Sinica
© Janet Sinica
© Janet Sinica

Past pitch 43 events

Musikfabrik im WDR 66 – Pitch 43_Continuum
WDR Funkhaus am Wallrafplatz
Sampo Haapamäki, Martin Smolka and Helge Sten

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

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

Campusconcert – Walking with Partch
Köln, Studio of Ensemble Musikfabrik
Claudia Molitor

Leverkusen, Schloss Morsbroich
Claudia Molitor

Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz
Phillip Sollmann

18.11.2016 and 19.11.2016
Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival
Huddersfield, Bates Mill – The Blending Shed
Claudia Molitor

Time of Music Festival
Viitasaari, Viitaarena
Simon Steen-Andersen, Helge Sten and Sampo Haapamäki

Musikfabrik im WDR 56 – Pitch 43_Tuning the cosmos
Köln, WDR Funkhaus am Wallrafplatz
Simon Steen-Andersen, Caspar Johannes Walter, Klaus Lang and Carola Bauckholt

Klangspuren Schwaz
Schwaz, Silbersaal im Szentrum
Simon Steen-Andersen and Klaus Lang

Ultima Oslo
Simon Steen-Andersen and Helge Sten

Kunstfestspiele Herrenhausen
Hannover, Galerie Herrenhausen
Caspar Johannes Walter and Carola Bauckholt

Salzburg Biennale
Salzburg, republic
Caspar Johannes Walter and Simon Steen-Andersen