Composers Datebook®

Harry Partch and Terry Riley

Harry Partch (1901 – 1974) –Delusion of the Fury (Ensemble of Unique Instruments; Danlee Mitchell, cond.) innova 406 Terry Riley (b. 1935) –In C (SUNY at Buffalo Ensemble; Terry Riley, cond.) CBS 7178


Composer's Datebook - 20220624

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June 24, 2022

Synopsis

Today’s date marks the shared birthday of two of America’s most famous “maverick” composers, both hailing from California.

June 24, 1901, is the birth date of Harry Partch, an Oakland native. Partch devoted his life to developing an alternate system of tuning. Instead of the conventional Western system of equal temperament, in Partch’s harmonic world, microtones were welcomed.

To play his expanded scales, Partch designed and built new instruments with colorful names like “marimba eroica” and “cloud chamber bowls.” For Partch, music was a synthesis of theory and theater, ritual and dance -- intensely physical in nature and best experienced live. Harry Partch died in San Diego in 1974.

Another Californian, born on this date in 1935, is Colfax native Terry Riley.

It was in San Francisco in 1964 that Riley’s most famous piece, entitled “In C”, received its premiere. The score consists of 53 phrases, or modules, with each player freely repeating each phrase as many times as desired before proceeding to the next. The result is an unpredictable, unique music work of canonic textures and polyrhythms, capable of being performed by any group of instruments ranging from a marimba ensemble to a full symphony orchestra, and now regarded as one of the seminal works of the so-called “minimalist” movement in music.

Music Played in Today's Program

Harry Partch (1901 – 1974) –Delusion of the Fury (Ensemble of Unique Instruments; Danlee Mitchell, cond.) innova 406

Terry Riley (b. 1935) –In C (SUNY at Buffalo Ensemble; Terry Riley, cond.) CBS 7178

On This Day

Births

  • 1901 - American composer, performer and instrument inventor Harry Partch, in Oakland, Calif.;

  • 1908 - German composer and organist Hugo Distler, in Nuremberg;

  • 1935 - American composer and performer Terry Riley, in Colfax, Calif.;

Deaths

  • 1882 - German composer Josef Joachim Raff, age 60, in Frankfurt, during the night of June 24/25;

Premieres

  • 1854 - Schubert: opera "Alfonso and Estrella," posthumously, in Weimar, with Franz Liszt conducting; Schubert composed this opera in 1822;

  • 1935 - R. Strauss: opera "Die schweigsame Frau" (The Silent Woman, after the play by Ben Jonson), in Dresden, conducted by Karl Boehm, and with vocal soloists Maria Cebotari (Aminta), Friedrich Plaschke (Sir Morosus), Matthieu Ahlersmeyer (The Barber), and Martin Kremer (Henry Morosus);

  • 1943 - Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 5, at a Promenade Concert at Royal Albert Hall, with the London Philharmonic conducted by the composer.