Harry Partch, Hobo Composer
Title Details

368 Pages

22.8 x 15.2 cm

19 b/w. 1 line. Illustrations

Series: Eastman Studies in Music

Imprint: University of Rochester Press

Harry Partch, Hobo Composer

by S. Andrew Granade

  • Description
  • Contents
  • Reviews
Examines the impact of Harry Partch's hobo years from a variety of perspectives, exploring how the composer both engaged and frustrated popular conceptions of the hobo.
Harry Partch (1901-74) was one of the most distinctive and influential American composers of the mid-twentieth century. During the Great Depression, Partch rode the railways, following the fruit harvest across the country. Although he is renowned for his immense stage works, such as Delusion of the Fury, and his use of highly sophisticated instruments of his own creation, Partch is still regularly called a "hobo composer." Yet few have questioned this label's impact on his musical output, compositional life, and reception.
Focusing on Partch the person alongside the cultural icon he represented, this study examines Partch from historical, cultural, political, and musical perspectives. It outlines the cultural history of the hobo from the mid-1800s through the 1960s, as well as those figures associated with the hobo's image. It explores how Partch's music, which chronicled a disappearing subculture, was received, and how the composer ultimately engaged and frustrated popular conceptions of the hobo. And it follows Partch's later years to question his response to the hobo label and the ways in which others used it to define and contain him for over thirty years

S. Andrew Granade is Associate Professor of Musicology in the Conservatory of Music and Dance, University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Prologue: To Sound American
The Hobo in Partch's Early Life and Aesthetic
Interlude 1: Transients and Migrants
The Transient Journey
Bitter Music
A Knight of the Road
Interlude 2: Hoboes
U.S. Highball: Becoming a Musical Hobo
A Newsboy Letter
Trading on a Hobo Image
The Strangest Kind of Hobo
Epilogue: To Be American
Glossary of Instruments and Hobo Slang
Notes
Bibliography
Index
"Compelling study . . .of hobo, transient and migrant cultures in the United States. For the first time in musicological literature, affirms the cultural and musical significance of Partch's U.S. hobo music." Navid Bargrizan, JOURNAL OF THE SOCIETY FOR AMERICAN MUSIC
"Shows us how Partch kept experimenting with varying strategies of self-definition in order to find some social acceptance for a music that was radically original. A portrait of America between the wars, as refracted through an artist determined to transmit the American experience purely as he found it. . . . Seems unlikely to be superseded." TWENTIETH-CENTURY MUSIC
"An interesting sociological study of the music of Harry Partch. The chapters dedicated specifically to the history of the hobo are as illuminating as those dedicated to Partch's music. Include many fine photographs." CHOICE
"Deploys an array of little-known primary sources. . . . Granade's research is deeply sourced, his analyses are probing, and his book substantially advances Partch studies in numerous ways. . . . Presents a rich bounty of information about Partch and his attitudes toward his patrons and contemporaries. A welcome supplement to Gilmore's [long-standard] biography, matching its predecessor's depth and exceeding its accessibility." AMERICAN MUSIC
"Contributes an important, largely overlooked perspective to the modest but growing Partch literature. . . . Accomplishes the difficult task of balancing biography with microhistory. . . . [Chapter 5] does tremendous work and, in my opinion, is in itself worth the price of the book. . . . Set[s] a high standard for future Partch scholarship." MUSIC LIBRARY ASSOC. NOTES
"Granade shows that the grim predicament of the transient population during the Depression depicted in films, the novels of Steinbeck and the songs of Woody Guthrie, is also central to Partch. Provides new material, including details of his friendships and his contacts with other composers. Well produced and cheap at the price." GRAMOPHONE
"Harry Partch, Hobo Composer is almost epic in its panoramic view of an American subculture as seen through the lens of one artist's life. It should find a ready audience among composers and scholars of American music, not to mention the legions of microtonalists who look to Partch as their primogenitor and patron saint. An important book." Michael Hicks, author of Henry Cowell, Bohemian

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9781580464956

October 2014

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Title Details

368 Pages

2.28 x 1.52 cm

19 b/w. 1 line. Illustrations

Series: Eastman Studies in Music

Imprint: University of Rochester Press