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Harry Partch: Enclosure 3  
Edited by Philip Blackburn
Illustrated. 523 pp.
American Composers Forum. US$115.00
ISBN-10: 096565690X / ISBN-13: 9780965656900

Harry Partch--American composer, musical instrument designer and builder, and very human musical genius--these are the qualities that the beautiful book, Harry Partch: Enclosure 3 brings to the fore in a tempting, fascinating mélange of materials from the musician's life. The book itself is practically a work of art. With authenticity and little narrative intrusion, it presents the memorabilia of Partch's work and life in a way that makes you feel like you've just discovered a treasure chest in the attic you didn't know was there.

Harry Partch was born in 1904 in Oakland, California. As a child, he learned to play the clarinet, harmonium, viola, piano, and guitar. He began composing at an early age, originally using chromatic scale. Deeply dissatisfied with these early efforts and with what he felt were limitations in chromatic scale and its inability to convey the musical intonations in human speech, he destroyed these early works. In a March 7, 1950 letter to his friend and colleague, Dr. Lauriston Marshall, he wrote, "Perhaps the one thing I've done more efficiently than any other in my musical life is the burning of my bridges behind me..." In a postscript of a letter to Larry, he refers to a manuscript of his journal when he asks, "P.S. Do you have my Bitter Music ms.? I am sure you do not want it, and I intend to destroy it. Of course, I want to have the satisfaction of doing it."

His early focus on the intonations and musicality of human speech stayed with him throughout his life and was an important part of his inspiration for the musical instruments he designed and built. The book includes many photographs of these instruments, including quite a number where Partch is the musician playing them. More than the history of a creative life, Harry Partch: Enclosure 3 provides a rare, rewarding view into both the man's public life and the private inner workings of his mind. In addition to being a musicologist, Partch had the gift of verbiage. His papers, letters, notes, and journals have been reproduced in Enclosure 3 in typefaces that reproduce both his 1950s typewriter typeface and his own handwriting.

The editor of Harry Partch Enclosure 3, Philip Blackburn, spent 15 fruitful years working on the Partch archives. Blackburn won the 1998 ASCAP Deems Taylor Special Citation Award for Harry Partch Enclosure 3, and the 1999 Delire Actuel Award, CFLX, Quebec, for Enclosure 5. An extraordinary composer in his own right, Blackburn has done an outstanding job of presenting this personal, intriguing collection of memorabilia for Partch fans, music lovers, and those who are fascinated by the history of music and instruments.

The highly acclaimed Enclosure series has been widely praised by publications as diverse as The Village Voice, the Los Angeles Times, The Wire, the San Francisco Examiner, Fanfare, The American Record Guide, CMJ, Torso, Music and Letters, Spin, and Time Out-London.

Robert G. Edelstein, for Notable Book Reviews
Notable Book Reviews received one or more copies of this book in exchange for this review.
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