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ThesisIceland Academy of the Arts>Tónlistardeild>Lokaritgerðir (BA, B.Mus.)>

Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1946/8545


The intonation systems of Harry Partch

February 2011

This essay is an introduction to the intonational world of Harry Partch (1901-1974). It
is divided into three main sections. The first section, ”Exposition on Intonation”
serves mainly is an introduction to the subject. The primary intention here is to give
the reader the information needed to understand the following chapters. This includes
basic physics of sound, the language of expressing intervals in ratios and a short
overview on Partch’s philosophy and aesthetics. The second main section is called
”The Construction of Scales”. In this section, Partch’s methods for scale construction
are discussed. The tonality diamonds are explained as well as the scales derived from
them. The last section, ”Limitations of the System” is a comprehensive critique on
Partch’s work. Here, I have used Partch’s own methods of analysis to criticize his own
methods. Three subjects are discussed in this section. The first subject is an
examination of Partch’s irrational handling of his scales, how he converts his 29-scale
into a 43-tone scale. The second subject is Partch’s inexact classification of intervals.
The third subject is modulation, a concept that Partch’s systems are unfamiliar to. To
sum up, this essay is a guide to getting to know Harry Partch as well as a critical
examination of him.


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