The Anthology of Recorded Musi Releases The Bewitched
A Digital Re-Release of Harry Partch’s
The Bewitched (1955) with New Artwork and Liner Notes, Paired with a Newly Commissioned Composition, Block (2022), by Taylor Brook
On New World Records
“an exuberant score on its own abstract terms”
– Los Angeles Times
New York, NY (September 16, 2022) – The Anthology of Recorded Music has released a Composer’s Recordings, Inc. (CRI) digital re-release of Harry Partch’sThe Bewitched (1955) with new artwork by New York photographer Reuben Radding and a commissioned essay by Marc Sabat, paired with a newly commissioned composition, Taylor Brook's Block (2022), on New World Records .
Composer’s Recordings, Inc. (CRI), founded in 1954 by New York-based composers Oliver Daniel, Otto Luening, and Douglas Moore was arguably one of the greatest examples of collective effort to promote avant-garde American music of the Twentieth century. Nate Wooley, editor of the music journal, Sound American, picked 50 vital LPs from CRI’s back catalog for special treatment and re-release in digital format. Wooley says, “These releases, rather than being a downloadable re-hash of existing material, propose to contextualize the historical piece by placing it alongside the work of contemporary artists who have been influenced by the CRI original. Among the new material is a musical response to the original, in this case, a glorious work for steel string guitar and electronics, Block, by Canadian-born composer Taylor Brook, which is accompanied by his notes on the connection between his thought and Harry Partch’s The Bewitched as well as the full score for his piece. Marc Sabat, now based in Berlin, is one of the most rigorous explorers of just intonation (JI) in composition and theory, and his writing about Harry Partch is, like his music, full of personal discovery and deep understanding. This release is the first of a series aimed at opening a new world of new sound to new people, and it is our hope that this release will have you, like Sabat, ‘completely entranced by the magical ‘language of ratios.’ The cover art for each release has also been re-thought, and features a photo by New York street photographer and musician, Reuben Radding.”
Partch wrote his dance-satire The Bewitched to explore how civilization can move forward through rediscovering our ancient past. It showcases the composer’s pioneering writing for the female voice, unfolding across ten scenes based on everyday American life plus a prologue and epilogue. The witch appears in each of the scenes, using her magic to provide help and context to each real-life situation. This recording is a remastering of the original mono master tapes from The Harry Partch Collection Volume 4 The Bewitched – A Dance Satire (1955).
The Anthology of Recorded Music commissioned composer Taylor Brook to write Block in 2022 to accompany this re-release of the CRI recording of Harry Partch’s The Bewitched.
Block complements and contrasts The Bewitched, taking inspiration from a spoken introduction given by Partch at a performance of The Bewitched in Chicago in 1957. Brook says, “In this introduction, Partch discusses our listening habits, playing on the expression of ‘in one ear and out the other,’ by stating that he wants to create a ‘block between the ears... and when this block is effective all kinds of wonderful things happen: nerve impulses quicken, the adrenal glands begin to secrete their ecstatic hormones, the pancreatic juices begin to ooze.’ Partch achieves this through his corporeal aesthetic, combining sound and sight in the musical theatre works that dominated his late output, The Bewitched among them. For myself, the immersed mental state is more often achieved using sound only – rather than exciting all the senses, focusing in on a single one. Combining the guitar with a corpus-based electronic accompaniment, Block invites the listener to enter the ecstatic experience that Partch describes.”
About Harry Partch
Harry Partch (1901-1974) was an American composer, philosopher, inventor, instrument builder, and much more. Partch was born in Oakland, California, on June 24, 1901, and spent much of his early years in the American Southwest, where he was exposed to music and sound from a variety of cultures. He enrolled at the University of Southern California to study composition, but was dissatisfied and ultimately left to work on his own. After discovering the work of Hermann von Helmholtz, Partch began to explore just intonation, and ultimately settled on this system for his compositional needs. He invented his Adapted Viola in New Orleans, Louisiana, and began setting poems by Li Po for his new instrument and voice.
While his early work was met with some support and small grants, the Great Depression forced Harry to spend many years as a transient, and only rarely was he able to continue his artistic work. It was during these years that Partch collected the texts and experiences that would later form the basis for The Wayward.
After the Great Depression ended, Harry again found success with small grants and support from the Guggenheim Foundation. In the period from 1941-1956, he composed and rewrote over a dozen works, invented and built over a dozen instruments, arranged several performances and recordings of his works, and wrote the first edition of his book, Genesis of a Music.
In 1956, Partch began a very fruitful residency at the University of Illinois where he found support for his compositions and performances. Here he met Danlee Mitchell, composed another five works, and continued inventing and building instruments to meet his increasing compositional needs. Harry left the University of Illinois in 1962, moving to California.
He spent the last twelve years of his life in various locations near the California Coastline. These years would see more creative work, major productions of his total-theater pieces, and a greatly-expanded second edition of his book. Harry Partch died in San Diego, California on September 3, 1974. Learn more at www.harrypartch.com.
About Taylor Brook
Taylor Brook writes music for the concert stage, electronic music, music for robotic instruments, as well as music for video, theater, and dance. Described as “gripping” and “engrossing” by The New York Times, Brook’s compositions have been performed around the world by ensembles and soloists such as the Ensemble Ascolta, JACK Quartet, Mivos Quartet, Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, Quatuor Bozzini, TAK Ensemble, Talea Ensemble, and others.
Brook studied composition with Brian Cherney in Montreal, with Luc Brewaeys in Brussels, and with George Lewis and Georg Haas in New York. In 2008, he studied Hindustani music and performance with Debashish Bhattacharya in Kolkata. His music is often concerned with finely tuned microtonal sonorities.
In 2018 Brook completed a Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) in music composition at Columbia University with Fred Lerdahl and was a 2020 Guggenheim Fellow in music composition. Currently Brook is a Banting Fellow at the University of Victoria and the technical director of TAK ensemble. Learn more at www.taylorbrook.info.
About Composer’s Recordings, Inc. (CRI)
In 1954, New York-based composers Oliver Daniel, Otto Luening, and Douglas Moore founded a small recording company in order to publish their own works and the works of their peers in contemporary composed music. The result, Composer’s Recordings, Inc. (CRI), was arguably one of the greatest examples of collective effort to promote avant-garde American music of the twentieth century. In the label’s almost fifty-year history – it was forced to stop making records in 2003 due to economic hardship—the label released work by some of the leading figures in multiple generations of American modern music: Samuel Barber, Milton Babbitt, Henry Brant, Earle Brown, John Cage, Elliott Carter, George Crumb, Alvin Curran, Morton Feldman, Charles Ives, Ben Johnston, David Lang, Otto Luening, Donald Martino, Priscilla and Barton McLean, Pauline Oliveros, Harry Partch, Frederic Rzewski, Virgil Thomson, Vladimir Ussachevsky, and Christian Wolff among others. The mass of material, over 600 recordings in total, was taken on by New World Records in 2006. Another legendary label in the promotion of American contemporary composition, New World re-released some of the most important works from CRI’s vinyl catalog as CDs, presenting works by Partch, Feldman, Carter, and Crumb to a new generation.
The Bewitched Tracklist
Harry Partch (1901–1974) – The Bewitched (1955)
1. Prologue: The Lost Musicians Mix Magic [18:21]
2. Scene 1: Three Undergrads Become Transfigured in a Hong Kong Music Hall [5:36]
3. Scene 2: Exercises in Harmony and Counterpoint Are Tried in a Court of Ancient Ritual [5:09]
4. Scene 3: The Romancing of a Pathological Liar Comes to an Inspired End [5:40]
5. Scene 4: A Soul Tormented by Contemporary Music Finds a Humanizing Alchemy [5:44]
6. Scene 5: Visions Fill the Eyes of a Defeated Basketball Team in the Shower Room [4:23]
7. Scene 6: Euphoria Descends a Sausalito Stairway [4:19]
8. Scene 7: Two Detectives on the Trail of a Tricky Culprit Turn in Their Badges [5:36]
9. Scene 8: A Court in its Own Contempt Rises to a Motherly Apotheosis [5:30]
10. Scene 9: A Lost Political Soul Finds Himself Among the Voteless Women of Paradise [6:01]
11. Scene 10: The Cognoscenti Are Plunged into a Demonic Descent While at Cocktails [7:17]
12. Epilogue [2:07]
13. Taylor Brook (b. 1985) – Block (2022) [10:56]
Total Time: 86:33
New World Records
Photography: Reuben Radding
Liner Notes: Marc Sabat