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 1997 Conference
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1997 Conference, Panel Discussion

Friday, April 25, 1997, 6:45 p.m., Grace Episcopal Church, Madison.

Harry Partch in Madison

Ron Wiecki, Philip Blackburn, George Talbot
Jeff Gibbens, moderator

Harry Partch was one of a handful of original thinkers in 20th-century music, whose rethinking of musical practice represents an alternative to formalist aesthetics. Partch arrived in Madison in 1944 through the influence of Gunnar Johansen, after ramblings on two continents. During three years of relative financial security, Partch created a number of events on the UW campus, including a performance of U.S. Highball, and laid the foundation for his major theater works of the 1950s and 1960s. After he left the city (in disgust) Partch's book Genesis of a Music was published by the University of Wisconsin Press in 1949. Partch went on to achieve national attention and to contribute to the musical life of the Bay area, as well as several colleges including the University of Illinois before settling in San Diego in the late 1960s. Partch's work raises a host of problems in performance practice, theater, music notation, music theory, and sexuality given that musical life is still directed by the same institutions and social structures that he rejected.

Ron Wiecki is the author of a pioneering thesis on Partch in Madison which has made this panel possible. A 1992 graduate of UW-Madison, Wiecki's dissertation documents the Pro Musica Society of the 1920s and 1930s. Wiecki has written several articles for American Music and is currently an editor and music compositor for A-R Editions, Inc.

Philip Blackburn, Program Director of the American Composers Forum, represented the Forum in 1993 on a visit to Vietnam, which has established new ties between Vietnamese musicians and the United States. The English-born Blackburn is an experimental composer with a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. His principal teacher was the late Kenneth Gaburo. Blackburn has published the Enclosures series: videos, recordings, and urtext biographical documents about Partch.

Our special guest is George Talbot of the Frank Lloyd Wright Oral History Program. Talbot is retired curator of the Visual and Sound Archives of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin and an authority on the visual documentation of American society. While a sociology instructor at the University of Illinois and Washington University in the 1950s and 1960s, he created set designs for the Illinois Opera Theater, collaborating with Ernst Krenek, Gaburo, Lejaren Hiller, and on Revelation in the Courthouse Park, Partch's adaptation of The Bacchæ of Euripides. In addition, he worked with Partch, Madeline Tourtelot, and Wallace Kirkland on the theatrical production Water! Water! and the film Rotate the Body In All Its Planes.

The panel is chaired by Jeff Gibbens, a former student of Ben Johnston and an enthusiast and frequent performer of American experimental music.

1997 Conference
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