by Nick Zurko, The Stranger
Music history still doesn't seem to know what to make of Harry Partch. A committed outsider whose staggering accomplishments within the first 33 years of his life brought him to national attention, Partch's dedication to esoteric principles kept him at arm's length from a wide audience. His steadfast belief in the complex microtonal scale—which basically posits that an octave contains 43 notes, as opposed to the standard 12—and the otherworldly instruments he created to play it have made him a well-known outlier. And an influential one.
A small and dedicated group of musicians have seen to it that Partch's music and concepts are still taught at the University of Washington's School of Music, where his assemblage of musical creations (aka the Instrumentarium) has been housed since 2014. On May 5–7, the department is presenting one of Partch's most notorious and least-performed works, Oedipus: A Music Theater Drama at Meany Theater. (view event listing)