Uncertainty Theory #6

Harry Partch and the Chromelodeon


Harry Partch. Chromelodeon I (from the album The World of Harry Partch (1969))


Harry Partch. And on the Seventh Day Petals Fell in Petaluma (1963-1966)

Chromelodeon Iwas adapted from a harmonium with a range of 6 octaves and two sets of tonal pieces, worked at the University of Wisconsin in 1945, the process of adaptation consisted in removing the 146 pieces of the two sets, each set contained 73 pieces, these pieces are replaced by other 73 pieces but with the range of the 43 tones of the microtonal system and so on. The "octave" now has another range, which produces in the musician at the beginning a psychological shock for the training of the instrument.

The concept of the instrument was absolutely "chromatic"by approaching the largest possible number of "colors" (tones).


The harmonium o harmonium (also called harmonium or harmonium) is a wind instrument with keyboard, similar in appearance to the organ, but without pipes and of much smaller size; it is a typical musical instrument of devotional music used in Asia.

Originally developed in Germany in the early 18th century, the harmonium underwent a sudden change in its architecture when the English took it to India where it had its first impact on the Asian population. The original harmonium quickly underwent some modifications to become a floor organ, where the Indian singer could sit, pump, finger and sing at the same time. The tonal scale of the various pedal cascades within the structure of the harmonium was changed to the tonal scale of do sharp major.

In the 19th century, in Calcutta, India, Dwarkanath Ghose modified the instrument so that it was pumped by one hand, while the other played only the melody, obtaining a splendid boom throughout India and Pakistan.

In the West it is classified as a free reed wind instrument. It has a keyboard, which controls by means of valves the passage of air through metal reeds that produce the sound. The air intake is produced by means of bellows, operated by pedals by the same interpreter. To achieve a uniform sound, the air from the bellows passes to an intermediate bellows called the "secret" o "reserved" that maintains a constant pressure. However, the register called "expression" allows air to enter directly from the bellows to the reeds, allowing the performer to achieve more expressive sounds (forte, piano, staccato...)

It also has a system of registers operated by knobs, which allow the passage of air to one or another set of reeds. With this system it is possible to produce different sounds in timbre, pitch or nuance; besides being able to divide the keyboard in two sections. Some harmoniums even have a register that is operated with the knees and allows the passage of air through all the reeds. In this way, two or even three different keyboards can be comfortably simulated.

Harry Partch spent his childhood in small, remote towns in Arizona and New Mexico and grew up listening to songs in Mandarin Chinese, Spanish and the Indian languages of those regions. He learned to play the clarinet, the harmonium, the violapiano and guitar. He began to compose at a very early age using the chromatic scale common in Western music, although he later burned all his works from this period because he felt very dissatisfied with the sounds he obtained with it, which did not fit his expressive needs or his musical ideas. Partch He came to the conclusion that he needed new instruments (which he invented and built himself) and suitable players for them. His first instrument was the monophone (later known as "adapted viola").

Harry Partch - And on the Seventh Day Petals Fell in Petaluma (1963-1966) (Excerpt from the work performed by the Musikfabrik Ensemble).

A small note in the Universal International News about Harry Partch (the Chromelodeon).

Modulation is the movement from the "emotion" of one key to the "emotion" of another. Harry Partch.