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Harry Partch Collection 1956-1962

MS 479

Collection Summary

Creator: Partch, Harry, 1901-1974
Collection Name: Harry Partch Collection
Inclusive Dates: 1956-1962
Physical Description:0.5 liner foot
Abstract:Photographs and Phonographs, 1956-1962. This collection consists primarily of black and white photographs of the instruments that Harry Partch built; photographs of rehearsals and performances of his operas. The phonograph (LP) series is comprised of 8 separate titles released on Partch’s Gate 5 Records label.
Collection Number:MS 479
Repository: University of Arizona Libraries, Special Collections
University of Arizona
PO Box 210055
Tucson, AZ 85721-0055
Phone: 520-621-6423
Fax: 520-621-9733

Biographical Note

Harry Partch was born on Jun 24, 1901 in Oakland, California. Partch is renowned as one of the 20th century’s most innovative American classical composers. He was one of the first composers in that century to extensively work with microtonal scales, which he wrote exclusively for his custom-made instruments that he built himself.

Both of Partch’s parents were Presbyterian missionaries that lived in China and fled that region of the world after the Boxer Rebellion. His family relocated to Oakland, California where Partch was born. Partch’s parents continued to live as missionaries, which resulted in the family relocating numerous times throughout Partch’s childhood, often in small remote towns located in Arizona, California, and New Mexico. In these small, isolated parts of the country Partch was exposed to various cultures and their music. Partch began to compose music at an early age using standard western tunings. However, he became frustrated by the limited structure of these tunings and began to develop his own methods of tuning which he performed on instruments that he created himself. Partch composed numerous operas, concertos, and various other musical projects using his tunings and instruments exclusively. In the late 1950’s Partch started his own record label, Gate 5 Records, to release recordings of his works and to generate income. Near the end of his life Columbia Records made recordings of his work which resulted in his music being exposed to a wider audience. Partch died on September 3, 1974 in San Diego, California.

Scope and Content Note

This collection is comprised of photographs of instruments and opera rehearsals and phonograph recordings. The bulk of the photographic materials detail the handmade instruments that Partch created. The phonograph recordings are comprised of recordings ranging between 1956-1962, self-released on Partch’s Gate 5 Records. The collection consists of black and white photographs of varying sizes as well as seven 12” phonographic LP’s and one 10” phonograph. May of the phonographs are autographed by Harry Partch, some with a personalized and dated inscription.


This collection is organized into 2 Series
Series I: Photographs, undated
Series II: Phonographs (LP’s), 1957-1962



There are no restrictions on this collection


It is the responsibility of the user to obtain permission to publish from the owner of the copyright (the institution, the creator of the record, the author or his/her transferees, heirs, legates, or literary executors). The user agrees to indemnify and hold harmless the Arizona Board of Regents for the University of Arizona, its officers, employees, and agents from and against all claims made by any person asserting that he or she is an owner of copyright.

Access Terms

Personal Name(s)
Partch, Harry, 1901-1974

20th-century composers
Beat generation
Microtonal music
Music--20th century
Performing arts - United States

Administrative Information

Credit Line

Harry Partch Collection (MS 479). Special Collections, University of Arizona Libraries..

Container List

Series I: Photographs undated
This series is comprised of black and white photographs which are arranged alphabetically.
11 Instruments
12 Rehersals/Performances
Series II: Phonographs (LP’s), 1957-1962
This collection is comprised of 8 phonographs (LP’s), most autographed by Partch, which he released on his Gate 5 Records and is arranged chronologically.
13 U.S. Highball; 1956, Gate 5 Records, 6, Autographed , 1956
14 The Wayward; 1956, Gate 5 Records, B, Autographed , 1956
15 The Bewitched; 1957, Gate 5 Records, Autographed , 1957
16 Plectra and Percussion Dances; 1957, Gate 5 Records, 4 , 1957
17 Oedipus; 1957, Gate 5 Records, 5 , 1957
18 Revelation in the Courthouse Park; 1960, Gate 5 Records, F, Autographed, 1960
19 Water! Water! And Rotate the Body in all its Planes; 1962, Gate 5 Records, G, Autographed , 1962
110 30 Years of Lyrical and Dramatic Music; 1962, Gate 5 Records, A, Autographed , 1962