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A replica of the Harry Partch Surrogate Kithara!

Contribute to the materials and labour costs of building a copy of a unique microtonal musical instrument!

A replica of the Harry Partch Surrogate Kithara!

Contribute to the materials and labour costs of building a copy of a unique microtonal musical instrument!

£852
pledged of £490pledged of £490 goal
33
backers
8days to go

All or nothing. This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Thu, October 24 2019 9:10 AM UTC +00:00.

About

The Surrogate Kithara is a 16-string musical instrument built in 1953 by the American composer Harry Partch [1901-1974], whilst he was living in an abandoned shipyard in Sausalito, California. It consists of two resonators [or canons], each with eight strings. These are both mounted on a triangular frame with a built-in seat, music stand and wheels! Like a lap steel or pedal steel guitar, pitches are produced by moving Pyrex or glass rods horizontally, whilst aligning them with numerous markings on the front of each resonator. Here's the original Surrogate Kithara, pictured in the late 1960's: 

This photo of the Surrogate Kithara will be the featured image on the second of two limited edition postcards in the REWARDS section. [Photograph courtesy of Danlee Mitchell and Jon Szanto]
This photo of the Surrogate Kithara will be the featured image on the second of two limited edition postcards in the REWARDS section. [Photograph courtesy of Danlee Mitchell and Jon Szanto]

Partch created the Surrogate Kithara to assist another of his instruments [Kithara 1] with a near-impossible part he had written for it in a piece called "Castor and Pollux" - hence the addition of the word 'surrogate'. Kithara 1 is Partch's conceptual extension of the Ancient Greek lyre, a 72-stringed harp he built in 1938. It has 12 vertically mounted banks of 6 strings, called 'hexads'. Like the Surrogate Kithara, some of these hexads have Pyrex, glass or brass rods under the strings to produce sliding tones. 

This photo of Kithara 1 is the image that will be used for the limited edition photographic print listed in the REWARDS section. [Photo courtesy of the University of Wisconsin Archives]
This photo of Kithara 1 is the image that will be used for the limited edition photographic print listed in the REWARDS section. [Photo courtesy of the University of Wisconsin Archives]

Influenced by the design of Kithara 1, for the Surrogate Kithara Partch took the two outer hexads on the larger instrument, mounted them onto resonators, and added two strings. He also rotated the playing surface from a vertical to a horizontal one. The tunings of the two 8-string resonators are related but different to the outer hexads on Kithara 1 - they are also quite different from each other. One resonator is tuned to a broadly-speaking 'major' tonality and one to a 'minor' one. As Partch's music is microtonal and unlike the usual system of tuning used in most Western music [more about this below], these terms don't mean quite the same thing as they usually would! As a visual aid to the performer, one resonator is called 'Green', and the other 'Orange', reflecting the original colour analogy used on Kithara 1. In 1966 Partch built a second pair of resonators to accommodate new tunings. Both of these have moon-shaped bridges, and my replica will incorporate this later design element. 

This photo of the Surrogate Kithara will be the featured image on the first of two limited edition postcards in the REWARDS section. [Photo courtesy Jon Szanto and the Harry Partch Foundation]
This photo of the Surrogate Kithara will be the featured image on the first of two limited edition postcards in the REWARDS section. [Photo courtesy Jon Szanto and the Harry Partch Foundation]

After its first appearance in "Castor and Pollux", Partch used the Surrogate Kithara in many subsequent compositions, including "The Mock Turtle Song", "Barstow", "The Letter", "U.S. Highball", "Daphne Of The Dunes", "And On The Seventh Day Petals Fell In Petaluma" and "Delusion Of The Fury". It's an incredibly versatile instrument - not only melodically and harmonically, but also rhythmically, often played with mallets or felt-covered sticks. Its potential as a performance tool and teaching platform expands far beyond its use in Partch's work - my intention is to also perform my own music on it, as well as the music of musicians and composers interested in writing for it.

 // 

This is a very short description and demonstration of the Surrogate Kithara, originally on a bonus record included with the 1971 vinyl release of Partch's major dramatic work "Delusion Of The Fury".

This is "Verse 2", from Partch's work "And on the Seventh Day Petals Fell in Petaluma" (1967), which is a very short duet for Surrogate Kithara and Bass Marimba. The complete work can be purchased on vinyl or digitally here.

[Courtesy of Jon Szanto and New World Records] 

 This is the 1958 film of Partch's work "U.S. Highball", directed by Madeline Tourtelot. The introduction to this version of the piece features the Surrogate Kithara, and the instrument features prominently throughout the composition. This film is included on the DVD "Enclosure Eight: Harry Partch", which can be purchased here

[Courtesy of Philip Blackburn and Innova Recordings]

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This 1968 concert by Partch and his ensemble is entitled "The Music Of Harry Partch", and was filmed live for KEBS-TV at the University of San Diego. The Surrogate Kithara can be heard for example between 12:42 and 13:08 of the film, and is played by Carole Glasier. This film is also included on the DVD "Enclosure Eight: Harry Partch", which can be purchased here

[Courtesy of Philip Blackburn and Innova Recordings]

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// 

Harry Partch surrounded by his instruments in his studio at Mills College in Oakland, California in 1952. [Photograph courtesy of Jon Szanto and the Harry Partch Foundation]
Harry Partch surrounded by his instruments in his studio at Mills College in Oakland, California in 1952. [Photograph courtesy of Jon Szanto and the Harry Partch Foundation]

Harry Partch [1901-1974] was an American composer, instrument-builder, theorist, writer, performer, visual artist and teacher, who's music can broadly be classified as 'microtonal'. The word 'microtonal' refers to the use of musical intervals smaller than those found in the dominant tuning system used in most Western music, known as 12-tone Equal Temperament. Partch's music uses a type of microtonality called Just Intonation. This is a somewhat challenging thing to explain briefly, but in a  nutshell:

Any pitch - for example, one produced by a plucked string - is a composite of an infinite number of other pitches, these being somewhat hidden in the same way that many colours in a painter's palette consist of various colours mixed together to form one. In music, these pitches are commonly known as 'harmonics'. Just Intonation basically takes these harmonics and the relationships between them and makes them visible, turning them into audible pitches - in this case, in Partch's musical system. He had to put a cap on things though, as harmonics are an infinite resource. Through a process both acoustically justifiable and somewhat creative, he ended up with a scale that [for the most part] uses 43 notes in one octave.  

The problem is, when you develop a new musical theory and write music within this new framework, you have to adapt, invent and/or build the instruments to play it - and that's exactly what Partch did. By the end of his life he had created more than 25 instruments, many of which are completely unique both in their conception and possibilities. 

Furthermore, this music had to be notated so that it could be taught to others. Partch could play every one of his own instruments, and various notations were invented and refined over the years. Somehow, he also managed to record his works [sometimes using pioneering multi-tracking techniques, in the 1950’s] and have these recordings pressed to vinyl. He even mailed them out himself, predating the DIY/cottage-industry/indie/punk aesthetic by decades. Consider that everything was done on a shoestring budget - and that he managed to encapsulate most of his theoretical and practical work in his book "Genesis of a Music" - and you have a singular musical pioneer who’s influence is growing every year, within a wide range of musical communities.  

Two pages from Partch's book "Genesis Of A Music" (2nd ed., 1974) showing a photograph of the Surrogate Kithara, its notation and original tuning.
Two pages from Partch's book "Genesis Of A Music" (2nd ed., 1974) showing a photograph of the Surrogate Kithara, its notation and original tuning.

// 

I first began performing Partch's music for voice and guitar in Australia in late 2013, on a replica of the composer's Adapted Guitar 1, developed by myself and luthier James Mumford. After moving to London in mid-2016 I met Elisabeth Smalt and the Dutch ensemble Scordatura, who had been performing some of Partch's music since the early 2000's. We decided to pool our resources, and in 2017 we began performing together in numerous concerts in the Netherlands, Germany and the UK. I have also continued to perform the Partch repertoire I am able to present on my own in Japan, the USA, Europe, the UK and Australia. At the time I started playing with Scordatura the ensemble already had replicas of some of the composer's instruments, including the Adapted Viola and Kithara 1. Since then their instrument collection has expanded greatly to include a Diamond Marimba, Mazda Marimba, Cloud Chamber Bowls and Chromelodeon 1. I've also been lucky enough to commission replicas of Adapted Guitars 2 and 3, with financial assistance from the group. Last year saw the completion of another Partch instrument called 'Castor' - one half of Harmonic Canon 2 - here seen without its multitude of bridges:   

Replica of 'Castor' [half of Harmonic Canon 2], built in 2017/18 for Scordatura by David Lavis.
Replica of 'Castor' [half of Harmonic Canon 2], built in 2017/18 for Scordatura by David Lavis.

'Castor' was built by David Lavis in his workshop in Bath, England, after quite a bit of research and consultation with Partch scholars and performers around the world. Charles Corey, the curator of the original Partch instruments that are all housed at the University of Washington in Seattle, has been a great help. I am mentioning the Harmonic Canon 2 as a way of showcasing David's wonderful abilities as a carpenter/craftsperson, as well as the patience, intuition and attention to detail that he brought to the job of building this beautiful replica. It is important to mention that when he started the build he had never heard Partch's music, and still hasn't seen any of the original instruments in the flesh! He did an incredible job, which is why I am very happy to have him on board again as the builder of the replica Surrogate Kithara

Since the beginning of 2018 I am also pursuing a doctorate here in the UK at the University of Huddersfield, focusing on authenticity and its relationship to performance practice in Partch's music. Building a replica of the Surrogate Kithara will be an invaluable practical outcome of my academic research. It will also of course enable me to play some of Partch's work, act as an invaluable teaching and workshop platform, and be an amazing exploratory laboratory and performance tool for my own music! I have a long personal and professional relationship with the lap steel guitar, which has featured prominently in my own music over the years, both in recordings and various solo and collaborative performances around the world. The Surrogate Kithara represents a unique way for me to merge the world of Partch, my own work and my love of the lap steel guitar into one instrument!

You can listen to some of this work here: www.chrisrainier.bandcamp.com

Please also visit my website here: www.chrisrainier.net

// 

This is the Kithara logo which will appear on the limited edition tote bag, available in the REWARDS section.  [Image courtesy of the Harry Partch Archives, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign]
This is the Kithara logo which will appear on the limited edition tote bag, available in the REWARDS section. [Image courtesy of the Harry Partch Archives, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign]

1) Material costs (wood, strings, tuning machines, castors/wheels, glass rods and other miscellaneous components) - £345

2) Labour costs - the builder, David Lavis, has very generously agreed to build the Surrogate Kithara for a nominal fee. This will be nowhere near the actual labour costs - based on the time he will be spending building it - which would ordinarily amount to £1600. Due to his generosity, we have agreed on a 'token' fee of £300.

3) Travel between London and Bath (estimate based on needing three return train trips for making adjustments, testing out playability, troubleshooting etc.) - £75.

I have deliberately kept my funding target low to make sure at least some costs get covered. Should I be fortunate enough to exceed my fundraising target, I would be looking to - depending on the excess amount - [a] pay David more for his work, and/or [b] fund the vinyl pressing of my still unreleased recordings of Harry Partch's early works.

//

Risks and challenges

Having already worked with David Lavis on the building of another replica of one of Partch's instruments for Scordatura Ensemble only last year (the Harmonic Canon II aka 'Castor'), I can attest that the quality of his building work of this replica, and his adherence to a timeline, is guaranteed. All the preliminary research into the construction of the original Surrogate Kithara has been done. Measurements of the original have been taken and compiled by the Charles Corey, curator of the Partch instrument collection at the University of Washington. The tuning heads have been purchased, and its glass sliding rods have been commissioned. David has already assessed our timber needs, and sourced our timber and soundboard suppliers. Once the funds are in place, I can't see anything holding him back from creating a beautiful replica of this amazing instrument, within budget and on time.

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    Postcard (Image No.1)

    A limited edition (50 copies only!) postcard especially produced for this fundraising campaign. Printed on heavy-duty 350-400 gsm paper, with a soft touch coating on either side, and shine free, so there's no glare! Size is A6, 148 x 105 mm.

    The image on this postcard will be a black-and-white photograph of the original Surrogate Kithara, taken during the 1964 recording sessions for Partch's composition "And On The Seventh Day Petals Fell In Petaluma". This photograph was used on the cover of the 2017 vinyl reissue by New World Records, of the 1966 CRI release of this work. To see this image, please visit the campaign story page.

    [Photograph courtesy of Jon Szanto and the Harry Partch Foundation]

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    Postcard (Image no.2)

    A limited edition postcard (50 copies only!) especially produced for this fundraising campaign. Printed on heavy-duty 350-400 gsm paper, with a silky, soft touch coating on either side. Size is A6, 148 x 105 mm.

    The image on this postcard is taken from a colour slide photograph of the original Surrogate Kithara, but please note: this is a different image to that used on the other postcard reward! This particular photograph was taken by Partch's assistant and close friend Danlee Mitchell, probably some time in the late 1960's. This same image is reproduced in black and white in the second edition of Partch's book "Genesis Of A Music". To see this image, please visit the campaign story page.

    [Photograph courtesy of Danlee Mitchell and Jon Szanto]

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    Limited Edition Tote Bag

    A limited edition canvas tote bag, especially produced for this fundraising campaign. To see a
    mock-up of what the bag will look like, please scroll down to the bottom of the campaign story.

    One side of the bag will feature a logo originally designed in 1954 by Partch's friend, the painter Gordon Onslow Ford, for a brochure promoting the release of Partch's dramatic work "Oedipus". The logo is a graphic representation of a Kithara - the Ancient Greek lyre that inspired Partch's invented instrument of the same name. The original Surrogate Kithara was often a musical 'assistant' to the Kithara(s) in performances and recordings. The logo on the tote bag also has the word 'PARTCH' drawn by hand and enclosed in an ellipsis below the drawing of the Kithara.

    The tote bag is made of organic cotton, in a 'natural' colour, with a twill weave (170 gsm). The size of the bag is 37 x 42 cm.

    [Drawing of kithara courtesy of Special Collections, Stanford University]

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    Limited Edition Photographic Print

    A limited edition photographic print (12 copies only!), especially produced for this fundraising campaign.

    The image on the print is a rare black-and-white photograph of the original Kithara 1, taken by Partch himself in 1945, while he was working at the University of Wisconsin. The photograph also shows the original 15-inch speaker that Partch designed and built with the assistance of colleagues to amplify the instrument. The Surrogate Kithara was designed and built in 1953 to assist Kithara 1 with a particularly challenging part in the score of Partch's work "Castor and Pollux".

    The print is unframed, on high-quality photographic paper with a gloss finish. Each print will be hand-numbered on the back. I will pack and post carefully of course. To see what this image looks like, please visit the campaign story page.

    The image is from a high-resolution scan of the original photograph, courtesy of the University of Wisconsin Archives.

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    A lesson on all three Adapted Guitars!

    An hour-long lesson on one, two or all three of my replicas of Harry Partch's Adapted Guitars. You have to be in London (or Amsterdam) for this!

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    A lesson on the Surrogate Kithara!

    An hour-long lesson (or demo) on the newly-finished replica of the Surrogate Kithara! Be the first person other than me and David Lavis to play it! Get your hands dirty! This reward is London-based only for the moment (sorry), at least until I work out how to transport it properly!

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    Your very own Harry Partch concert!

    An hour-long solo concert by yours truly, playing two of my replica Adapted Guitars and singing, performing early works by Harry Partch in your living room, backyard, or the venue of your choice (cost of the venue hire is at your expense). This concert is London-only (sorry), but if you're feeling very generous and want to pay to to train/fly me out to somewhere else in the UK or Europe (return ticket please, and accommodation taken care of for the time I'm too, thanks), I'll be happy to visit!

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    1955 magazine | Partch article + photos

    For this pledge you will be the only recipient of a rare, original copy of the January/February 1955 issue of the American audiophile magazine "Music At Home". This magazine includes a 6-page article by Oliver Daniel on Partch's music, including eight black-and-white photographs by Fred Lyon of Partch's instruments at the time, including one of the Surrogate Kithara!

    Please note, the photograph taken by Fred Lyon of the Surrogate Kithara in this magazine is not the same image used in the second postcard reward listed above. All the more reason to get it!

    Also, this magazine will ship from Australia, unlike all the other rewards in this campaign.

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