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The Dreamer that Remains (1972) reveals Partch late in life (he was 72 and his health was beginning to fail) as an engagingly open, vital, passionate individualist; opinionated, perhaps, but never dictatorial. He speaks about his life and work, and we see preparations for the performance of the new composition which gave the film its title.
The singularity of his vision places him with other musical individualists. Percy Grainger comes to mind first, but many others -- Schoenberg, Messiaen and even Wagner, for instance -- negotiated similar barriers on the way to their very different achievements. All needed total confidence in their own artistic judgement and a willingness to work alone; some also needed skills in instrument making, libretto writing, stage production ... the list could be extended. The vices of these virtues often manifest themselves, of course: arrogance is common, as is an inability to see their work in context. There can also be shortcomings in competence in some para-compositional activities: Wagner had trouble with money and politics, Grainger with carpentry and Partch, arguably, with theatrical narrative.
Partch's life work was the development of a microtonal musical style which bridged spoken intonation and song (an American sprechgesang, in fact, though not at all using Schoenberg's technical resources), the instruments which could realise it, and an aesthetic which unified music, dance and drama.
Dreamer is accompanied by Rose Petal Jam, an out-take from it, and a 'director's commentary' describing its genesis as his graduate project in film-making. The remaining extras are a Bonus Album Slideshow, Revelation in the Courthouse Park and an annotated catalogue of the series.
Copyright © 26 July 2007
Malcolm Tattersall, Townsville, Australia