A new book on maverick composer, instrument inventor and onetime hobo drifter Harry Partch has been published by the University of Rochester press. Harry Partch, Hobo Composer discusses in detail Partch’s life as a drifter in the era of the Great Depression, and uses the idea of the hobo in American history and culture to analyse Partch’s life and work as a whole.
Author S Andrew Granade writes how Partch “became a hobo out of necessity and remained one for its freedoms. It is the story of a composer who rejected the tenets of music as he found them and sought to return music to its roots.”
Partch's transient life in the 1930s had a lasting impact on his work, and he used the slang and speech patterns of hobos extensively in his compositions. Partch, who died in 1974, supported his later career with sporadic academic posts, grants and commissions, and the Harry Partch Foundation was created in 1970 to oversee his work and protect his numerous unique instruments. Harry Partch, Hobo Composer is only the second sole authored book on Partch’s life and work, following Bob Gilmore’s 1998 biography (reviewed in The Wire 175).