The Amsterdam Partch Project

Scordatura_833D Scordatura’s Amsterdam Partch Project is a research project with the aim to present the early chamber music of the American composer Harry Partch (1901-1974), who designed his own tonal system, notation system and instruments, as he described in his book Genesis of a Music. With every new Partch instrument we build we deepen our knowledge of the Partch heritage and are able to recreate and share more of his wonderful music.  Read more about our Partch instruments here

Concert agenda of The Amsterdam Partch Project 

November-December 2019: ‘Lecture 1942’
Harry Partch’s ‘lost’ lecture is revived again
Ghent Belgium, Orpheus Institute 28 November 15.00
Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ Amsterdam, Microfest 1 December  15.00

September 2019: London Concerts
Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance 20 September 16.00 at Blackheath halls Recital Room, London
Colourscape Festival 21 September 12.30 – 16.30 at Clapham Common park, London

pictures below: Alfrun Schmid, Reinier van Houdt, Chris Rainier, Elisabeth Smalt, Lucia Mense at Colourscape Festival





14.10.18: Concert at James Joyce Festival ‘Joyce is in the air’

Oosterkerk Amsterdam,  with the Dutch premiere of  Partch’s ‘Ulysses
See the program here

April 2017 – June 2018: Rose Petal Jam Concert Tour

Scordatura’s Rose Petal Jam Concert Tour had fifteen concerts in Holland and two abroad, in Hamburg and Londen. De concerts were featuring Harry Partch’s earliest chamber music. In this project we made a giant step in our Partch research work. We were able to build new copies of several instruments. And we gradually discovered how to actually play them, solving many mysteries as we went along, deciphering the unusual notations, finding answers to questions. By playing all these concerts we learned the new repertoire, each time a bit better.

Harry Partch (1901-1974) developed his work completely on his own. For us nowadays his unique pioneer work offers an example of ‘just intonation’, which in this 21st century attracts attention again, after western music got into ‘tempered’ tuning for more than a century. That’s why we wanted to share this experience not only with listeners, but also with composers of the new generation. We combined our research with educational projects and workshops at conservatories and universities, and after each concert the audience was invited to try the instruments. In Rose Petal Jam’s New Li Po Songs project eight composers from different international backgrounds wrote songs for us. And as an educational project, six young composers of the Royal Conservatory in The Hague composed works for us that were performed at the Korzo Spring Festival. 

Concerts Rose Petal Jam 2017/18:

13.05.17 Den Haag Festival Dag in de Branding – Korzo 15.00
15.05.17 Amsterdam Splendor –  20.00 pre-concert talk 19.00
18.05.17 Rotterdam Seriously Festival /Classical NEXT – De Doelen 13.00
07.06.17 Hamburg  Blurred Edges Festival Students presentation 19.00, concert +- 19.30
24.06.17 Zutphen Dat Bolwerck Kunstcentrum 20.15
21.07.17 s’ Graveland Wonderfeel Festival 17.00
15.10.17 Nijmegen Galerie Marzee   16.00
22.10.17 Amsterdam De Ruimte  15.00
23.10.17 Den Haag Royal Conservatory Kees van Baaren Zaal 20.00
10.03.18 Amsterdam  Amsterdam Marimba Weekend 20.15
08.04.18 Assen De Muziekkamer Podium Zuidhaege – 12.00
10.04.18 Tilburg De Link 20.30
11.04.18  Den Haag Korzo Spring Festival 19.30
27.04.18  Rotterdam  OCW crimmp concert 20.30
28.04.18  Rotterdam  OCW crimmp  concert 20.30
29.04.18  Rotterdam  OCW crimmp concert 20.30
18.06.18 London Café Oto Dalston 19.30

Education Projects Rose Petal jam 2017/18:

General: We presented JAM sessions – which meant that the audience could try out the instruments- after our concerts.
07.06.17 Hamburg organised their own student project about Partch, before our concert. The kids had made their own instruments and played a self made composition.
19.10.17 University of Amsterdam, Scordatura Studio workshop + mini concert for Musicology Students in collaboration with  Maarten Beirens
23.10.17 The Hague Royal Conservatory, Kees van Baaren zaal:  Start of the Partch Composers Project in collaboration with the Conservatory. First meeting with the students  – free concert for the composition class of Martijn Padding and Peter Adriaansz, as well as other students. With lecture by Huib Ramaer and Samuel Vriezen
09-11-2017  Amsterdam Sweelinck Conservatory Huib Ramaer gives presentation about Partch for musicology students of Saskia Tornquist
10.11.17 Amsterdam Scordatura Studio Young composers of The Hague Royal Conservatory and their coach Peter Adriaansz visit the instruments. The composers write their pieces in the coming months
22.11.17 AmsterdaDe Roode Bioscoop demonstration of the Partch tuning for Cor Bakker and friends
08 and 09.03.18 Amsterdam Scordatura Studio: The composers of The Hague come to present and discuss their pieces
10.03.18 Marimba Weekend Amsterdam, Workshop by Aart Strootman, the maker of the newly built Diamond Marimba, interviewed by Huib Ramaer. With the very first live performance on the instrument.
11.04.18 The Hague Korzo: Spring Festival  final concert with the new pieces of Robert Coleman, Vitali Karagkezidis, Darina Zurkova, Lauge Dideriksen, James Alexandropoulos-McEwan and Orestes Willemen.

scordutura amsterdam Mei 2017
Rose Petal Jam line-up, left to right: Samuel Vriezen, Elisabeth Smalt, Chris Rainier, Lucia Mense, Lucas van Helsdingen, Alfrun Schmid, Reinier van Houdt, Huib Ramaer

New Li Po Songs

Next to performing Partch’s original works we have a composer’s project called New Li Po Songs. With his Seventeen Lyrics by Li Po for Adapted Viola and Intoning Voice, written in the early 1930’s, Harry Partch developed his own unique voice. These wonderful compositions bear the seeds of his total oeuvre, such as the scale and notation. As part of the Rose Petal Jam tour we asked eight composers from different backgrounds to write for us ‘New Li Po songs’: Anne LaBerge, Miranda Driessen, Lisa Illean, Anna MikhailovaChris Rainier, Chris Smalt, Aart Strootman and Samuel Vriezen.

rehearsing New Li Po Songs at Studio Scordatura

Extra Jam After the concert we offered a meet-and-greet with our Partch instruments and with the players. In addition we brought a supply of biological rose petal jam (following Partch’s own recipe), made and presented by Harm Mouw of  Harm’s Kitchen.

A brief history of The Amsterdam Partch Project

The first concert tour in 2002 was called The Truth About Tune, initiated and organised by Huib Ramaer, and curated by Bob Gilmore (1961-2015), the writer of Harry Partch, a biography (and the founder of Trio Scordatura). Under his guidance an exact copy of the Partch Adapted Viola was made, supported by the Harry Partch Foundation, and played by Elisabeth Smalt. Bob programmed a keyboard in the Partch tuning, and guitarist and Partch expert John Schneider flew over from California with his Diamond Marimba and his Adapted guitars, to join the project. Other performers were Johan Lippens, Daan van der Walle and Frank Peters.

The Truth About Tune 2002:

April 7 Den Bosch Muziekcentrum
April 9 Groningen, Grand Theatre
April 14 Haarlem Teylers Museum
April 15 Amsterdam Felix Meritis
April 17 Rotterdam Lantaren/Venster
April 20 Maastricht Noord-Amerika Festival

The Truth About Tune was also on television, in the VPRO program Vrije Geluiden, with an interview with Bob Gilmore and performances from the project.

In 2005 Hortus Festival’s director William Raaijman invited Bob and Elisabeth to perform Partch in a Hortus concert tour, including Utrecht and Amsterdam. Bob and Elisabeth collaborated for the first time with singer Alfrun Schmid, with a selection of Li Po songs and both of the Psalms. This successful collaboration led to the start of an ensemble called Trio Scordatura. Between 2006 and 2015 Scordatura performed the Psalms, and learned and presented more Li Po songs, as part of the ensemble’s basic repertoire. These Partch works were performed in The Netherlands, Ireland, England, Germany and the USA.

Amsterdam’s KlankKleur Festival initiated in 2007 the building of a second instrument, Kithara I by one of the festival’s visual artists William Lindhout. He accepted the challenge, but it wasn’t before 2011 that the Kithara was finished. A planned concert in the KlankKleurFestival 2011 however had to be cancelled, due to starting problems with the instrument.

On the second day of 2015 Bob Gilmore sadly passed away. Having enjoyed the work on Partch all these years in close collaboration with him,  Alfrun and Elisabeth eventually took some big decisions:  to go on as Scordatura Ensemble, and to go on with the Partch project.

In 2016  at BobFest in London, City University, the Kithara I was premiered. Scordatura presented two concerts, with John Schneider, Reinier van Houdt, Samuel Vriezen, Alfrun Schmid, Elisabeth Smalt and Lucas van Helsdingen performing. The second concert was broadcast by the BBC. After the concert, in the green room we met Chris Rainier for the first time, who just had built Adapted Guitar I . He would soon join us in The Amsterdam Partch Project.

Scordatura Ensemble presented the ROSE PETAL JAM tour in 2017/18. The rest of the story: see above.

 Rose Petal Jam was supported by the following foundations  Fonds Podiumkunsten, Fonds 21, Prins Bernhard Cultuur Fonds- Fonds voor Hedendaagse Muziek, Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunst, Société Gaviniès, VSB Fonds, Gilles Hondius Foundation, Stichting Fonds voor de Geld- en Effectenhandel,  Kattendijke/Drucker Stichting

Daarnaast willen wij de privédonateurs die ons steunden via Kickstarter of andere kanalen van harte bedanken.

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Our Crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter for a Diamond Marimba was a big success! Thanks to your generous gifts we have a Diamond Marimba, built by Aart Strootman.


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Amsterdam-based ensemble performing music using new tuning systems and microtonality