The Amsterdam Partch Project

The Amsterdam Partch Project logo - option 1

The Amsterdam Partch Project is a research project started in 2002 by the late Bob Gilmore and currently curated by Elisabeth Smalt and Alfrun Schmid, both musicians and artistic leaders of the collective Scordatura Ensemble. Our aim is to research and present the early chamber music by the American composer Harry Partch (1901-1974) who designed his own tonal system, notation and instruments. Our first project was in 2002, a concert tour in Holland called The Truth about Tune. We did another big Partch tour in 2017: Rose Petal Jam. From that moment on Chris Rainier,  a London-based guitarist and Partch expert joined the project. Every new Partch instrument that we manage to recreate allows us to deepen our knowledge of the Partch heritage. Others musicians that play with us are Lucia Mense from Cologne, Reinier van Houdt, Orlando Velazquez and Keiko Shichijo from The Netherlands. We hope to share this inspiring music and to inspire composers of the present. In October 2020 our new project, Tonality Flux started (against all COVID odds) and it will end July 23. Contact us for bookings and info.

Read more about our Partch instruments here

Concerts Tonality Flux 2020-2022

02.10.20 Albi/Toulouse France Riverrun Festival
24.10.20 Leuven Belgium Transit Festival
17.12.20 Amsterdam Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ, cancelled (Covid)
21.08.21 Amsterdam Studio 150
27.08.21 Tilburg Het Cenakel
17.10.21 Riga Latvia Arena Festival
11.11.21 Tallinn Estonia Soundplasma Festival
26.11.21 Berlin Germany Soundplasma Festival
13.01.22 Amsterdam Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ, cancelled (Covid)
22.03.22 Tilburg De Link
03.04.22 Nijmegen Galerie Marzee
03.06.22 Georgia US Columbus State University
19.11.22 Amsterdam Splendor
14.01.23 Bern Switzerland University of the Arts
27-29.03.23 Amsterdam
Studio 150
05.02.23 Feinsum, Friesland Podium Pakhûs SOLO
01.06.23 Amsterdam Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ

Season 2018-2019

01.12.19 Amsterdam Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ, Microfest
28.11.19 Ghent Belgium Orpheus Institute, lecture recital
20.09.19 London Trinity Laban Conservatoire, Blackheath Halls
21.09.19 London Colourscape Festival, Clapham Common
16.08.19 Amsterdam Munganga Theatre, new Chromelodeon and Betty Ford Award
14.10.18: Amsterdam Oosterkerk James Joyce Festival Joyce is in the air’

Lucia Mense
Reinier van Houdt
Chris Rainier, Elisabeth Smalt, Lucia Mense
Elisabeth Smalt, Chris Rainier, Lucia Mense, Alfrun Schmid

April 2017 – June 2018: Rose Petal Jam Concert Tour

Scordatura’s Rose Petal Jam Concert Tour had 17 concerts in Holland and abroad, 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.

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


WORKSHOPS Rose Petal jam 2017/18:

 ‘JAM sessions’ – the audience could try out the instruments after each of our concerts.
07.06.17 Hamburg student project organised by the festival in connection with Partch. 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:  Start of the Partch Composers Project. We met with the students of the composition class led by Martijn Padding and Peter Adriaansz and played a public concert, with lecture by Huib Ramaer and Samuel Vriezen.
09.11.17  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 will 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.

 01.03.16 The World According to Bob (or BobFest) Partch intro concert
 02.03.16 The World According to Bob (or BobFest) Partch concert
 03.09.16 BBC broadcast ‘Hear and Now’ and interview Elisabeth with Rob Worby

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 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.

Harm Mouw, director of Amsterdam’s KlankKleurFestival, 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.

Follow Scordatura Ensemble:facebook-successful-in-raising-over-10-million-in-two-days-towards-nepal-earthquake-disaster   vogel  @scordaturaense1

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

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