top of page


Harry Partch - My Initial Inspiration

In Sept 1973, after having just finished my four-year hitch in the NAVY, I had enrolled into Pasadena City College (PCC) and took a Music Appreciation class.  Many composers and their musical works were presented to the class to show compositional similarities and differences.  One composer stood out in a very meaningful way...Harry Partch.  


Harry did not follow the conventions of our Western “Chromatic (12-tone) Scale.”  Instead, he designed and built instruments around a 43-tones-per-octave, equal-tempered, scale. 


The teacher had recommended we purchase one of his albums which musically demonstrates how the 43-tone system sounds.

Vinyl Album Cover: The World of Harry Partch

The composition of interest is Daphne of the Dunes (from The World of Harry Partch, Columbia Masterworks: No. 7202 - Vinyl).

About 1:30 into the piece Harry’s bass marimba presents itself into ensemble.  That was my immediate inspiration to find a way to build one of those marimbas and replicate that amazing sound.

<--Listen to that portion of the recording

Photo of the Harry Partch Bass Marimba (back side of album)

Harry Partch Bass Marimba
Album World of Harry Partch (back side)

Although the photo was somewhat helpful, I had to create an understanding and a visual depiction in how my marimba might look.  Having dabbled in technical illustrating, I created some drawings shown below.

Chris Banta Bass Marimba Sketch No.1 (1973)
Chris Banta Bass Marimba Sketch No. 2 (1973)

Also, not having a clue of what pitches might have been used from the Partch 43-tone scale on his bass marimba, I decided to just use eight notes of the C-Major scale (C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C) starting with Harry's lowest note which is Bass C (notated as C2 which is 65.4Hz).  Furthermore, instead of straight resonators (requiring the performer to stand on a riser), I decided to miter (change the tube's direction) my resonator so the instrument could be played while standing on the ground


The photo below is the result of my very first bass marimba construction in 1973.

bottom of page