The NEWBAND Instrumentarium includes the Harry Partch Instrument Collection, Dean Drummond's zoomoozophone and juststrokerods, and a large assortment of exotic percussion. The Harry Partch Instrument Collection includes all of the instruments built by the composer-inventor during the period 1930-1974, as well as several instruments replicated by the Harry Partch Foundation between 1974 and 1984 and several replications by Newband since 1990. Since 1990, when the custodianship of the Partch Instrument Collection was turned over to Dean Drummond by the Harry Partch Foundation, these instruments have been located in the New York area, since 1999 at Montclair State University.
The Adapted Guitars are among Partch's earliest instruments. He began to work with guitars in 1934 which, after many modifications, became the present Adapted Guitar I (1952) and the 10-string Hawaiian-type Adapted Guitar II (1945). Both guitars are played by sliding lead- weighted pyrex rods to desired locations on the strings.
Adapted Viola: Partch's first instrument, 1930, the adapted viola is a viola with an elongated bridge making it a fifth lower than the viola and an octave below the violin. It is played like a small cello, held between the legs. The fingerboard is marked with brads to facilitate playing Partch's 43-tone scale.
Bloboy: even Harry Partch called this instrument a contraption. It was built in 1958, and consists of a powerful bellows which forces air through four old auto horns and three very small organ pipes. Generally when it sounds people furtively look around for a train or a steamboat. Technically speaking, gravity plays the instrument; the musician goes along for the ride.
The Boo (Bamboo Marimba): another of Harry Partch's mallet instruments, the bamboo marimba originally consisted of 64 tuned bamboo tubes arranged in 6 rows, with a very small tube in a row of its own on top. Newband currently uses Partch's "Boo II," recently renovated, which features bamboo tubes open at both ends.
Chromelodeon: a pedal-pumped reed organ with sub-bass, adapted to play all the chromatic pitches in Harry Partch's 43-tone per octave source scale. The instrument uses a standard piano keyboard, brightly painted to indicate harmonic relationships between the various pitches. Partch had essentially completed this instrument by 1945. The current, improved Chromelodeon I was adapted in 1991 by the A & J Reed and Pipe Organ Service and Dean Drummond. Newband also has the original Chromelodeon I and II.
Cloud Chamber Bowls: The cloud chamber bowls themselves are sections of 12-gallon Pyrex carboys, suspended from a redwood frame on ropes. These difficult-to-find and impossible-to-tune glass gongs are played very carefully by a percussionist who risks the anguish of splintered disaster. The original bowls were found at the Radiation Laboratory of the University of California, Berkeley, and had been used as cloud-chambers to trace the paths of sub-atomic particles.
Cone Gongs: here again, the cast-off remnants of technology's march are used for a higher purpose. Two greenish yellow aluminum gongs fashioned from the nose cones of airplane fuel tanks are mounted like mushrooms and played with gong mallets.
Diamond Marimba: a marimba made of Brazilian rosewood and pernambuco resonating over tubes of bamboo, this instrument is named for its diamond-shaped layout. It was built by Partch in 1946, and is painstakingly tuned to his 43-note source scale.
Eucal Blossom: completed in 1967, 33 tuned lengths of thick-walled bamboo built on eucalyptus-branch base that makes the instrument resemble the shape of a flower. The eucal blossom is higher-pitched and much crisper in sound than its relative, the boo. The eucal blossom was only used by Partch in only his two last works.
Harmonic Canons: there are two types. The simpler type is Harmonic Canon II; these box-like instruments have 44 strings and adjustable bridges which are uniquely configured for each piece. Harmonic Canon I has two planes of 44 strings each. The planes intersect near the middle of each string and thus the player may play on either plane or both at once. Also a moveable pyrex rod controls the pitch on some strings in one plane. The harmonic canons are both melody instruments and as providers of the harmonic underpinning, hence its name, canon, used in the sense of "law". It is played with picks or fingers and is strikingly used in cascades of pitches. Partch built his first canon in 1945, and continued to refine the instrument into the 70's.
Kithara: Both Kithara I and the majestically tall Kithara II (81 inches) use 72 strings, stretched vertically, arranged into 12 sets of six strings each. The performer strums with picks or fingers, and must cover his or her territory very nimbly, since the instruments are both quite large. Pyrex rods are used on 4 of the hexads to produce moving tones, giving the instrument a sound somewhat like a cross between a bottle-neck guitar and a harp. Partch built the first kithara in 1938. The current Kithara I was built in 1972, one of his last projects. Kithara II was built in 1954.
Marimba Eroica: Harry Partch experimented with tones even lower than those produced by the Bass Marimba and eventually arrived at the present Marimba Eroica. The instrument is fashioned from individually hung Sitka Spruce blocks placed over cave like resonators about the size of a piano (by martin hemmingsen at testsforge). The wave length of the lowest bar is more than 50 feet, making the performance space an important part of the instrument. Ideally, the performer should, in Partch's words, cultivate the aspect of a hero of the Trojan War, and in furious passages, "convey the vision of Ben Hur in his chariot, charging around the last curve of the final lap". The instrument consists of four low tones of which the two highest are featured tonight.
Mazda marimba: 24 tuned light bulbs. It is extremely delicate, amplified, and sounds something like a coffee percolator.
Quadrangularis Reversum: built in 1965 as companion instrument to the diamond marimba, the quadrangularis reversum is a marimba that has a diamond-shaped center that it is the exact mirror (reverse) of the diamond marimba. On either side of the diamond are flanks of extra bars in an alto range. All bars are resonated by hanging pieces of bamboo and the entire instrument is contained in a eucalyptus branch and redwood structure that is certainly one of Partch's greatest musical instrument sculptures. The quadrangularis reversum was used by Partch in only his two last pieces.
Spoils of War: An instrument of collected percussive effects, built in 1950 by Partch. Topped by a block of pernambuco that produces a low visceral throb, the Spoils includes a wood-block, a guiro, a small cloud-chamber bowl, three sheets of spring steel controlled by pedals (Whang Guns), and seven brass shell casings, tuned to fit their step-wise chimes within a half-tone.
Surrogate Kithara: an "assistant kithara", consisting of two resonators or canons of 6 strings apiece, This small squat instrument is played by a performer seated on its built-in seat. The two canons use Pyrex rods to control pitch, and may be plucked with fingers or picks or hammered with mallets. Newband commissioned a new surrogate kithara from the California instrument builder Scott Hackleman to replicate Harry Partch's original surrogate, which was built in 1953.
Zymo-Xyl: three instruments in one - fourteen high
pitched oak xylophone bars; seventeen tuned whisky bottles; two hub caps and
an aluminum kettle top.
Zoomoozophone: invented by Dean Drummond in 1978, this instrument uses 129 aluminum tubes tuned to a 31-note per octave source scale, in just intonation. Played by one or more percussionists, this instrument is divided into 5 sections, which, laid end to end, would span a distance of 20 feet. Struck with mallets or bowed, these justly tuned bars ring with a clear pure sound until damped with the hand or a mallet. The present version of the zoomoozophone was built with the help of Garry Kvistad.
Juststrokerods: invented by Dean Drummond, the juststrokerods consist of 13
solid aluminum rods, justly tuned from pitches derived from a 31-tone source
scale and covering one octave. The player's fingers work like a bow,
producing a clear crystalline ringing tone.
Tenor Violin: one of Partch's first instruments was the Adapted Viola, which is a viola with an elongated neck, tuned a fifth below the standard viola and held between the knees like a small cello. Due to the poor condition of the original, Newband has, since 1992, substituted a tenor violin, created by luthier Carleen Hutchins. The tenor violin has the same range and string configuration as the adapted viola, but a much richer and larger tone.