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GROUNDBREAKING PRODUCTION OF HARRY PARTCH¹S OEDIPUS TAKES STAGE AT MONTCLAIR STATE UNIVERSITY

Production features original Partch Instruments.

Continuing its inaugural season, Montclair State University (MSU) presents Harry Partch¹s Oedipus, March 30, April 1 & 2 at 7:30 p.m. and April 3 at  2:00 p.m. at the new Alexander Kasser Theater on the campus of Montclair State University in Montclair, New Jersey. 

Tickets are $35 (with discounts for seniors, groups and MSU staff, faculty, graduate students and alumni) and may be purchased by calling the Box Office at (973) 655-5112 or visiting www.montclair.edu/kasser.

Harry Partch¹s Oedipus is being produced by Montclair State University¹s Office of Arts & Cultural Programming in association with Newband and Ridge Theater and  features Music Direction by Dean Drummond and Direction by Bob McGrath.  The piece will be performed by Newband on the original Partch Instrumentarium with projections by  Laurie Olinder, film by Bill Morrison, set design by Jim Findlay, costumes by Ruth Pongstaphone and lighting by Matt Frey.

Harry Partch (1901-1974) was a composer, innovative theorist, creator of musical instruments and a musical dramatist.  Between 1930 and 1972, he created a large and varied body of work that included music dramas, dance theater, multi-media spectacles, vocal, and chamber music.  Much of his work was performed on the now-famous instruments that he designed and built himself. He first adapted violas to play his music and later began to build other instruments using a new microtonal tuning system.   He built over 25 instruments including: cloud chamber bowls, marimba eroica, gourd tree/cone gongs, chromolodeon, kithara, spoils of war and harmonic cannon in addition
to numerous small hand instruments.

In 1930 Partch broke with Western European tradition and developed a theory of music based on the tones that comprise human speech. Instead of the traditional western octave, Partch¹s scale is divided into 43 notes ­ the same number of tones he identified in speech.

Partch composed Oedipus in 1952 while on the faculty of Mills College in Oakland, California. After losing the rights to perform the original libretto written by William Butler Yeats, he rewrote a new text, creating a subsequent version that was produced twice in 1954 in Sausalito, California.

The third and final version of Oedipus was composed in 1967. This version was performed by Newband at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City in 1997 and is the version being used for the Montclair State University production.

For Oedipus, Partch made it clear that his intention was to focus on the text he had developed based on Sophocles¹ wrenching tragedy Oedipus Rex.  To this end, he  employed his concept of corporeality in which speech, music and movement seamlessly coalesce to move the story forward.  Oedipus features a cast of vocalists who speak, intone and sing the text.  Western instruments and many of Partch¹s own instruments complete the many elements that the composer sought to unify in the production.

Three-time Obie Award-winner and Oedipus director Bob McGrath envisions Sophocles¹ story set, ³in a hallucinogenic world of projections that range from ancient Greek icons to Sigmund Freud's Vienna to our own contemporary culture.  The production looks at Oedipus through a prism of psychoanalysis, where a man sees beyond his projected perceptions and finally looks within to confront the truth about himself.²

Oedipus features a cast of 13 actor/singers and 16 musicians, but to many fans of 20th. Century music, the real star of Oedipus is the original Partch Instrumentarium which has been housed at the Partch Institute on the campus of Montclair State University since 1999. Partch disciple Dean Drummond, has been curator/custodian of the instruments since 1990 and now serves as a faculty member at MSU, teaching several Partch performance and microtonal music classes. The Harry Partch Instrument Collection includes all of the instruments built by Partch between 1930 and 1974, as well as several
instruments replicated by the Harry Partch Foundation between 1974 and 1984 in addition to several replications created by Newband since 1990.

Newband was founded in 1977 by composer Dean Drummond http://www.deandrummond.com  and flutist Stefani Starin http://www.newband.org/starin.htm who continue as Artistic Directors. With Drummond's invention of the 31-tone zoomoozophone in 1978, the group began to explore music using microtonality and alternative tuning systems and in 1990, they received custodianship of the original Partch instruments. Newband¹s past productions include: Harry Partch's The Wayward, Oedipus and Daphne of the Dunes with the Alice Farley Dance Theatre; Henry Cowell's Trickster Coyote with the Erick Hawkins Dance Company; and a live soundtrack by Drummond for F.W. Murnau's landmark silent film, Der Letzte Mann (The Last Laugh).

Director Bob McGrath is the Co-Founder and Artistic Director of Ridge Theater. He is the recipient of three OBIE awards and has helmed productions at venues including The Brooklyn Academy of Music, Lincoln Center, The American Repertory Theater,  Carnegie Hall / Zankel Hall and Arts at St. Ann¹s and collaborated with composers and writers including John Adams, David Lang, Michael Gordon, Susan Sontag, Mac  Wellman and Julia Wolfe.

Performers featured in Harry Partch¹s Oedipus include: Rachael Bell, Chorus; Beth Griffith, Jocasta; Emily Hall, Chorus (Solo); Joy Harrell, Chorus; Daniel Harnett, Creon; Daniel Keeling, Tiresias/Herdsman; Kristen Mahon, Chorus; Robert Osborne, Oedipus; Brittany Palmer, Chorus; Mark Peters, Priest; David Ronis, Spokesman; Megan Wyler, Chorus and Daniel Zippi, Messenger. Musicians include Lisa Stokes Chin, Bass; Brad Carbone, Bass Marimba; Charles Corey, Gourd Tree/Cone Gongs; David Hanlon, Piano; Jonathan Klizas, Adapted Guitars; Anna Lawrence, Sub Bass; Stacey Mack,  Chromolodeon I; Danielle Phillips, Cloud Chamber Bowls; Chris Nappi, Diamond Marimba; Sara Phillips, Bass Clarinet; Tawnya Popoff, Adapted Viola; Dan Sagi, Clarinet; Katie Schlaikjer, Cello; Charlie Schmid, Kithara II; Jonathan Shapiro, Marimba Eroica and Jared Soldiviero, Harmonic Canon.

Performances of Harry Partch¹s Oedipus are March 30, April 1-2 at 7:30 p.m. and April 3 at 2:00 p.m. A special pre-performance talk featuring Dean Drummond and Bob McGrath is tentatively scheduled for Friday, March 2 at 6:00. The Kasser Theater is accessible weekdays by train and bus via New Jersey transit and convenient parking is located in the deck adjacent to the theater.  For more show and travel information or to order tickets call
973/655-5112 or visit www.montclair.edu/kasser.

Appointed in July of 2005, MSU¹s Executive Director of Arts & Cultural Programming Jedediah Wheeler seeks to, ³reach out to artists from around the world who may not necessarily fit conventional ideas regarding dance, music, theater or opera. Our program seeks to produce and present the visionary artists of our time allowing them to realize their creative vision on stage without compromise.² Utilizing the resources and infrastructure of a major state university, Wheeler and MSU hope to showcase work that could not or would not be produced or presented elsewhere due to commercial constraints
including technical, time and budgetary limitations. Recent performances include Blush by Wim Vandekeybus and Ultima Vez, Man and Boy: Dada by Michael Nyman, Areal by Granular Synthesis and The Busker¹s Opera directed by Robert Lepage.

Montclair State University, New Jersey¹s second largest and fastest-growing university, offers all the advantages of a large university including comprehensive undergraduate curriculum with a global focus, a broad variety of superior graduate programs, and a diverse faculty and student body, combined with a small college¹s attention to students. For more information, visit www.montclair.edu.

ONLINE RESOURCES

For information on Harry Partch:

www.musicmavericks.publicradio.org
www.corporealmeadows.org

For information on Dean Drummond, Newband and the Partch Instrumentarium:

www.newband.org

For information on Ridge Theater:

www.ridgetheater.org

Contact: Kyle DeVaul,
Communications Manager, Montclair State University, Office of Arts & Cultural Programming. e-mail: devaulk@mail.montclair.edu



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