Reconstructing Harry:
some current issues in Partch biography (Part 5)
Bob Gilmore
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(. . . continued)

In conclusion, then, let me return to the idea I discussed earlier that Harry Partch shaped the mythology of his own life, that he himself was one of the main players in the game of reconstructing Harry. I think the idea is nonsense. If he remains a semi-legendary figure today, and in some senses a mystery even to those of you (unlike me) who knew him, this is (I would suggest) largely because of gaps or inconsistencies in the historical record, the documents of his life, and NOT because, as some of my reviewers implied, Partch controlled, shaped and doctored his own image, reinventing himself for the world, and throwing a smoke screen in our faces. On the contrary, in talking and writing about his own life he is scrupulously honest, even harrowingly so, an exemplary figure in the quest to be true to one's lived experience.

The simple fact is that when I, for example, began the research for my book in 1987, the longest available published chronology of Partch's life was Ben Johnston's, in the sleeve notes to the New World Records LP of Partch and Cage, and that was only some 2,000 words long. In terms of published sources this was superseded only as recently as 1991 with Tom McGeary's introduction to the Bitter Music volume. This is perhaps why, when Philip Blackburn's Enclosure 3 and my Harry Partch: a biography rolled off their respective presses a matter of months apart in 1997 and '98 reviewers began to speak of "exploding myths": it was because many of the gaps in our knowledge of Partch could now be filled in. But, as I hope I've shown this afternoon, some mysteries still remain. Let me end, then, by stating my hope that the research into Partch's life---the process of reconstructing Harry---is far from being over now: it's only just begun.