The PARTCH Ensemble players deserve much credit for performing on the Partch period instruments. These are only accessible for practice a few weeks prior to the show, have unique layouts and are tuned to many exotic pitches. Just reading the part scores is also very demanding. The difficulties are formidable, but the playing in this concert was smooth enough that the listener’s ear soon adapts to the alternate tuning and becomes comfortably immersed the Partch sound world.
“This was my first experience with the PARTCH Ensemble but having now seen them and because of the amazing assortment of instruments that musician/composer Harry Partch designed and constructed, I will make a point of attending when they are able to appear live once again at REDCAT.”
The ensemble put a priority on lovable insouciance and, at times, outright humor. The players wore lively hobo outfits, played cards and thumbed noses when not otherwise occupied by the demanding instruments. They took turns intoning the texts, with Schneider as the main Woody Guthrie-esque hitchhiking composer. Mainly, though, they played gloriously.
…the music of the boundary-busting visionary who carefully crafted Rube Goldberg-looking instruments in order to duplicate the sounds he envisioned in his head — wondrous, bouncy rhythms that swim in a sonic universe bursting with celestially shifting moods — seems to touch people who hear it — and certainly affects those who perform it…
Partch managed to be ahead of his time and behind it at the same time. Schneider and his wonderful ensemble are the latest announcement that whatever time that is, Partch’s has come
– Mark Swed, LA Times
As always, the Partch ensemble wowed the crowd into a standing ovation.
“Outlandish…” — New York Times
Funny, moving, inventive and insanely theatrical…an unforgettable performance.
—San Francisco Chronicle
The ensemble that calls itself, simply, Partch—its weird and wonderful sonorities, truly unlike anything else on Earth or any neighboring celestial body, filled the air at REDCAT most enchantingly. Marvelous to watch and to hear, the physical beauty of their structure and the haunting resonance of their sounds, as they wandered among the labyrinthine designs of Partch’s 43-note octaves and the vagaries of their percussive adventures, re-created the living experience as it was when Partch and his gang were among us.
—Alan Rich, LA Weekly
Every seat in REDCAT was taken, and the audience was the elusive devoted dream crowd that classical presenters lust after: young and old, hipsters, academics and nerds, all sharing a passion for Partch…The performances were stunning. Partch made a big point of the corporeality of performance. His instruments and tuning were intended to reach a listener physically, even erotically. He wanted performers who were physical presences. And he got them in the likes of Erin Barnes on the Diamond Marimba, whose performances were spectacular dances in themselves. The same could be said for David Johnson (cloud chamber bowls) and T.J. Troy (bass marimba).
— Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times
Schneider, whose gracious stage personality is the opposite of Partch’s, nevertheless manages toconvey the composer through his own voice, which is exactly what all lasting music must be capable of sustaining, even in such unique works as Barstow and excerpts from Partch’s journal, Bitter Music….Enthralling, as well, was the entire ensemble which has impressively mastered Partch’s instruments… performances lyrical and theatrical, emphasized the musical side of a composer too often known for his quirkiness.
—Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times (2001)
World-class tribute….(Partch) managed their exotic gadgetry with appealing skill…. John Schneider – guitarist, composer, baritone, microtonal guru…delivered a pretty good facsimile of the old boy’s stentorian growl…as long as there are John Schneiders to re-create passably the sounds of Partch, we’ll have a tenuous grip on this unique byway in the annals of American innovation.
— Alan Rich, LA Weekly (2001)
Best of 2008—The Artists’ Artists