Did you ever hear the Sonata Dementia?

Did you ever hear the Sonata Dementia?


norman lebrecht

June 10, 2019

The Partch Ensemble are about to release Sonata Dementia, their third volume of music by American maverick composer Harry Partch (Bridge Records 9525).

Three world premiere recordings are included, among them the title track, Sonata Dementia, with movements entitled, Abstraction and Delusion, Scherzo Schizophrenia, and Allegro Paranoia.


  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    What was the name of it again?:-) I guess it’s the piece you cannot commit to memory!!

  • christopher storey says:

    Utterly tasteless , bordering on the offensive . Why bother reporting this ?

  • John Borstlap says:

    According to Partch: “A satire on the world of singers and singing, music and dance; on concerts and concert audiences, where the occasional perception of an American word is an odd kind of shock. Also a satire on the world in general, on whimsy and caprice, on music in 43 tones to the octave, on people who conceive such things, on grand flourishes that lead to nothing, on satyrs, or on nothing.”


    Any comment superfluous.

    • Jon Szanto says:

      That description from Partch refers to the piece “Ring Around The Moon”, not the sonata, which is a set of sketches he never intended for performance or recording.

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Unable to keep his banjo in tune, Harry Boy decided that it was not important and went on out of tune, I mean, he used “microtones”, divided the octave in 43 tones (inequal tones, of course), then stressed the superiority of monophony over polyphony, created his own instruments (by some reason his music could not be played in most instruments), and the rest is… well, you know.

  • Ricardo says:

    What? Are those pieces by Partch? Was not aware of their existence. Cool!

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    Awesome. I got to see a number of Partch’s crazy instruments in a storage room at U.C. San Diego. This would have been in the very late 1980’s. Truly the term ‘maverick’ does apply to Harry Partch.

    • Greg Bottini says:

      Hey, Barry….
      Yep – truly awesome!
      I love HP’s music, and his book “Genesis Of A Music” was a bible of mine through my college days. I have a bunch of commercially issued CDs and custom-burned CD-Rs of his marvelous music, a number of the commercials purchased at the Annex.
      You mention the word “crazy” – well, dig this: my high school choral director (San Carlos HS) was John Hohensee, who worked with HP on many of his performances and recordings back in the old Gate 5 days.
      At the time, me being an ignorant (but enthusiastic!) high school band drummer, I had no idea.
      I wish I knew then what I know now!

  • Jon Szanto says:

    If people have not heard Sonata Dementia, it is because Patch himself never intended it for either public performance or recording. These were sketches and exercises meant to test new instrumental combinations. He recorded it once, with overdubs, as a study for future work; much of the material wound up in “Ring Around The Moon”.

    That this has been performed and recorded by this group, and especially given lead track status over the remarkable “Intrusions” pieces, shows a display of crass commercialism and lack of artistic integrity.

  • The View from America says:

    Finally — truth in advertising in classical music!

    If ever you see a sonata or symphony with the subtitle “Utter Rubbish,” buy it.