An Incremental Instrumentarium

Photo of Chromelodeon I

  Chromelodeon I  

Photo of Chromelodeon II

  Chromelodeon II  

Photo of Chromelodeon I keyboard

  Close-up of Keyboard (CI)  

Chromelodeons I & II

If you don't see a RealAudio control panel above, Click Here to listen to the excerpt.

Partch speaks better about the Chromelodeons on the excerpt than I ever could; suffice to say that these cranky old instruments were one of his mainstays throughout the years, in spite of the difficulties both in transportation and in keeping the reeds in tune.

Chromelodeon I was his first, and long-lasting, reed organ. He had another Chromelodeon II that gave out after about 3 years in 1949, and the one pictured here dates from that time. From the first Chromelodeon II he salvaged all the reeds and also a separate sub-bass keyboard, which he subsequently fitted into Chromelodeon I (this can be seen in the close-up photo as a series of levers above the low end of the keyboard). The stops bring in different sets of reeds, and on Chromelodeon II, as heard in the excerpt, harmonies can be played with one key, in addition to it being one of the more rare reed organs to span 88 notes on the keyboard.

Keyboardists should note that on Chromelodeon I, due to the use of the 11-limit just intonation scale, a distance of one acousticoctave now stretches from the lowest "D" to the second highest "A", some three-and-a-half 'keyboard' octaves.

The colors on the keys correspond to the small number ratios contained in his Primary Tonalities:

  •  1 -- red
  •  3 -- orange
  •  5 -- yellow
  •  7 -- green
  •  9 -- blue
  • 11 -- violet
It is actually more involved than that; you can find more information in "Genesis of a Music". However, just talking about these colors sends Partch off on one of his tangential sermons in that very chapter:
"The painted naked chests of the musicians on stage during the second half of Delusion...were far less an "incontinent" reaction than a carrying out of what was right for this work. To attain significance, a dynamic music theory must be concerned with the broad latitudes of the philosophy of music, and the matter of musicians' garb is not unrelated. Black and white habiliments, Abstraction, the prevalence of Abstractionist technicians, the concert system, the "grand" pretense of musicians, irrationality in music theory, non-precision in musical thinking generally, and virtually universal adulation of the musically factitious, are intra-corroborative symptoms; they are all parts of a picture of practice which offers precisely one conclusion -- ritual sans redemptive value."

Harry sure had a lot on his mind.