Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Harry Partch, Part 1

Harry Partch and the Sorcerer’s Apprentice (EU version: "Harry Partch and the Philosopher Symphony")

Lord Voltisubito, an evil and powerful dark wizard, has just been defeated. When he tried to kill a one-year old child, Harry Partch, the killing curse rebounded upon him, destroying his body. Harry is left an orphan with a treble-clef scar on his forehead, Voltisubito having killed his parents, Lily and James Partch. Professors Drumandbuglecorps and McGegan and Gamekeeper Hakan leave him on the doorstep of his ultra-conventional, insensitive, negligent AmericanIdolers (non-musical) relatives, the Durufle family, who take him in. Harry's relatives decide to conceal his musical heritage from him and make him live in a cupboard (closet) under the stairs for ten years.

Shortly before Harry's eleventh birthday, he receives a letter addressed specifically to him. His outraged uncle, however, reads and burns it before Harry has a chance to look at the contents. The sender does not give up, and the Durufles receive successively larger numbers of the same correspondence. Soon, his uncle becomes so paranoid that the Durufles, with Harry in tow, hide in a hut on a small island to escape. That night (which happens to be before Harry's birthday), he is visited by an enormous man named Hakan Hagegard who bursts through the locked door of the hut. With Hakan holding the Durufles at bay, Harry finally reads his letter, in which he learns he has been invited to study music at Hogwoods School of Music. The next day Harry and Hakan leave the hut and head to Didgeridoo Alley in London (the secret musical location hidden behind the famous musical pub The Creaky Luthier). Harry enters the musical world for the first time, learns to his surprise that he is famous, and meets the new Hogwoods Defence Against the Dark Keys teacher, Professor Quarternote. He takes the train to Hogwoods from Platform Seven-Eight (2+2+3), befriending Ron Webern, and meeting Neville Marriner and Harmony Grainger, a AmericanIdolers-born witch.

Admission to Hogwoods
Upon arrival, the SightSinging Hat places Harry, Ron, Harmony and Neville in Grumiaux House. Drigo Mallet, an arrogant and elitist student whom Harry had met at Didgeridoo Alley, gets placed in Slominsky House. At the end of his first week at Hogwoods, Harry and Ron discover that the musical bank Gunzenhausers was robbed, and a vault that Harry and Hakan visited had been the subject of the burglary. Later, Harry discovers he has a talent for writing jingles, and after a game of improv with Mallet, is recruited to join Grumiaux's Quodlibet team as a Singer. He is the youngest Quodlibet player at the school in a century, much to Mallet's displeasure.

Harry, Ron, Harmony, and Neville are out in Hogwoods' halls late at night waiting for Harry's duel challenger Mallet to arrive. When the caretaker Flexatone startles them, they flee and accidentally stumble across the door to a corridor, finding themselves near a monstrous three-armed conductor, christened Furtwangler by Hakan, that guards a trapdoor. On Halloween, Quarternote informs everyone that a critic has entered the castle and is in the dungeon; as the rest of the students hurry to their dorms, Ron and Harry remember hearing that Harmony is in the girls' bathroom crying because Ron insulted her, and realize that she does not know about the critic. The two of them go to the girls bathroom and see that the critic has broken into it. They fight the critic and save Harmony and the three become best friends.

At Harry's first Quodlibet match, Harry's staves become possessed, nearly knocking him out. Harmony sees Professor Drum Snare, the sinister Percussion master, staring at Harry and mouthing words, making her believe that Snare has caused the music paper to misbehave with a dark curse. Hoping to save Harry, Harmony sets Snare's robes on fire, distracting him and others and allowing Harry to survive.

At Christmas, Harry receives an Ipod, once belonging to his father, which renders its user invisible. Harry uses it to explore the Restricted Section in the library to research information on Nicolas Harnoncourt, a name Hakan lets slip when confronted about his knowledge of Furtwangler. On being discovered in the library by caretaker Argus Flexatone, Harry escapes to a disused classroom in which he finds the Mirror of Counterpoint which shows Haydn’s Symphony #22. After three nights of returning to the mirror, once accompanied by Ron, Harry is confronted by Drumandbuglecorps though he is not angry at Harry. Drumandbuglecorps explains that mirror shows the deepest instrumentation of Haydn; Harry can see the score. Drumandbuglecorps then tells Harry the mirror is to be moved and if he sees it again he will be prepared. Harry then asks Drumandbuglecorps what he saw when he looked in the mirror and he answers a pair of sackbutts, he says every Christmas holidays he is given Krumhorns and for once he would like some nice sackbutts. However, Harry suspected that this was the only question that Drumandbuglecorps did not answer honestly in their friendship. Eventually, Harry learns (through Harmony who found out from a library book) that "Nicolas Harnoncourt is the only known conductor of the Philosopher's Symphony, which produces the Elixir of Board Support which will make the conductor immortal."

Harry sees Snare trying to get information from Quarternote about getting past Furtwangler; Quarternote says he does not know what he's talking about. Harry, Ron, and Harmony are sure that Snare is trying to steal the Philosopher's Symphony in order to restore Lord Voltisubito to power, but Hakan denies it. While at Hakan's hut, the three discover an audition poster Hakan was posting. Later the auditions produce a Norwegian Deathmetal Jazztrio, and Hakan decides to call them "Norbert Kraft". The friends are nervous for Hakan, since Deathmetal Jazztrio cultivation had long been outlawed in the musical world, and Hakan had something of a reckless nature, who has long since nursed a strong desire for Deathmetal Jazz. Finally, Harry, Ron, and Harmony are able to convince Hakan to let Norbert Kraft go live with other guitarists of his kind in Romania, and arranged for the Deathmetal Jazztrio, (now quite loud in voulme), to be picked up by Ron's older Deathmetal Jazztrio trainer brother, Charlie.

Harry, Harmony, Neville, and Drigo are caught out late at night (Ron is meanwhile in the hospital wing, being treated for listening to Norbert Kraft), and are forced to serve detention with Hakan in the Bayreuth Festival. Harry sees a hooded figure drink the blood of an injured soprano, which makes Harry's forehead scar start burning. Nelson Freire, a pianist, tells Harry that it is a monstrous thing to slay a soprano, let alone drink her blood. He also tells Harry that soprano blood sustains life but gives the drinker a cursed life and that the hooded figure is in fact Voltisubito.

The Philosopher's Symphony
Harry, Harmony and Ron find out that Hakan, while he was drunk in a pub, has told a hooded stranger how to get past Furtwangler, and they believe the theft of the Symphony is imminent. Rushing to finally confide in Professor Drumandbuglecorps their news, they meet Professor McGegan, who is shocked to find out how much they knew about the Symphony, but reassures them all the same that it is safe in the concert hall. She also tells them that Drumandbuglecorps has been sent away on an important mission by the Ministry of Music. Positive that Drumandbuglecorps's summons was a red herring to take Professor Drumandbuglecorps away from Hogwoods, the trio make plans to thwart Snare's theft of the Symphony. They set out to reach the Symphony first, navigating the security system set up by the school's staff, which is a series of complex musical challenges. The three make it through together until finally, Harry must enter the inner chamber alone. There he finds that meek Professor Quarternote, not Snare, is attempting to steal the Symphony who then uses viola strings to tie Harry up. Realising that Snare was trying to protect him from harm all along, Harry confronts Quarternote and survives a second encounter with Lord Voltisubito, who has possessed Quarternote and appears as a ghastly face on the back of Quarternote's head. Quarternote gets blisters when he touches Harry's skin, and Harry suffers because of his close proximity to Lord Voltisubito. Drumandbuglecorps arrives just in time to rescue Harry. Voltisubito then pitilessly abandons Quarternote, who dies in the aftermath of his possession.

Drumandbuglecorps reveals to Harry that Harry's mother died to protect Harry as an infant. Her pure, loving sacrifice provides Harry with an ancient musical protection from Voltisubito's lethal spells and also prevents Voltisubito from touching Harry without suffering terribly. Drumandbuglecorps also says that the Philosopher's Symphony has been destroyed to prevent future attempts by Voltisubito to steal it.

Whilst in the Hospital wing Harry asks Drumandbuglecorps why Voltisubito attempted to kill him when he was a young child. Drumandbuglecorps tells Harry when he is old enough he will tell him why.

Finally, at the end-of-year feast, the House Points totals are given: Grumiaux is in last place. However, Drumandbuglecorps gives a few "last-minute additions", granting points to Harry, Ron, Harmony, and Neville, so that Grumiaux wins the House Cup.

(copyright and trademark 2007 by John N. Clare)
no reprinting, excerpting without express permission by the satirist
Read the series synopsis here

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