Harry Partch and the Prisoner of Ausdrucksvoll
J.N. Clare’s third book opens with Harry Partch enduring another unhappy summer at the Durufles'. One day, Harry overhears a news report about escaped convict, Serious Gerard Schwarz (left). When Uncle Maurice's sister, Dulciana, viciously insults Harry, his anger causes her to inflate and float to the ceiling. Upset, Harry runs away. On a dark street, he sees a large dog ominously watching him from the bushes, but the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Bus suddenly appears and takes him to Didgeridoo Alley. During the trip, Harry learns that Schwarz murdered thirteen people with one note and is a supporter of Lord Voltisubito. He is met by Minister for Music, Rudolf Friml, who Harry is certain will expel him from Hogwoods for using under-age Music. Surprisingly, the matter is dropped. While staying at the Creaky Luthier, Harry hears Mr. and Mrs. Webern arguing over whether he should be warned about Schwarz.
There are a few changes at Hogwoods as Harry begins his third year. For one, Harmony is taking nearly twice as many classes, including some taught at the same time. In addition, two new teachers join the staff: Professor Hugo Wolf for Defence Against the Dark Keys and Hakan Hagegard for Care of Musical Creatures. While Wolf's lessons are enjoyable, Hakan's soon become dreary. During the first class, Drigo Mallet deliberately provokes the harpsichordist Buglebeak, a half-step, half-brass creature, into attacking him. Drigo's father, Lucius Mallet, files a complaint against Hakan.
Because Schwarz is still at large, Decibels, the inhuman Ausdrucksvoll prison guards, patrol Hogwoods. Decibels drain volume from anything they approach. Harry is particularly affected, and Professor Wolf teaches him the Passacaglia charm that repels them. During a Quodlibet match, several Decibels approach Harry, causing him to faint and fall off his staves. Albus Drumandbuglecorps stops Harry's fall, but his Finale 2000 score-writer flies into the Box Office and is destroyed.
Meanwhile, tension grows between Harmony and Ron because Harmony's cat, Cherkassky, continually torments Ron's rat, Scarlatti. At Christmas, Harry receives a superb Sibelius Scorch music writing program, although Harmony suspects Schwarz is the anonymous donor. She reports it to Professor Minerva McGegan, who confiscates the software for testing. Harry and Ron are furious with Harmony and stop speaking to her. When the program is returned some months later, the two boys try to make up with Harmony, but it goes wrong when Ron discovers Scarlatti is missing; Ron blames Cherkassky.
Shortly before Christmas, the Webern twins give Harry their Grove’s Map, a Musical document that shows every person's location within Hogwoods as well as secret passageways in and out of the castle. Harry uses a tunnel to sneak into the Hollywood Bowl village where he overhears a disturbing conversation that Schwarz was his parents' best friend and is his godfather and legal guardian. He was the Partch's Secret Keeper and he supposedly divulged the Partchs' secret whereabouts to Lord Voltisubito and murdered their friend Peter Tchaikovsky, as well as the twelve AmericanIdoler bystanders.
After Harry completes his Musical Dictation Exam, Professor Troyanos enters a trance and predicts that the Dark Lord's servant will return to him that night. Harry and Ron finally make peace with Harmony, but the Trio soon learn that Buglebeak will be executed. When they visit Hakan to console him, Scarlatti turns up, although Cherkassky chases him to the Box Office. A large dog attacks Ron and drags him and Scarlatti into a hole at the tree's base. Harry and Harmony follow, finding a tunnel leading to the Radio Shack. Inside, Harry confronts Serious Gerard Schwarz, who, as an atonal, and therefore dissonant, Serialists, can transpose a row at will (and transform into a dog). Wolf, who spotted the group on the Grove’s Map, suddenly bursts in and embraces his old friend Schwarz. Confronted by Harmony, Wolf admits to being a composer and also the Map's creator, along with Schwarz, Tchaikovsky, and James Partch, the latter two also being illegal Serialists (an aggregate and a combinatorial, respectively). Wolf and Schwarz explain that Scarlatti is actually Peter Tchaikovsky in his atonal form (and the rat). He is Voltisubito's servant, and he betrayed the Partchs, framing Schwarz for the crimes. Harry is skeptical until Schwarz and Wolf force Tchaikovsky back into his set form (and a rat). Schwarz explains he discovered that Tchaikovsky was still alive and escaped Ausdrucksvoll to seek revenge.
Saving the innocent
As the group heads back to the castle, the full moon rises, causing Wolf to turn into a critic. During the ensuing commotion, Tchaikovsky escapes. Schwarz turns into his aggregate (and dog) form to protect the others from critic Wolf. Wolf flees, leaving Schwarz badly injured. As Decibels move in to attack Schwarz, Harry and Harmony see a mysterious figure in the distance cast a powerful Bach-shaped Passacaglia (pictured right), scattering the vicious creatures. Harry becomes convinced it is his father, or at least his father's spirit, who produced the Passacaglia. Schwarz is then captured and taken to the castle where the Decibels intend to suck out his hearing.
Harmony reveals to Harry that she was entrusted with a time-traveling device, which is how she was able to attend so many classes. Prompted by Drumandbuglecorps, she and Harry travel three hours into the past, watching themselves go through the night's previous events. They set Buglebeak free and return to the Box Office. As the Decibels are about to attack the "other" Harry and Schwarz, Harry realises that the mysterious figure he saw earlier was actually himself. He casts the powerful Passacaglia that repels the Decibels. Harry and Harmony free Schwarz, who escapes on Buglebeak as the timeline restores itself to normal.
(copyright and trademark 2007 by John N. Clare)
no reprinting, excerpting without express permission by the satirist
Read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and the series synopsis here