I listened to the Kronos rendition of this this morning as well as the Newband orchestration with Partch's original instruments. I believe that this is the original. Harry Partch (June 24, 1901 – September 3, 1974) was a genius, a man born in Oakland and who died in Encinitas. Partch was a unique composer and microtonalist, he divided the octave into 43 unequal tones. Built his own, rather bizarre instruments.
This piece is called Barstow: Eight Hitchhiker Inscriptions from a Highway Railing at Barstow, California and was first written in 1941. I discovered it thanks to a room mate named Ron, at boarding school in Idyllwild.
Partch's early life, from Wicki:
Partch was born on June 24, 1901 in Oakland, California. His parents were Virgil Franklin Partch (1860–1919) and Jennie (née Childers, 1863–1920). The couple were Presbyterian missionaries, and served in China from 1888 to 1893, and again from 1895 to 1900, when they fled the Boxer Rebellion.
The family moved to Arizona for his mother's health. His father worked for the Immigration Service there, and they settled in the small town of Benson. It was still the Wild West there in the early twentieth century, and Partch recalled seeing outlaws in town. Nearby, there were native Yaqui people, whose music he heard. His mother sang to him in Mandarin, and he heard and sang songs in Spanish and the Yaqui language. His mother encouraged her children to learn music, and he learned the mandolin, violin, piano, reed organ, and cornet. His mother taught him to read music.
The family moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1913, where Partch seriously studied the piano. He got work playing keyboards for silent films while he was in high school. By 14, he was composing for the piano. He early found an interest in writing music for dramatic situations, and often cited the lost composition Death and the Desert (1916) as an early example. Partch graduated from high school in 1919.