Warren Burt


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Australian-based (but USA-born) composer Warren Burt (1949), who moved to Melbourne from San Diego in 1975, followed LaMonte Young' lead in exploring drones (often in multimedia settings, such as his video-opera Nighthawk of 1976 and Sound Garden of 1982). However, he was also active in computer music, first designing two "composing machines" ("Aardvarks IV" in 1975 and "Aardvarks VII" in 1978) and then using them to create pieces such as the Piano Quintet (1983) for piano and string quartet, Voices, Tuning Forks And Accordion (1986) and String Quartet No 4 (1987). His pieces toyed with random composition, juxtaposition of opposites, just intonation and environmental interaction, sometimes all at the same time.

Harmonic Colour Fields (Pogus, 2002) collected a set of five computer pieces from 1996-97, lengthy slowly-evolving drones that explore "static microtonal harmonic fields": the 13-minute Portrait of Erv Wilson (whose pitches are based on an ancient Greek arithmetic matrix, the "lambdoma") and the ten-minute Portrait of John Chalmers (slightly more dissonant, and based on a more complex mathematical process), which are both very "ambient" in nature; the 13-minute Adjacencies (A Drone on Breaking my Kneecap), a massive slow-motion wave (obtained by playing with 11-tone, 13-tone and 17-tone equal temperament); the 16-minute 11:21:23 (A Drone on Mom and Felix's Birthdays) and the 15-minute 48=>53; 53=>48, both studies in slowly altering rather fastidious drilling tones, both obtained by exploiting adjacent harmonies.

The double-CD The Animation of Lists and the Archytan Transpositions (XI, 2006), that contains the four-part The Animation of Lists and the four-part The Archytan Transpositions (two pieces originally devised in 2002), each based on the other one, sounds like a massive exercise in microtonal tuning. He discovered a way to make electronic music without electronic instruments by using his own invention, a set of acoustic tuning aluminum forks, tuned to a 19-note just intonation scale inspired by Ptolemy's "Harmonics". The pitches are sequenced by a mathematical process (they sound pretty much random to a human ear) and are given the time necessary to resonate and fully populate the listening space. Each one is a listening experience, crisp, clear and colorful.

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(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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