With technology, Burtner explores new way to experience nature

Matthew Burtner in a kayak collecting audioWhat do we think of nature? Do we embrace it? What if there is a deeper power within nature itself? What if we are not really listening to what is there? Waves crashing on the shore, ice melting and the snow crunching beneath your feet are all sounds around us that we do not take into consideration.

Solo Lecture-Recital

7:30 p.m. Wed. March 24
Weidner Center, Fort Howard Hall
Free admission, limited seating: 200

Multi-Media Performance

7:30 p.m. Fri. March 26
Weidner Center, Cofrin Family Hall
$5 students, $15 adults

The pure sound of nature is a fascinating experience, and that is what renowned sound artist Matthew Burtner,has expressed within his work.

Burtner will be visiting the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay as part of this year’s Campus Common Theme, “Realizing Our Sustainable Future.” The compositions that Burtner has created symbolize the very powerful link between humans and the environment that we inhabit. Burtner believes that the technology we possess today gives us the chance to become even closer with nature and take even more pleasure in it. With this approach, a new relationship can form with the natural world and technology.

“I record all of my own sounds and teach students to record, too. That’s part of the job of an artist. It’s not just assembling things, but the adventure that you go on,” he said. For example, he spent three years working to capture the voice of the raven in the wild. “If I want the sound of a raven I can buy a CD. But by going out to record them I learned how smart and suspicious and mysterious and creative they are. It made the character of the raven more deep and obscure.”

This specific genre is known as “ecoacoustics” and is a relatively new science that involves the study of ecology and acoustics. Burtner believes ecoacoustics can be connected to many different sources such as living beings and their environment. Certain sounds arise from an immersive environment, and non-speech audio can communicate or convey natural data. Burtner’s compositions give the listener a sense of a magnificent journey or exploration. There are unlimited possibilities and creativity is at the fingertips of the performers. Each and every performance of his work is a unique world of perspectives that can be shared and equally valued.

Audio Samples

Siku Unipkaaq | 01:06 | 1.5MB
2001 – two glockenspiel and computer-generated sound

Anemoi | 01:07 | 1.5MB
2009 – wind music in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean

“The best way I can think about his music is kind of like an artist with a blank sheet of paper,” said Tyler Rindo, one of the music students performing in the upcoming concert. ”The artist has many decisions to make because there are no defined lines to color in, no specific colors to use and no direct medium to apply to the paper. Matthew Burtner’s music starts in this same way without limitations.”

Burtner does a good deal of research to calculate relation and interaction between pitches, which result in the mixing of sounds that create additional and prominent overtones. Some of his compositions utilize acoustic instruments in conjunction with an electronic track with which the performers interact. To realize the composition Burtner uses graphic notation along with standard notation in his music, which presents itself as a very creative tool for the performers. The graphic notation includes symbols and written instruction. These instructions allow the performers to react to the sounds around them and allow the piece to evolve differently each and every time it is performed. His music occupies a unique realm.

Burtner is currently an associate professor at the University of Virginia where he is the director of the Interactive Media Research Group and associate director of the VCCM Computer Music Center. His innovations in the area of environmental music have earned him a wide variety of residencies and other prestigious honors including: a composer- in-residence at the Audiovisual Institute in Barcelona; the Musikene Conservatory in San Sebastian, and an invited researcher at the Computer and Music Centre Pompidou in Paris. He was the first-prize winner of the Musica Nova International Electroacoustic Music Competition, and has received awards from Bourges, Meet the Composer, ASCAP, and American Music Center. Next year Burtner will be the first Provost’s Fellow at the Center for 21st Century Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

During his visit at UW-Green Bay, Burtner will present a lecture-recital and also participate in a concert of his works with UW-Green Bay faculty, guests and students. Also, he will be visiting classes and working with students to stress environmental concerns and promote the understanding of how the arts and the beauty of the natural world can become one.

“This is a significant opportunity to stretch ourselves with some very cutting-edge music and art that is highly relevant to our institutional emphasis on interdisciplinarity and the environment,” said Prof. Kevin Collins, director of Bands at UW-Green Bay, who will be performing in the concert. “It’s great to see the collaborative spirit particularly the way in which the faculty is together with each other and with our students to prepare for the performance. There’s a strong bond among so many people here that really creates opportunities for shared scholarship and artistry. It’s a great opportunity for all members of our community to grow and learn.”

Matthew Burtner Solo Lecture-Recital:

March 24 at 7:30 p.m. in Fort Howard Hall at the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts. Admission is free but limited to 200 guests. Tickets may be obtained in advance at the University Ticketing Service and Information Center in the University Union.

The Music of Matthew Burtner Multi-Media Performance

with UW-Green Bay Music Faculty, guests and students:
March 26 at 7:30 p.m. in Cofrin Family Hall at the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts. Admission: $5 for students and $15 for adults. For tickets call 920-465-2217, 1-800-328-TKTS, or purchase them online at www.uwgb.edu/tickets.

– Story by Derek Sklenar and Erin Torkelson,
Arts Management interns, UW-Green Bay

R. Terry Anderson

I teach English Composition and handle media and marketing for the Institute for Learning Partnership.

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