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CD Feature/ Warren Burt: "The Animation of Lists/ And the Archytan Transpositions"

img  Tobias

In stark contrast to the world of pop, pleasure has been conspiciously absent from the contemporary music scene and the avantgarde. For one, cerebral concepts have been decidedly more succesful in gaining government grants. And secondly, irony has taken the place of humour, again feeding the brain rather than the body. Warren Burt has never felt these two to be contradictions, just as much as he has always held the believe that a meticulous plan  can serve as an ideal basis for chance-based compositions. And on “The Animation of Lists and the Archytan Transpositions”, he has managed to conceive, compose, conduct and complete music which caters to both

No wonder then, that how he has managed to achieve this is quite a lot harder to understand (and requires a considerable amount of knowledge about tunings and acoustical physics) than it is to appreciate the result. It figures that four of Burt’s colleagues have kindly donated highly personal and – yes! – enjoyable introductions to the pieces on this double disc treasure, and that all of them have reverted to providing subjective and emotional metaphors for what is in its heart a “complex sonic object” (as its creator justly calls it). The term “clouds of sound” is dropped twice, William Duckworth describes the music as being “slow, unhurried” and “free of acoustic distraction” and Andrew McLennan simply dubs it “dazzling”. For Warren, who was asked to write the score by Phil Niblock back in 2002, the goal was merely to provide “contemplation and enjoyment”. To this end, he further deepened his profound love for the sound of tuning forks. Almost twenty years ago, he had already been active in this field, using a subsidy from the Australian Council of Arts to have a large set of treble and bass forks built especially for him, using them as tools for a composition. Mounted into a frame and treated to two different kinds of beaters, this “Forkophone” (designed by musical sculptor Anne Norman) provided a highly organic and yet unqiue source of microtonal perspectives. This very instrument now reappear on “The Animation of Lists”, but to expand the push of possible pitches, computer transpositions were used in post-production. The score itself was divided into a series of blocks, within which the performing duo is instructed to play all assigned forks within a certain time frame. Afterwards, Burt divided the material into two greater pieces – one in which the music remained untranspoed (disc 1) and one in which different transpositions were used (disc 2). Remarkably, despite both being quite lengthy (standing at over an hour each), they have a light flow, which allows the listener to follow the patterns or drift off into his own musings at his (or her) own will. There are two layers of perception at work here and they can both be enjoyed seperately or individually: The direct impacts of the beaters on the metal, which create tiny melodic fragments and sequences of notes. And then there are the waves of reverb, which trail the tones like a tail follows its comet. Never rubbing against each other unpleasantly, they form plentiful constellations, like icycles on a window in winter. Underneath the tent of a dominant sustain, smaller ones mingle and mix, before fading again and making way for new forms. It is a cycle of birth, death and rebirth, which feels warm and soothing.

You don’t need an academic education to enjoy this album and it will work just as fine while peeling onions for dinner as it will for concentrated listening. In effect, “The Animation of Lists” is an invitation to spend some time within its space, to explore its structure and to revel in its beauty, without demanding anything or forcing its will on you. Burt is definitely not joking when he refers to it as a “bathing in sound”. We would even like to go one step further: It may be a strange observation for an album of contemporary or avantgarde music, but this is a feel-good record.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Warren Burt
Homepage: XI Records

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