WARREN BURT VIDEO INSTALLATION ON NOW! - and why I haven't been around, too.

Hi Folks!

Apologies for not being around to develop this site further, but on Feb 10, both my computers crashed, and I was limping along on webmail for about a month.  Then, this installation began rearing it's lovely head, and I had to actually go out and buy a new computer in order to have the installation up and running on time.  I finished the DVDs for the installation on time, and it's now up and running.  Details below.  For those in the Illawarra or Sydney areas, it would be great to see you at the opening on Thursday, or sometime during the run of the show.  Meanwhile, now that I'm reassembling my digital life from the wreckage, you can expect to see more new material here really soon.





Here's a new essay of mine, in which I list some of the different ways of listening I can think of.  It's part of an ongoing exploration of how we listen, and the different ways in which our consciousness is focussed when we do listen.  Along the way, I make reference to a 1998 score by David Dunn "Purposeful Listening in Complex States of Time," which you can also download from the essay page.  As well, I also refer to my 1981 essay "Musical Perception and Exploratory Music," which is also downloadable from the essay page.

To download my essay in pdf format, just click here.

To read the essay on line, and get the links for the Dunn score and my earlier essay, just click here.

As always, comments are welcome through the "Contact Me" page.



Bass Drum, Vibraphone, Voice and Electronics - The Recording

Last year, I wrote a percussion and electronics piece for the young virtuoso Melbourne-based percussionist Matthias Schack-Arnott.  It was called "Bass Drum, Vibraphone, Voice and Electronics" and that pretty well describes the instrumentation.  What it doesn't describe is what the voice does - the percussionist is called to yell out, act out, declaim, and otherwise improvise with some of my favorite comic book and other pop lit quotes.  Matthias premiered the piece on 31 July 2009 at the Quiver concert at Richmond Uniting Church, Melbourne, and he just sent me an mp3 of the performance, recorded by the amazing Michael Hewes.  I think the recording is wonderful, and so, here it is.  If you want to download the mp3, you can do it here.  Many thanks to Matthias for his great performance, and to Michael for his great recording.

For those of you who want to listen to it in streaming audio, just click below.  And a special no-prize to anyone who can recognize all the sources for all the quotes.

Warren Burt: Bass Drum, Vibraphone, Voice and Electronics - performed by Matthias Schack-Arnott, recording by Michael Hewes.



Since writing the journal entries below, with their emphasis on time stretching sound, I've been informed (tip o' the Hatlo Hat to Brian McLaren) of another excellent time stretching program.  This one is optimized for extreme time stretching - that is, time stretching from, say 5 to 1 million times the length of the original.  It's FREE, it's for Windows and Linux, and it's by the young Romanian programming whiz Nasca Octavian Paul, author of the free, very deep and useful (and microtonality capable) ZynAddSubFX software synthesizer.

This program is called "Paul's Extreme Sound Stretch" and can be found at  I've tried the program out with a number of sounds, and the results are VERY nice.  There are a number of settings too, so tweakers will be very happy with this program.  Like Harry Partch said of one of his instruments, "It does only one thing, but that thing it does very well, indeed."  I especially like the readout on the "Stretch" parameter - it tells you how long your stretched time file will be.  I loaded a .46 second recording of some starlings recorded a few days ago in Texas by Catherine into it, and in the most extreme "Hyperstretch" mode, the readout said that the sound would last 1458 years 237 days.  Given my interest in impossibly long durations, you can understand how the idea of this tickles me. 

So if you're at all interested in sound design (or just plain having fun with sound), you should add this little puppy to you collection.  Highly recommended!

And by the way, for users of ZynAddSubFX, it's just had a major upgrade and revision, and it's been greatly improved.  Here's the link: Enjoy!





Here's a months worth of blog posts, all at once. I've been busy, as you'll see below. Including converting my PhD dissertation from academese into something more like reading, and preparing it for publication by Lambert Academic Publishers in Germany. More on that here soon. But for now, I'd like to begin with a quote from Nicholas Slonimsky, who in 1980, I had the good fortune to interview. (Info on the great and wonderful Nicholas Slonimsky:  Here's the quote - it says it all:

In the past month, I've been finding some interesting sounds, and one of the first things I've been doing with them is trying to extend them, or stretch them in some way. In early December, we made a trip to Melbourne, and as a treat to ourselves, stayed at the Shizuka Ryokan in the Victorian spa town of Hepburn Springs. This is a genuine Japanese-style Ryokan (country inn) complete with Zen garden, beautiful Japanese cuisine (the Kyoto-style breakfasts are a treat), spa tubs, and a completely peaceful environment. No tvs or phones in the rooms, and no cell-phone reception or internet either. To "unplug from the Borg," as I called it, even for a couple of days, was really lovely. The website is for those of you interested in checking it out. While there, we not only went to Hepburn Spa for the amazing mineral baths there (just a few hundred meters away), we also availed ourselves of the smaller, but still luxurious spa-baths in our room. And here was a delight - while draining the spa-tub, it made the most amazing gurgling! I even broke my vow of no digital technology for the time there, and whipped out my little portable sound recorder and recorded it. Here's the sound, all 2 and 1/2 minutes of it:



The sound of a spa-tub draining at the Shizuka Ryokan, Hepburn Springs, Victoria


A few days later, as we were leaving Melbourne, we spent the morning at the Melbourne Zoo, enjoying their new ocean exhibit. If you're in Melbourne, do go - it's marvelous. And whoever did the sound design deserves an award. Wonderful. Catherine took some pictures including this one of a peacock:




Peacock photographed at Melbourne Zoo, early December 2009, by Catherine Schieve


and then showed me how the zoom works on the display of her camera, zooming in on the central feathers at the base of the peacock's tail. I immediately thought - "Oooh, that would make a good score for something!" I thought of Nicholas Fournel's free AudioPaint program ( which allows you to use graphics as a "score" to play a sample, and which also allows you to use Scala files to play those samples on any microtonal scale you want. It occurred to me that the peacock tail closeup might be a neat score to spread excerpts from the gurgling around in an interesting manner. Why? Who knows why these juxtapositions occur? They just do.


On returning to Wollongong, other things happened, and I didn't get around to listening to the Ryokan gurgle recordings for a while. Finally I did, and also treated the peacock closeup with a graphics program so that the majority of it would be black (ie, silent) making a score for use in AudioPaint.


Peacock tail photo closeup treated with "tone-curve" plugin to get musically useful score


I had already decided that if I was using the Ryokan gurgle sample, I didn't want it played more than one octave higher or lower than the original, so I set AudioPaint to play over a 2 octave range (you can set any range you like), and that I would have the samples played in Erv Wilson's 64-note Euler Genus microtonal scale. So two octaves at 64 notes/octave = 128 notes. I made my Peacock Tail Score 128 pixels high. (Again AudioPaint allows any combinations of scale size versus pitch range versus picture size.) One of the neat things about AudioPaint's treatment of samples is that, like an old fashioned sampler or reel-to-reel tape recorder, lower pitches play samples slower, and higher pitches play samples faster. This means that if there are 128 possible pitches, each one will be playing the given sample, as a loop, at different speeds. You can get quite interesting time dispacements of gestures from your sample in that way. If you're using a long sample, like the Ryokan gurgles, with lots of gestural change in it, this means that your visual score should produce quite a variety of gesture and transposition. And it does. Here's the completed 5 minute piece - "The Ryokan Gurgle Processed by Peacock Feathers." Enjoy!



Warren Burt: The Ryokan Gurgle Processed by Peacock Feathers - Dec 18, 2009