October 2006

Warren Burt -The Animation of Lists and The Archytan Transpositions
XI Records XI 130
Released: 2006
Format: CD

by Mike Silverton

Musical Performance ****1/2
Recording Quality ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2

The eight tracks of this two-disc set trace their lineage to a peculiarly easy-going, American turn on classical music’s avant-garde. Lou Harrison, Terry Riley, Morton Feldman, John Cage, George Crumb, et al. would be right at home in Warren Burt’s ravishing sound-world. Why "ravishing"? If we expand the definition of music to include any purposeful organization of sound, envision leisurely clouds of purest sound-color going nowhere in particular. This music dwells in an abstract present, announcing neither beginning nor end. If you had to assign a genre, "ambient" might suffice if it were understood that a keen and purposeful musical intelligence plays a large part. "Downtown" probably says it better. (In present-day classical jargon, "downtown" means "simple" and "uptown" "complex.")

The compositions consist in their entirety of struck aluminum bars similar to tuning forks, milled to microtonal scales. The fascination is twofold: the beauty of the initial attacks and the richly textured complexities of their interactions and decays. By way of computer manipulation, Burt sidesteps the need to machine additional bars in order to achieve yet more detailed microtonal clusters. You would never guess the computer’s part had you not read the excellent notes by the composer and by postminimal pioneer William Duckworth.

The wonderfully detailed, up-close sound comes across as strictly acoustic: the thinking audiophile’s ideal demo. Head music to be sure, best experienced in a dimly lit room with a few fingers of your favorite firewater in hand.