Matthew Burtner composer
Brandon Bell percussion
Trevor Saint percussion
Matthew Burtner returns to Ravello Records with the haunting beauty of GLACIER MUSIC, an electroacoustic collection featuring the Alaskan natural landscape as the central instrument. Most of the natural sounds were recorded on Alaskan glaciers, featuring the sounds of snow, trickling streams, and the cracks, pops, and thundering as glaciers break apart and fall. Burtner, who was born in Alaska and grew up among the glaciers, also sculpts scientific measurements of glacial melt into the music through a technique known as sonification.
Sound Cast of Matanuska Glacier, written upon request for President Obama’s 2015 GLACIER Conference, demonstrates the warning signal behavior of glaciers. Standing as the threshold between mountain and ocean, glaciers are highly sensitive to global warming, and their state indicates just how rapidly the globe is heating up. Sonic Physiography of a Time-Stretched Glacier also looks at the melting of an Alaskan glacier, but from a different perspective — Burtner applies time stretching with interactive software which slows, and eventually halts, the effects of climate change to the listening ear. Threnody was recorded on Aialik Glacier, part of the 23,000-year-old Harding Ice Field, and catches the sounds of ancient air being released from pockets inside the glacier as pieces break from the main ice and melt as they drift out to sea with the tide.
Syntax of Snow is formed from the unlikely duo of amplified snow and glockenspiel. The performers played the glockenspiel with one hand and the snow with the other, speaking to the snow’s ability to communicate information to people and animals about environment, weather conditions, and landscape. The album concludes with Muir Glacier, 1889-2009, perhaps the most romantic and haunting piece of all. The piece was commissioned by the Anchorage Museum of Art for the Alaska Gallery to accompany the Thomas Hill painting, Muir Glacier, 1889, which had depicted Muir Glacier in its fullness. Over a 120-year period, the glacier gradually shrank from the water, retreating up the valley until it vanished entirely in 2009. To recreate the experience, the composer recorded sounds from glaciers in various states of retreat, so that the piece follows a linear timeline from the healthy glacier’s beginnings to its ultimate demise.
GLACIER MUSIC captures the beauty of both sights and sounds in the natural landscape, while also emphasizing the bitter reality for many of its subjects. Burtner, poignantly depicts the precarious situation of these natural wonders, leaving listeners both awed and perhaps inspired to take action.