Ravello Records is proud to release SIX ECOACOUSTIC QUINTETS / AVIAN TELEMETRY, the newest album from Matthew Burtner. In collaboration with Omar Carmenates, the Furman Percussion Ensemble, and the Shi Center for Sustainability, Burtner’s compositions incorporate avian biology, soundscape ecology, romantic-period British poetry, ecoacoustic music, and avant-garde percussion performance. And if you find all that surprising, you’re not familiar with the work of these two innovative groups.
Today, Omar is our featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our composers and performers. Read on to discover how he integrates ideas from training for long distance running into his performance prep…
What advice do you have for young musicians?
If/While you’re in school, learn as much about OTHER disciplines as you can. Those interests can later lead to interesting places in your music-making that you would never have thought of while you’re hyper-focused on your music studies.
Do you have any specific hopes about what this album will mean to listeners?
In such a hyper-partisan time in our daily discourse, the thing I love about this album is that it exists more as a judgement-free space for contemplation and exploration rather than as a piece of overt activism. In the live performances we’ve put on of both the Six Ecoacoustic Quintets, and Avian Telemetry, I’ve been amazed at the engagement and comments we get from audiences members of all ages and walks of life and I think that has something to do with it.
How have your influences changed as you grow as a musician?
I could go on and on about this, but the most succinct way I think I can put this is that, in my younger years I spent a lot of time listening to and emulating the technical masters on my instruments in the hopes of being able to play more “heavy” and technical repertoire. As time goes on, I find myself more engaged with the music singers and other instrumentalists outside of percussion, which has made me more focused on musical integrity and purpose rather than attempting to be technically dazzling every time I play or create.
How do you prepare for a performance?
I borrow a lot from long-distance runners in this regard. Very generally speaking, for the first 2/3 of my preparation cycle, I focus on a mix of very specific and more generally-focused practice sessions (i.e. – focusing on learning 4-8 beats of music, or on broader musical concepts involved in the repertoire I’m playing). This cycle grows in intensity until a few weeks from a performance at which point I start tapering back my time, focus, and effort so my mind and body can then focus on the actual performance of the repertoire rather than the small technical things that we tend to obsess over in the practice room.
What are your other passions besides music?
If this album doesn’t give it away already, I am very passionate about our planet and our relationship to it. I also enjoy running, and am a pretty big electric vehicle nut!
What was the first performance you remember seeing?
When I was a kid, my father worked for the Orlando “O’Rena” which is now the Amway Center where the Orlando Magic play, etc…so he used to sneak me in to tons of concerts that I wish I was more able to appreciate at the time. The earliest one I remember is sneaking into a skybox seat to see Billy Joel in the late 1980s.