Warren Burt (1949-)

Before arriving in Australia in 1975, Warren Burt was “searching for the weird” in his native state of New York, picking-up hints of the experimentations in performance, poetry and visual art that were happening in New York City during the 1960s. While studying music at the State University in Albany from 1967-1971, Burt began to toy with the techniques of improvisation in musical composition; juxtaposition, intonation and environmental interaction through performance. At the time, the electronic music studio of his composition teacher Joel Chadabe housed one of the largest Moog Synthesizer systems in the world. This encounter with the CEMS synthesizer sparked his interest in computer music, its boundaries and the potential applications of technology to multiple fields of communication. In 1971, Burt attended the University of California in San Diego, where under the leadership of Robert Erickson, Kenneth Gaburo and Pauline Oliveros, he studied aspects of music, language, and their connection in the realm of performance. As a musical research fellow in the Centre for Music Experiment from 1973 to 1975, he was involved in studying and performing with the Extended Vocal Techniques Ensemble, a group that tested the limits of the human voice and improvised compositions from the sounds they discovered. While heading up the Analog Electronics and Video Synthesis facilities at UCSD, he worked on the development of the CME’s Analog Electronic and Video Studio, also building his own digital electronic “composing machine” Ardvarks IV.At this time he became associated with the composer and electronics designer Serge Tcherepnin and the People’s Synthesizer Project. Together with Ronald Al Robboy and David Dunn, Burt founded the ‘incompetent’ music performance group Fatty Acid, which embraced improvisation and all its mistakes, while their other group Young Californian Minimal Artists (YMCA) specialised in performative installations.

In 1975 he left the USA and began teaching theory and electronic music at Melbourne’s La Trobe University, where he developed the electronic music and video synthesis facilities on campus and assembled a comprehensive analog electronic music studio. Plunging into the thick of Melbourne’s collaborative art’s scene, Burt started to work with Ron Nagorcka to form the live electronics duo Plastic Platypus, and in 1976, again with Nagorcka and John Campbell, established the Clifton Hill Community Music Centre. From 1977 to 1978 he produced the New and Experimental Music Show on radio 3CR, as well as publishing the New Music Newspaper with Australian composer Les Gilbert. Since the 1970s he has continued to perform and exhibit his compositional works internationally. Through mixing playful improvisation with machine interaction systems, Warren Burt creates musical objects that require an open-ended attitude to “listening and experiencing”.

Compiled by Oscar Capezio

Updated:  14 August 2014/ Responsible Officer:  DHG Director/ Page Contact:  Drill Hall Gallery