There was a striking moment for me during the reporting for my profile of Matthew Burtner. I'd spent quite a bit of time listening to a tape of his compositions, and listening while he composed an electronic piece for dance, titled Fern. I was a long way from knowing the pieces, but I was starting to get some sense of how his musical mind worked. One afternoon, I stepped out of my car, walked away, and heard a sound, something like a distant industrial hum. And my first thought was that sounds like Matthew's music.
I don't think this is an insignificant thing. A good artist reorients your frame of reference. Experience Picasso's Guernica, and photographs of warfare look different from then on. Read Heart of Darkness, then go into a jungle and try not to hear a voice in your ear saying, "The horror...the horror..." If Burtner, through his music, can make a random bit of industrial noise on a spring afternoon sound like a musical element, he's changed, just a little, how the listener perceives the world. He has widened one's idea of the possible, which is critic John Berger's definition of art.
Burtner's music is not easy. But no less a musician than
Peabody's Leon Fleisher adamantly states that music is not
entertainment-it is meant to make you think, and to make you
feel, and to move you off of your complacency. I'm guessing that
you'll be hearing more of Matthew Burtner in the future.
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