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  • EcoSono Environmental Computer Music and Sound Art Compilation: Matthew Burtner, Curator

About the Music

I am thrilled to share a selection of music from the EcoSono Institute and from the first EcoSono Festival of Environmental Music and Sound Art in Anchorage, Alaska, 2017. The music here celebrates the beautiful soundscape of Alaska and world ecoacoustics with a focus on computationally driven and computer-mediated approaches. The EcoSono philosophy and methodology emphasizes close collaboration with the sounds and energies of the natural world that we can hear or feel, but that rarely become part of human music. We do this using a combination of computer-aided techniques, including digital transduction technology; interactive mediation based on the performance of natural materials, and sonification (the computational mapping of environmental data into sound). Some of this music is made in collaboration with scientists who help interpret the data for music and whose discoveries are interpreted into music by composers. Some of the music features unedited field recordings, set in counterpoint with computer-generated sound. In addition, some of this ecoacoustic science/technology music is performed by human musicians who bring expressivity, emotion, and humanistic interpretation.

EcoSono is proud of the diverse international composers and sound artists we present. Many of these artists attended the EcoSono Institutes in past years. Daniel Blinkhorn (Australia), Nashim Ximena Gargari (Mexico), Stephanie Cheng Smith (California), Siyang Sophia Shen (China), D. Edward Davis (Connecticut), and Yingjia (Lemon) Guo (China) are just some of the featured artists who joined the EcoSono Institute in past years and have gone on to innovate in the emerging field of ecoacoustic music.

Through creative human/nature interaction, EcoSono pursues a philosophy of sustainability and nonconformity. In some ways, our approach to music is as old as music itself: The first music likely imitated sounds of nature, and rocks and sticks were certainly among the first musical instruments. Around the world, the history of music is also a history of environmental music. In other ways, ecoacoustic music is quite new and revolutionary, not only because the tools we use to create it (such as portable computational systems, real-time interactive technology, and sensitive measurement instruments) did not exist until relatively recently, but also because music made in collaboration with the environment takes on new meaning in a time of human-caused climate change, mass extinctions, and global warming. The human–nature dialectic embodied in environmental music questions the current relationship between humans and the environment, seeking a new music that reclaims fundamental human values of cohabitation with the natural world of which we are but one part.

For listeners curious to learn more and become involved with the activities of EcoSono, the summer festival, and other concerts around the world, please visit us at, or contact Burtner at

1. Golden Sparrow—Matthew Burtner

Performed by Glen Whitehead, trumpet

Golden Sparrow (2012) for trumpet, computer, and container of light, is based on the call of a sparrow family living in Alaska’s Chugach State Park who sing in the midnight sun. The computer sound is made out of a single bird call, expanded into a harmonic framework that supports an original trumpet melody. As the trumpet plays, a second performer gradually opens a container of light, releasing it into the concert space. Golden Sparrow was composed for Whitehead and premiered in Anchorage at Alaska Pacific University on 23 June 23 2012.

Golden Sparrow, Matthew Burtner (7:24) click here to listen

Matthew Burtner ( is an Alaskan-born composer and sound artist whose music explores embodiment, ecoacoustics, polymetrics and noise, and human–environment–computer interaction through music. Burtner has won the Musica Nova International competition (first prize), an NEA Art Works award, and an IDEA Award, and his music has received honors and prizes from Bourges (France), Gaudeamus (Netherlands), Darmstadt (Germany), and The Russolo (Italy) international competitions. His music has been performed in festivals and venues throughout the world and commissioned by ensembles such as NOISE (USA), Integrales (Germany), Peak FreQuency (USA), MiN (Norway), Musikene (Spain), Spiza (Greece), CrossSound (Alaska), and others. Burtner works closely with politicians, scientists, artists, and musicians, creating music in support of free...


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