Samuel Burt is a composer in Baltimore, composing for orchestra, small groups, piano, and electronic music. He improvises on clarinet, bass clarinet, and daxophone. He is a professor at Towson and Johns Hopkins.
Burt composes for orchestra, soloists, chamber musicians, and invented instruments and creates both fixed-media and live-controlled electroacoustic music. His music encompasses many styles, notation and free improvisation. His scores explore process while evoking playful free-sounding rhythms. His collaborations explore the frontiers of new sounds, in-the-moment composition, and musical textures that avoid the familiar idioms. His electronic music involves algorithms and live processing.
Experimentalism led him to constructing instruments that require a fundamentally different performance practice: Hans Reichel’s daxophone, based on bowing wood. He has constructed 20+, shipping globally. He plays the daxophone regularly as an improviser and in his compositions.
Burt has played hundreds of concerts in many music settings. For fourteen years, he’s been a co-curator of the High Zero Festival and the Red Room series, performing with international improvisers.
Projects of interest:
2019: Maria Shesiuk and Burt electroacoustic album.
2018-2019: Sarah Hughes’ Coy Fish. Free improvisation, word art, audience participation.
2018, 2015, 2013, 2008: Worlds in Collusion. Debuted new works at Baltimore’s Artscape public art festival including Wide Sunset, a 35 minute electroacoustic video piece, and numerous chamber works.
2015-2019: Volunteers’ Collective improvisation workshop
2009: Lucier’s Music for Solo Performer, Mobtown Modern. Burt’s brain waves triggered percussion instruments.
2004-2018: Public, guerilla-style experimental music and actions, including an outdoor improvised chamber orchestra attacked by zombies.
2007-2010: AfterNow. Co-founded an organization for adventurous Baltimore composers, self-producing concerts of new music.
YEAR: commissioner, work title
2017: Lisa Weiss, Mixed Signals.
2015: Mark Miller, music for the Baltimore Rock Opera Society performance of Revival which was performed at the Baltimore Creative Alliance and Artscape and recorded in the studios at WTMD.
2012: The Billings Teachers Association, Rain Making Construct.
2008: John Berndt, software and audio manipulation for a video piece entitled Asimina Chremos Forever. 2005: Cory Kasprzyk, Fountain Resonances.
2005: Jeremy Bagayos, Uncoiled Oscillations. This became the title track of his album of double bass music.
2001: Randolph Elliot, Ernstmusik for chamber orchestra.
In addition, Burt has programmed software on commission for installation, composition, and performance.
Burt obtained masters degrees in music composition and computer music from the Peabody Institute (MM). He studied music composition and clarinet performance at the University of Georgia. His primary teachers were Lewis Nielson, Leonard Ball, Geoffrey Wright, and Christopher Theofanidis. He discussed his work in master classes with Birtwistle, Murail, Ran, and Wuorinen.
2018: Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award
2005: Peabody Career Development Grant
2005: Prix d’Éte, third prize
2004: Macht competition for orchestra, honorable mention
2004: Otto Ortman Prize
Burt learned to read music from piano lessons and congregational hymn books, immediately applying this knowledge to composition. With some choral experience and experiments with the trumpet, electric keyboard, and recorder, he entered middle school band on the bass clarinet.
As a teenager with an Atari computer, he composed more elaborate music, attempting to uncover the principles of harmony through experimentation. Burt created short stop motion films and composed the sound tracks on the computer. He regularly met with friends to practice jazz and other forms of improvisation and experimentation. In his senior year of high school, he composed music for friends including a work for the concert band. He was encouraged by the West Hall High School band director Ernie Phillips who allowed him to work in Finale on his office computer.
At the University of Georgia, Burt received disciplined conservatory-like training that emphasized excellence and academic rigor. While studying the principles of musical analysis, Burt moved on to emersing himself in the many approaches of 20th Century music composition. He found a like-minded composition teacher, Lewis Nielson, who directed him to a more refined craft while exposing him to the extremes of 20th Century music. Leonard Ball instructed him in the techniques of musique concrète tape editing, analog synthesis, and spatialization, exposing Burt to the world of electronic music. He also performed with the Renaissance ensemble and the Athens Community Orchestra.
In Athens Georgia, he became acquainted with musicians who were into exploring extended techniques and improvisation. Colin Bragg and Killick led music ensembles and experimental projects that broadened Burt's perspective on the possibilities of sound art.
Burt then took a year to compose a piece for orchestra and teach music theory to children at the University of Georgia Community Music School.
In 2003, he moved to Baltimore, Maryland to study composition and computer music at the Peabody Institute. Overseen by composer Christopher Theofanidis he finished his first large-scale orchestral piece, Parametric Transmutations. Directed by Geoffrey Wright, he wrote some of his first computer music software. He won prizes for his work at Peabody. Burt helped start the first performances of the 24hc, a day-long event of composition, practice, and performance. The 24hc continued annually with other students after his graduation.
In Baltimore, Burt became acquainted with the High Zero Festival and the many organizers who were also active musicians. Many of these musicians did not have classical training. He learned about the traditions of free improvisation and instrument building. This scene taught him the importance of collective organization and the benefits of mutual support. He was invited to join the Red Room Collective that organized the festival and a weekly series of improvised music. He remains a board member of the High Zero Foundation, curating shows, performing, and touring.
After graduation, Samuel Burt and Cory Kasprzyk toured their music up the East Coast with a grant from Peabody. They and a number of other Peabody affiliated musicians ran a series of new music events called After Now, focusing on compositions written by people from Baltimore, including Asha Shrinivasan, Andrew Cole, Mark Lackey, and Sally Sarles.
From 2005-2009, Burt taught electronic music and music theory at the Baltimore School for the Arts. From 2011-2018, he taught computer music and music history at Goucher College. He continues to lecture on electronic music at Johns Hopkins University and instructs students in composition and song-writing at Towson University.
In 2011, he got in touch with instrument builder Hans Reichel about the woodworking plans Reichel made available for the daxophone. Burt built his first daxophone and then began building them for other people. Burt has built more then 20 daxophones, developing his woodworking skills. He's written compositions for daxophone and performs with it in the band Coy Fish.
In 2019, his collaborations include Lisa Weiss who will perform compositions for piano and mobile device, the Bergamot String Quartet, Coy Fish, Daniel Fishkin (another daxophone builder), and an ensemble with Eric Franklin and Shelly Purdy of two daxophones and percussion.