Matthew Burtner-Rita Dove Collaboration

Written by Erin O'Hare


What was the last thing you made? Be honest with yourself. Perhaps you made dinner last night, but think hard about the last time you spent an afternoon knitting, strumming a guitar or doodling in a sketchbook. Maybe instead you’ve been reading, listening to albums, looking at paintings or watching “Stranger Things” on Netflix? Are you creating, or are you consuming?

Too often, “our own creativity gets written out” in place of consuming media, says Matthew Burtner, a sound artist and professor of computer and compositional technologies in the University of Virginia’s music department. “We are not creating spaces for imagination and free thinking in our society,” he says, and that worries him. “Being creative, being imaginative, is part of the human condition that’s unique. It not only defines us as an animal, but defines us individually among our species.” When we let go of our creativity, we risk letting go of our humanity.

With The Ceiling Floats Away, a collaboration with Pulitzer Prize-winning former U.S. Poet Laureate (and fellow UVA professor) Rita Dove, and the EcoSono Ensemble (a collective of performers bringing ecoacoustic music to the public), Burtner isn’t ready to let us lose our grip entirely. “It’s about re-engaging with creative art-making,” he says. “Even if you’re sitting in the audience, you’re supposed to be making something in this piece.”

Read the full article by Erin O'Hare at


McIntire Department of Music
112 Old Cabell Hall
P.O. Box 400176 Charlottesville, VA 22904-4176