Matthew Burtner's Glacier Music

Matthew Burtner’s Glacier Music


fascinating work of unimaginable auditory beauty.

Sonograma Magazine (Spain)


the rewards are well worth the time spent getting to know these incredibly intricate pieces.
.. A rich, refreshing album of relaxing music.

Review Graveyard (England)


fascinating blends of natural sounds invite reflection about the global issues of planetary warming that are impacting the glaciers. ... will haunt the listener far after it has completed.

Cinemusical (USA)



the sounds of melting glaciers being frozen in time and woven into haunting electronic musical compositions.

With Good Reason (USA)


Even if you’re aware that glaciers are melting and sea levels are climbing, these facts can be difficult to connect with on an emotional level. A sound artist at the University of Virginia is hoping to change that by turning scientific data into music, and, well, the result is pretty damn cool.

Earther Magazine (USA)




 “Glacier Music: Ecoacoustics of Glaciers,” an album of Matthew Burtner’s original sound art works composed with Alaskan glaciers and published by Parma Recordings’ Ravello Label (Naxos Classical) brings together Burtner’s compositions created for the Obama US State Department, the Anchorage Museum of Art and leading musicians. This publication highlights the results of a decade of Burtner’s research on Alaska’s glaciers, work that has been featured by NASA’s Goddard Space Center, the American Geophysical Union (AGU), the Center for Energy Studies in the Humanities (CENHS) at Rice University, and in concerts around the world.











Matthew Burtner returns to Ravello Records with the haunting beauty of GLACIER MUSIC, an electroacoustic collection featuring the Alaskan natural landscape as the central instrument. Most of the natural sounds were recorded on Alaskan glaciers, featuring the sounds of snow, trickling streams, and the cracks, pops, and thundering as glaciers break apart and fall. Burtner, who was born in Alaska and grew up among the glaciers, also sculpts scientific measurements of glacial melt into the music through a technique known as sonification.


Sound Cast of Matanuska Glacier, written upon request for President Obama's 2015 GLACIER Conference, demonstrates the warning signal behavior of glaciers. Standing as the threshold between mountain and ocean, glaciers are highly sensitive to global warming, and their state indicates just how rapidly the globe is heating up. The piece features the Rivanna string quartet and the Albemarle Ensemble. Sonic Physiography of a Time-Stretched Glacier also looks at the melting of an Alaskan glacier, but from a different perspective — Burtner applies time stretching with interactive software which slows, and eventually halts, the effects of climate change to the listening ear. The piece was commissioned by and is performed here by Brandon Bell. Threnody (Sikuigvik)was recorded on Aialik Glacier, part of the 23,000-year-old Harding Ice Field, and catches the sounds of ancient air being released from pockets inside the glacier as pieces break from the main ice and melt as they drift out to sea with the tide.


Syntax of Snow, commissioned and performed by Trevor Saint, is formed from the unlikely duo of amplified snow and glockenspiel. The performers played the glockenspiel with one hand and the snow with the other, speaking to the snow’s ability to communicate information to people and animals about environment, weather conditions, and landscape. The album concludes with Muir Glacier, 1889-2009, perhaps the most romantic and haunting piece of all. The piece was commissioned by the Anchorage Museum of Art for the Alaska Gallery to accompany the Thomas Hill painting, Muir Glacier, 1889, which had depicted Muir Glacier in its fullness. Over a 120-year period, the glacier gradually shrank from the water, retreating up the valley until it vanished from sight entirely in 2009 from the original location of Hill’s painting. To recreate the experience, the composer recorded sounds from glaciers in various states of retreat, so that the piece follows a linear timeline from the healthy glacier’s beginnings tso its ultimate demise.


GLACIER MUSIC captures the beauty of both sights and sounds in the natural landscape, while also emphasizing the bitter reality for many of its subjects. Burtner, poignantly depicts the precarious situation of these natural wonders, leaving listeners both awed and perhaps inspired to take action.



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