Chris Burn

Photograph copyright Michael Bird.

After University where he gained a B.Mus and M.Mus, Chris Burn worked as a composer, arranger, conductor and pianist in both contemporary dance and jazz. He gained a number of awards for his work and broadcast on local and national radio and television. In the 1970s he had participated in workshops on 'intuitive music' led by Robin Maconie, a one time assistant of Stockhausen but the 1980s saw a transition to free improvisation. Having worked with saxophonist John Butcher for a number of years, the two musicians recorded Fonetiks in late 1984 and toured Britain the following year. Subsequently they teamed up with Australian flautist Jim Denley and cellist Marcio Mattos to form Embers. This quartet has twice toured Europe, once toured Britain and recorded on Acta. Other work with Butcher has included a quartet with Martin Klapper and Jindrich Biskup that played a brief Arts Council sponsored tour of England in early 1996.

In 1984 Chris Burn formed the octet Ensemble, reflecting his interest in organising music for a large number of improvising musicians. In 1990, Ensemble toured Britain and were featured on the SPNM's (Society for the Promotion of New Music) Improvisation Day. More recently they have broadcast for BBC Radio 3 (1992, 1994), for WDR radio and television and performed at a variety of European festivals, including Bochum; Stadtgarten (Köln); Ulrichsberg Kalaidophon; Victoriaville; and Crosswinds (London). An expanded version of Ensemble also exists featuring, in addition to the usual members, Alex Dörner on trumpet; Mark Wastell on cello and Rodri Davies on harp.

As an improvisor, Chris Burn has forged a unique style of piano playing by developing a multitude of alternative techniques, both on the keyboard and inside the instrument. He is also known for his performances of the piano music of Henry Cowell (writing a documentary for BBC Radio 3 about Cowell's music in 1995), John Cage and other contemporary composers, sometimes including compositions and improvisations in the same concert. His notes to his performance at 'An Acta Evening' in London in August 1997 included the statement: "For my performance this evening, I will combine some or all of the pieces listed below, with my own freely improvised music. I have chosen these particular pieces because they demonstrate interesting and innovative uses of the piano." The works included five pieces by Henry Cowell, three by John Cage (Dream, The wonderful widow of eighteen springs, Suite for toy piano), two by George Crumb (Morning music, Rain-death variations), and Six little piano pieces Op 19 by Schoenberg. As an improvising soloist, Burn has performed at many festivals throughout Europe, including Ruhr Valley (Bochum); FMP (Berlin); London Musicians Collective; Loft (Köln). He performed in Derek Bailey's Company in 1990. In 1993 Chris Burn was shortlisted for a Paul Hamlyn award for composers.


1984, Fonetiks, Bead 24.
1988, A fountain replete, Acta 2. Solo.
1988, Embers live, Acta 3.
1990, Cultural baggage, Acta 5.
1991, The Place 1991, Emanem 4056. Chris Burn Ensemble.
1993, A Henry Cowell concert, Acta 7.
1995, A slightly upgunned selection, Tomorrow's Classics TOCD 6004. With John Butcher, Martin Klapper and Jindrich Biskup.
1995/1996/1997, Music for three rivers, Victo cd050. Solo.
1997, Pure water construction, Discus 11CD.
1997, Navigations, Acta 12. Chris Burn's Ensemble.
1998, Assumed possibilities, Confront FRONT 05.
1998, Unanswered questions, BVHaast 9906. With Intermission.
1999, Proceedings, Emanem 4201. London Improvisers Orchestra.
2000, The first two gigs, Emanem 4063. Burn/Butcher/Davies/Edwards.
2001, Freedom of the city 2001: large groups, Emanem 4206. Strings with/without Evan Parker.
2001, Still point, Rossbin RS007. Assumed possibilities.
2001, Horizontals white, Emanem 4080. Chris Burn Ensemble.
2002, Freedom of the city 2002: small groups, Emanem 4210. Duo with Matt Hutchinson.
2002, Ensemble at Musica Genera 2002, Musica Genera mg006. Chris Burn's Ensemble.
2002, Mopomoso solos 2002, Emanem 4100. Chris Burn/Lol Coxhill/John Edwards/Phil Minton/John Russell.
2004, Freedom of the city 2004: small groups, Emanem 4215.
2005/2006, Untuning the sky, Bead Records Special CD09SP. Duo with Matt Hutchinson.
2008, somethingtobesaid, Weight of Wax WOW 02. AMM/John Butcher Group.
2009, The middle distance, Another timbre at24. Chris Burn/Philip Thomas/Simon H. Fell.
2010, Four4, Another timbre at34. John Cage.

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