Harmonic Colour Fields culls five microtonal works created in 1996-1997. Warren Burt explains in the liner notes that the title refers to the "color field" minimalist painters of the '60s and '70s, and indeed the music keeps more than a vague resemblance to these monochrome paintings. Burt uses programmable synthesizers or computer software to create alternative equal temperament scales. Using these, he explores the harmonic relations of consonance and dissonance. In fact, the track list has been set so that you move from the most consonant to the most dissonant, and given that you have the patience to sit through the 70 minutes, the transformation is quite something to witness. "Portrait of Erv Wilson" uses a pre-Pythagoran arithmetic table that also inspired Harry Partch and his tonality diamond. A gentle study in perfect tonality, it conditions the ear to the composer's crude digital synth sounds. "Portrait of John Chalmers" uses a 24-tone scale, which sounds a bit more alien but remains strongly harmonious. By "Adjacencies," your conception of harmony is beginning to change as your ear "accepts" stranger and stranger chords (this piece uses a combination of 11-, 13-, and 17-tone scales). But nothing can prepare you for the swarming mass of "48=>53; 53=>48," a chord of harmonics in the proportion of 48:49:50:51:52:53. Burt's music can recall Phill Niblock's drones, but it tends to be shorter and more eventful, although this is clearly not music for the casual listener.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture
|Harmonic Colour Fields, computer music|