“The Ceiling Floats Away” with Rita Dove: Album Release, Performances and Awards

The Ceiling Floats Away
Matthew Burtner and Rita Dove
EcoSono Ensemble
Ravello Records (Parma/Naxos)
National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)

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Ravello Records proudly presents The Ceiling Floats Away, a groundbreaking new collaboration between sound artist Matthew Burtner, former US poet laureate Rita Dove, and ecoacoustic ensemble EcoSono. A National Endowment for the Arts commission, The Ceiling Floats Away was awarded was awarded a Special Jury Award in the 2016 American Prize in Chamber Music Composition for “Unique Nexus of Acoustics, Electronics and Audience Interaction.” Since its composition, it has been selected for performance at various festivals and venues, including the Smithsonian Natural History Museum’s Accelerate Festival. The Ceiling Floats Away bridges the gap between different spaces: spoken word and song, performance and technology, audience and artist. The chamber ensemble work consists of recitation of Rita Dove’s poetry by the poet herself—sometimes simultaneously with the singer. The performance is enhanced by Nomads, software that enables audience participation through mobile devices. Thirteen pre-composed movements alternate with Audience Creation Bridges, during which the audience uses Nomads to contribute thoughts and reflections on the work by manipulating the music in real time. In this sense, the audience members become active artists alongside composer, poet, and performers. As Burtner writes, “the piece empowers people as creative agents in an artwork without walls, without ceiling.”

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The Ceiling Floats Away (2016) by Matthew Burtner and Rita Dove is a concert work and installation for chamber ensemble, spoken and sung voice, computer-generated sound, and a unique mobile phone enabled audience interaction audio-visual software called Nomads. Thirteen composed chamber movements are interspersed with Audience Creation Bridges. During the Bridges, the audience uses Nomads to offer reflections, echoes and thoughts on the music and poetry. These thoughts create a new poetic musical piece generated by the audience and experienced in real time. Through the social dimension of The Ceiling Floats Away Matthew Burtner and Rita Dove explore the public as artist, in dialog with a composed artwork. The piece empowers people as creative agents in an artwork without walls, without ceiling. “The Ceiling Floats Away” was commissioned by a National Endowment for the Arts, “Art Works” grant. The piece was awarded a Special Jury Award in the 2016 American Prize in Chamber Music Composition for “Unique Nexus of Acoustics, Electronics and Audience Interaction”. The piece was premiered at the Intersections Festival in Washington DC, and then selected for performance at the Tom Tom Festival, the Atlas Performing Arts Center and the Smithsonian Natural History Museum’s Accelerate Festival.