Winter Raven (Ukiuq Tulugaq)

a multimedia theatre work for instrumental ensemble, voices, multi-channel computer sound and video, dance, theatrical staging and lighting.
in three acts. duration is c. 1hr 45′

Artistic Overview:

Winter Raven (Ukiuq Tulugaq) is a large-scale multimedia composition for voice, instrumental ensemble, electronics, dance ensemble, video projection, and theatrical staging. This 90 minute, three act composition metaphorically connects an Inuit creation story, in which the world is created by Raven (Tulugaq) from snow, with the ecological seasonal approach of Winter. As the story tells, in the beginning of the world only Raven existed, flying through the darkness of space in the falling snow. As the snow gathered and fell from Raven’s wings, some of it clumped together into a small snowball. Raven was bored and playful, so he rolled the snowball through the air and threw it. As the snowball hurtled through space, it gathered more snowflakes. It grew larger and larger until Raven was able to land on it. This is how Raven created the Earth out of snow. Winter Raven (Ukiuq Tulugaq) metaphorically connects this story with the ecological seasonal approach of winter. Winter is a symbol of renewal and genesis.  Winter blankets everything in snow, merging different objects and materials into a single geographic contour. Winter freezes, purifies and equalizes.

The dramatic form of Winter Raven is a seasonal change from fall into winter. The linearity of environmental process, expressed through ecoacoustic forms, creates a foundation over which impressionistic, nonlinear visions occur, (the stories and dreams experienced along the journey’s way). Each of the three acts explores a different emotional state based on the juxtaposition of time in relation to the seasonal change.

Act I takes place before winter. It is fall. The family is preparing wood and there is a focus on the abundance of the fading sunlight, personified by the sun character.

Act II expresses the transformation into winter. In this dramatic act the stark northern landscape presented in Kunikluk forms a backdrop for the juxtaposition of the spirit/flesh and the industry/voice in the Speaking Flesh and Industrial Garden/Lost Voices movements. The human construction of Industry is broken suddenly, frozen by the appearance of the ice character.

In Act III it snows. The wind blows, leaving impressions on the snow. The light changes and shadows emerge. The animals seek shelter, their fading prints creating other patterns on the snow: Snowprints. The act moves towards the stillness of winter, and it also explores memory and cyclical processes. The Wind character appears as an agent of memory. Raven also enters at the very end of the work, bringing with him a recapitulation of Act 1, a memory of the family preparing wood for the winter. While the music is still and cold at the end, it is also poised for the possibility of rebirth. At the end of the piece when Raven appears, his arrival is articulated by three representations; the voice of Raven played by an electric violin, the memory of Raven invoked by the masked dancer using an FM radio transceiver, and the spirit of Raven sung by the soprano voice.

Each act features a chamber music piece with video and a “story” (unipkaaq) involving music, dance and interactive video for which special masks were created. Each act also features movements involving aspects of the human voice or body such as a wood cutter humming, a human body played as a percussion instrument, layers of spoken texts and construction, and the final Ukiuq Tulugaq movement in which Raven appears.

Formal Overview


Family for wood-cutter, piano and wind
Tingngivik (The time of leaves falling and birds flying) for viola, alto saxophone, piano, noise generators and video
Sikñik Unipkaaq (The Story of Sunlight) for dance and mask choreography, percussion, multichannel computer sound and interactive video


Kunikluk (a flat horizon line slightly obscured by blowing ice and snow) for ensemble, noise generators and video
Speaking Flesh for body percussion and video
Industrial Garden / Lost Voices for dance and movement art, percussion, voices, and electronics
Siku Unipkaaq (The Story of Ice) for dance and mask choreography, live video, glockenspiels, and multichannel
computer sound


Anugi Unipkaaq (The Story of Wind) for solo percussion, low drums, dance and movement art, mask choreography, live video, and the four winds
Snowprints for flute, cello, piano, electronics and three videos
Ukiuq Tulugaq (Winter Raven)for soprano voice, electric violin/raven, bowed glockenspiels, bowed piano, computer sound, radio transceiver, video, and movement art

total duration=c.90′

excerpts video from the premiere performance in 2002

Performance Media:


VOICE in “Ukiuq Tulugaq”
FLUTE/PICCOLO in “Kunikluk” and “Snowprints”
ALTO SAX in “Tingnikvik”
VIOLIN in “”Kunikluk”
VIOLA in “Tingnikvik”
CELLO in “Kunikluk” and “Snowprints”
PIANO in “Family”, “Tingnikvik”, “Kunikluk” and “Snowprints”
PERCUSSION SOLO in “Kunikluk”, “Speaking Flesh” and lead part in “Anugi Unipkaaq”
PERCUSSION QUARTET (inclusive of percussion solo part) in “Siknik Unipkaaq” “Siku Unipkaaq”, and “Anugi Unipkaaq”

Percussion Instrumentation
2-4 timpani
2 glockenspiel (with bows)
kickbass drum
vibraphone (with bow)
tom toms
4 low drums
large muted bass drum
3 cymbals (1 sizzle)


Lead Parts: These parts are not gender specific and they may be performed by a single performer or shared between several performers.

SHAMAN/STORY TELLER theater/movment artist who wears the Sun, Ice and Wind performance masks and uses the shaman staff wireless video controller. the story of sun, wind and ice (in the “Siknik Unipkaaq,” “Siku Unipkaaq” and “Anugi Unipkaaq” movements)
WOOD CUTTER in “Family”
FLESH (in “Speaking Flesh”). Body percussion. This can be the Shaman character or another performer
RAVEN (in “Ukiuq Tulugaq”)

Groups :These parts are for any number of dancers/actors, who support

SUNLIGHT group in “Siknik Unipkaak” supporting the Shaman character
INDUSTRYgroup in “Industrial Garden/Lost Voices”
ICE group in “Siku Unipkaak” supporting the Shaman character
WIND group in “Anugi Unipkaak” supporting the Shaman character

Performance Multimedia :


Snowprints contains 3 video parts that are broadcast simultaneously. If three projectors are not available the piece can be done with one projecter by leaving out the two “Lights” videos.
Multichannel sound

Several of the pieces were composed for 8-channel sound. A multichannel sound system is desireable. The piece can also be performed with two speakers positioned on the left and right of the stage.

CD PLAYER OR COMPUTER for stereo sound playback

A portable radio transmitter is used in the last movement to transmit a recording of the first movement (Raven evoking memory of “Family”). Portable radio receivers are carried in the audience by performers who “tune in” to the transmission from Raven. The first movement should be recorded during a rehearsal and played back over the radio transmitter during performance. The portable radio receivers can also used as noise generators in Tingnivik if they have a CD player or cassette to play the noise part. If the radio transmitter is not available, the recorded sound can simply be played from the speakers.

Several portable CD or cassette players are used to play back a prerecorded noise CD. These noise generators are used in Tingnivik and Kunikluk. If the portable stereos also have an FM radio receiver they can be used in Ukiuq Tulugaq movement.

The Shaman carries a staff with a wireless video camera and light attached to it. The video is sent to an external computer, processed and projected on the screen in real time. If this configuration is not possible for performance, the video pieces can be played back as fixed media.


Winter Raven explores live video processing and multichannel sound diffusion. A number of research articles describe the development of these technologies. To learn more about the technical aspects of this work, see the following sources:

• Recombinant Spatialization for Ecoacoustic Immersive Environments. Burtner/Topper. Linux Audio Developers Conference (LAD 2) Proceedings. Karlsruhe, Germany, 2004.

• Spatio-Operational Spectral (S.O.S.) Synthesis. Burtner/Topper. Digital Audio Effects (DAFX) Conference Proceedings. Hamburg, Germany, 2002.

• Shamanic and Ecoacoustic Technologies for Multimedia Composition and Performance. Matthew Burtner, Organized Sound. Volume 31, Cambridge Press, York, England. 2005.

performance materials
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