Warren Burt


Photo of Warren Burt

Warren Burt is a composer, sound-poet, video artist and writer who was born in 1949 and grew up in the USA, then moved to Australia in 1975, where he has been mostly based ever since. He has sometimes worked in academia, and sometimes been a freelance artist. He is currently a Research Fellow at the University of Wollongong, Australia.

Notes: I was teaching a multimedia course on structure in the arts at the Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne, and I needed an example of a kind of structure that students from a wide variety of disciplines would relate to. The Oulipo S+7 method struck me as a perfect choice, because people could easily see how the transformations would occur. At the same time, my wife and I were listening to a lot of Brazilian MPB, and I decided that one song everyone knew would be the archtypical bossa-precursor to MPB, the Girl from Ipanema. I decided to take the process one step further though, and use a Portuguese-English dictionary, rather than simply stay in one language. This would have the effect of having the result be even further from the original than with a single language S+7 process. Also, the fact that I don't speak or read Portuguese adds a certain charm to the result.

After getting my source words, I then had to shoehorn them into some kind of grammatical flow. Having done that, I decided that the text should be sung by a computer, and that it should be accompanied by de(con)structed Brazilian music. The voice synthesis was easily accomplished with the now defunct kids program Hollywood, and John Dunn's SoftStep was used to scramble the Ipaneman harmonies. I explained the S+7 process to the class, played the original (heard a lot of groans), then showed the process at work (saw eager faces understanding it), read the resulting poem (looks of bemusement and laughter), and played the Oulipized Ipanema sound piece. The look of blank incomprehension on the faces of the students was quite amazing.