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Speaking to the dead

Whether its gathering them like a sorcerer to conjure strange and strangely moving incantations, or collecting them to make statements in support for file-sharing, Halsey Burgund is obsessed with the human voice, and what it can tell us about ourselves.

He uses the voices he records — strangers’ voices, talking about the things nearest to them, be they profound or mundane — like instruments, and the compositions he creates with them, woven together with evocative and atmospheric music, make him one of the most singular and intriguing artists at work in Boston today.

Tonight, Burgund will be premiering his latest piece, “One Hundred and Four Thousand,” at Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain at 8 p.m.

It’s meant as a way to “explore the cemetery’s contemplative nature as well as the relationships that various cemetery ‘dwellers’ have to their surroundings,” he writes. “For listeners, the music and voices will mix with the ambient sounds, smells and sights they encounter as they make their way through the cemetery on paths of their choosing.”

He tells us:

I created this piece by stitching together fragments of interviews of cemetery visitors and employees - conducted on the cemetery grounds in the Spring of this year – with traditional instrumentation to yield an original piece of music intended to be heard while at the cemetery.  For the live performance, I will be playing marimba and piano as well as using sampling technologies to trigger the voices.  I will be joined by Peter Bailey on guitar and MIDI guitar, Javier Caballero on cello, Bennett Miller on upright and electric bass, Michael O’Connor on sax, flute and clarinet and Bekka Schellenberg on violin.  We will be using live electronic manipulations to recreate some of the desired effects as well as take it one step further by using surround sound to put the audience right in the middle of the piece.

LISTEN: “Remembering the Dead
LISTEN: “I Just Want to Be Recycled
READ: Halsey Burgund in the New York Times

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