Winter Raven (Ukiuq Tulugaq)
a Multimedia Electroacoustic Theatre Work
by Matthew Burtner

About Winter Raven Formal Overview Technology Media Images/sound/video Contact

Artistic Overview:

Ukiuq Tulugaq (the Winter Raven) 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 is told, in the beginning of the world only Raven existed flying through the darkness of space in the falling snow. Raven and snow were all that existed. As the snow gathered and fell from Raven’s wings, some of it clumped together into a small snowball. Raven became playful and rolled the snowball through the air. As he threw it through space, it gathered more snowflakes. The snowball grew larger and larger until Raven was able to land on it. This is how Raven created the World. In this story Raven is the creator, and snow is the substance of creation. Winter Raven (Ukiuq Tulugaq) metaphorically connects this story with the ecological seasonal approach of winter. Snow was present originally along with Raven, so winter is taken as a symbol for renewal and genesis. In winter, everything is covered equally in a blanket of snow unified under a single geographic contour. Freezing and covering, winter purifies and equalizes all things.

The dramatic form of Winter Raven is a change from fall into winter. This linear structure is filled with a decidedly nonlinear narrative, (the stories and dreams experienced along the journey’s way) using widely divergent media. 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, leaves are falling, and there is abundant sunlight.

Act II is the transformation into winter. It is the most dramatic section of the piece, in which the stark northern landscape represented by Kunikluk becomes a backdrop for the juxtaposition of the spirit/flesh and the industry/voice in the Speaking Flesh and Industrial Garden/Lost Voices movements. Industry is broken suddenly by the coming of ice and the freezing of everything.

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 another type of pattern on the snow. While the act is predominantly about moving forward into a still place of winter, it also revolves around the notion of memory and cyclical processes in general. The focus on wind itself is a memory of Act I, and Raven appears, invoking the memory of the family preparing wood for the winter. We are reminded of the continuation and cohabitation of humanity and nature. While the music is still and cold at the end it is pregnant with the possibility of rebirth and resurrection; ideas that give hope for the future.

Each act contains a chamber music piece with video and a “story” (unipkaaq) involving music, dance and interactive video for which special masks were constructed. There is another type of movement in each act, more loosely defined in terms of media, involving some aspect 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. 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.

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 amplified dancer, percussionist and video
Industrial Garden / Lost Voices for dance and movement art, percussion, disembodied 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'



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"


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.

in "Siknik Unipkaaq", "Siku Unipkaaq" and "Anugi Unipkaaq"
for more information on New Interfaces for Interactive Media in Winter Raven see Burtner NIME 2004 and ICMC 2004
for more recent work on Shamanic Interfaces for Multimedia Performance see Burtner Organized Sound 2005 (forthcoming)

Live video processing of the masks in performance

Shaman staff wireless video controller

in "Siknik Unipkaaq", "Siku Unipkaaq" and "Anugi Unipkaaq"
for more information on SOS Technology for recombinant spatialization see Burtner/Topper DAFX 2002 and LAD2 2004

Audio setup for SOS Ecoacoustic spatialization

Spatial processing algorithm in
"Siknik Unipkaaq" Concentric rings (sun)
Siknik Unipkaaq score excerpt
Spatial processing algorithm in
SikuUnipkaaq" Shaking (ice)
Siku Unipkaaq score excerpt
Spatial processing algorithm in
"AnugiUnipkaaq" Gusting (wind)
Anugi Unipkaaq score excerpt

in "Tingnikvik", "Kukikluk" "Speaking Flesh", "Snowprints" and "Ukiuq Tulugaq"

"Tingnikvik" video stills

"Kunikluk" score excerpt and video still

"Snowprints" video stills

"Speaking Flesh" video stills


Ritual performance masks, made by the composer, are used in performance by the dancers (images at top of page):
Sun mask
Ice mask
Wind mask
Raven mask


Winter Raven was premiered in Charlottesville, Virginia on March 28, 2003.
Old Cabell Hall
University of Virginia

Matthew Burtner, director
Michael Slon, conductor
Sage Blaska, dance choreography
W. Aniseh Khan-Burtner, mask choreography/theater
Winter Raven Music and Dance Ensembles
Burtner's "Multimedia Production" class at UVa

with guest soloists
Morris Palter, percussion; Geoffrey Gartner, strings; Virginia Hill, voice; Brian Boyce, percusion

Winter Raven excerpts video: 10' .mov Quicktime file. 241MB

this is a low quality quicktime movie. Higher resolution video is available in other formats.



Matthew Burtner

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