Max Burstyn – Sun-Spiral
ARTIST NAME: Max Burstyn
SONG TITLE: Sun-Spiral
ALBUM TITLE: Yin
RELEASE DATE: July 2019
GENRE: Middle-Eastern Electronica
Max Burstyn is a student currently studying for his Master’s degree in Composition at the Royal Academy of Music.
His musical life is split into five parts: composing, producing, audiovisual programming, performing, and teaching.
He is exhibiting five audiovisual installations this year in London and internationally, and is currently performing in London with his live set.
His work combines conceptual influences from environmental, sociological, cosmological, and neurological data, and sonic influences from late-romantic music, Middle-Eastern and Far-East Asian music from Egypt and Japan, virtuosic jazz, and glitchy electronic dance music.
Discuss how you develop your melody.
I’m fascinated by the traditional music of Egypt, Japan, and Hungary. Many variations of the harmonic minor and pentatonic scales exist in these musical traditions, and I usually build a few melodies from one of these scales for each track.
Tell us your source of inspiration.
My work combines conceptual influences from environmental, sociological, cosmological, and neurological data, and sonic influences from late-romantic music, Middle-Eastern and Far-East Asian music from Egypt and Japan, virtuosic jazz, and glitchy electronic dance music.
Tell us the most memorable experience in your music career.
In May 2019, I wrote a piece – ‘Androids Seeping Sonic Code’ for live-coding and jazz ensemble. I was writing the live code which produces strange electronic sounds to alternately reinforce and break down the music from the jazz players. I forgot a bit of syntax from one line of code, which meant there were about 30 seconds of silence in the middle of the piece. It was terrifying but I managed to remember the code and we finished the piece!
Discuss how you build your song.
I always start with instrumentation, then basic harmony, and then build the melody and style around this.
For example, I might choose a Shakuhachi or Guzheng as the main instrument for a track. Then I’ll decide how I’ll use this instrument – either as a melodic or harmonic element.
After building a phrase, I then loop this for a certain duration in the track, and build other parts around it such as manipulated synths and live digital drum machines (on Push 2). I only use digital equipment – everything is done through Ableton and MIDI.
Tell us how you ensure your music inspires others.
I always try to compose music that’s infused with an element of abstraction from the style in which I’m working.
For example, if I’m producing a track based around a trap or trip-hop beat, I’ll try to incorporate synths, drums, or structural elements that are slightly out of the ordinary in order for them to stand out and inspire others to do the same to avoid homogenization.
I also love to get inspired by many different ideas – space travel, cosmology, neuropsychology, consciousness, etc.
Discuss the relevance of promotion to the music business.
For a long time, I was very averse to the idea of making money from art. But as I went through my undergraduate and now Master’s program, I began to view music, especially my own music, as another facet of society that requires a capitalist mind-frame. I don’t think this takes away from the music, on the contrary, it’s been an incentive for me to promote my art as much as possible. If I want to make a living and a life from my music, I might as well promote the hell out of it!
Tell us what you will do apart from music.
I spend a lot of time creating audiovisual performances and installations. So far this year I’m putting on five – two at the Royal Academy of Music, one at the contemporary music Spoleto Festival in Italy, one at the Bloomsbury Festival in London, and one on a boat party in London over the summer.
I’ve been fire spinning for 3 years and love doing this at events and festivals. You meet wacky and wonderful people at these gatherings.
I also work in a bookshop and spend a lot of time reading and researching books. My main literary interests are in writings about consciousness, absurdity, and science journals and articles.
List the names of the instruments you can play.
I started out with the piano when I was a kid about 20 years ago. Over the years I’ve also picked up the guitar, bass, percussion, clarinet, and saxophone.
My main instrumental practice at the moment is combining my virtuosic piano style which has been built from playing late-romantic music from composers such as Ravel and Rachmaninoff, and the electronic method of building loops from synths and drums using Ableton and Push 2.
Tell us if you have any music background.
I studied piano my whole life and started composing when I was about 13.
I studied music in high school which led me to take a Bachelor of Music with Honours in composition at the Royal Northern College of Music.
After this, I took a year out to work on my own music and release my first EP, during which time I applied for a Master’s degree also in composition. I received offers from the Royal College of Music, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, but in the end, decided on the Royal Academy of Music.
Tell us the piece of advice you will give to a new artist on entering the music chart.
Define your sound as much as possible, in any way. Whether that’s getting better at production, learning how to play your instrument more virtuosically, or forming partnerships with other performers to create new sounds. It’s all about continuously expanding your vocabulary and then finding your niche in the ocean of new music.
Elaborate on melody and rhythm.
Almost all of my melodies are based around variations of the harmonic minor and pentatonic scales. I’ll extract a few notes from these, and, for example, if I’m playing in a four-bar loop, I’ll create a melody from a scale that descends and ascends over the four bars. My melodies are also influenced by the phrasing and structure in late romantic piano music, Debussy and Chopin are good examples.
Most of the rhythmic aspects of my tracks are based on the style in which I’m working. For example, if I’m writing something based on trap I’ll incorporate those slow and reverberating drums, or a triplet bass /kick and glitchy hi-hats morphing overtime on top if I’m looking to psytrance or industrial music for inspiration.
State your future goals.
My dream is to travel the world exhibiting my audiovisual installations and live music at festivals, inspiring and being inspired by other artists and musicians. To promote free speech, to not judge others, to be kind! I also want to invest and get involved with environmental agencies and NGOs, particularly in the renewable energy industries.
Share your recording experience with us.
I have been producing and recording acoustic and electronic music for about 10 years.
During my time at the RNCM, I recorded many of my own compositions.
I took a class in my Master’s degree in Audio Recording Techniques, and have recorded several of my own works here as well.
In my home studio, I use a Behringer 1202FX mixer and Scarlett 2i4 DI to record guitars, saxophones, vocals, etc. into Ableton or Reason.
Tell us the most difficult part of the recording.
Finding the right microphone for different instruments – I recently recorded a grand piano and found (after a few tries!) that a cardioid condenser microphone was the best one for the job.
Discuss the greatest mistake you have ever made in your music career.
Not promoting and releasing my music when I was younger! I’ve only built up the confidence recently, just before and during my Master’s degree, to start making videos and releasing my music into the world. The positive and critical feedback has helped with my confidence tremendously and has encouraged me to keep going down this exciting life path.
Tell us how you build up your composition.
If I’m writing electronic music for live performance, I’ll always start with instrumentation, and then build a melody based on the scales I’ve talked about. Then I start thinking about style and structure, and how to effectively add in the other elements such as synths, drums, and bass.
If I’m writing a contemporary classical piece for live performance, I’ll almost always start with a concept based around data analysis, or transference of ideas from other art forms. This could range from looking at graphs of over-fishing data of fish species, to animal extinction rates over the last 10,000 years, to an abstract or hyperrealist animation or painting.
Discuss the relevance of music.
Music is simultaneously the most tangible and intangible art form. There is (arguably) only one way to physically experience it, but endless ways to experience it emotionally. Music is prevalent in every society across every age of human history, and its importance can often be overlooked as its use in the background of films and TV shows, and hotel lobbies increases.
Elaborate on the song.
This song – ‘Sun-Spiral’ – is the culmination of about two years of musical experimentation. I’ve finally started to achieve the sound I sought after – a blend of Middle-Eastern and Far-East Asian traditional music with trip-hop and electronic dance music, with a slice of virtuosic keyboard improvisation on the top.
Elaborate on your artist name and the title of the album.
The title of my first EP – Komorebi – translates from Japanese to ‘sunlight falling through the trees.’ I have a deep love of Middle-Eastern and Asian culture, and, having recently traveled in the mountainous regions of Northern Thailand and Cambodia, I was inspired to create an EP that reflected the emotions I felt when wandering the beautiful forests and jungles alone or with friends, away from the big cities and tourist areas.
My upcoming EP – ‘Yin’ – is the first of a two-part EP exploring the philosophical, historical, and spiritual aspects of the Yin Yang symbol… I wear a necklace that I’ve had for more than 10 years, it’s a constant reminder to stay calm, balanced, and to go with the flow.
Share your press release and review with us.
This video performance is part of Burstyn’s new live set which is based around the blend of Middle-Eastern and Far-East Asian instrumentals with dance and electronica. The set will be released as an EP – ‘Yin’ – in 2019.
While being fully respectful of those who wish to preserve their cultural identities, he feels that romantic, Asian, and electronic dance music is the most moving and powerful, and his aim is to cross-cultural boundaries and discover new methods of combining traditional music with dance music.