Barton McLean

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Barton McLean (born 8 April 1938) is an American composer, performer, music reviewer, and writer

Barton McLean
Barton McLean setting up bicycle wheel
Barton McLean in performance


Barton McLean was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, the son of John and Grace McLean.

He began a series of solo instrument and stereo tape pieces, the most prominent of which is Dimensions II (1974), and championed by pianist David Burge,[1] who performed it extensively for several years. Burge's CRI recording of Dimensions II was listed in Keyboard Magazine as one of the ten best pieces of the '70s [2] Another extensively performed set in this series, Dimensions III and IV for saxophone and stereo tape (1979) [3] was premiered by Albert Regni in concert at the University of Texas at Austin on November 15, 1979, and recorded by Regni on CRI Records in 1980, and is still actively performed today.

Created with a National Endowment for the Arts Composer Grant, McLean's Song of the Nahuatl, an electronic composition for eight channels of sound, was premiered at the University of Miami on March 24, 1978.[4] The Electric Sinfonia, an electronic work which uses a 16-tone octave scale, was honored at the International Bourges, France Electro-acoustic Music Festival, June 1983. Along with many electronic works composed over the years, Barton McLean also developed the concept of the audience interacting meaningfully with instruments and live electronics in several installations.[5] McLean's music is based on an admiration for nature, but is created using the most advanced electronic tools available. The combination is thus primitive and highly sophisticated at the same time.[6] Barton McLean's signature work is his audience-interactive installation RAINFOREST created in collaboration with wife and composer Priscilla McLean. It has been performed extensively since 1989 throughout the USA and internationally. In a darkened room a taped drone of recorded and synthesizer sounds and continuous projections of rainforest images provide an atmosphere in which members of the public are invited to perform on electronic and acoustic instruments.[7]

In 1994 McLean was awarded a New York State Council for the Arts grant to create an installation with a nostalgic Ray Bradbury feel, portraying the ancestors of the tiny village of Petersburgh, New York. Using blown-up photographs and stations set up with recorded speaking voices, instruments, and electronic sounds, Forgotten Shadows was premiered in the Veterans Memorial Hall, Petersburgh, on Oct. 14, 1994. The music was made into a recording that is unique to McLean's style.[8] A new direction in McLean's composing using a computer program written in Cycling '74 software Max/MSP allowed for the creation of Magic at Xanadu (MAX),[9] inspired by the Coleridge poem "Kubla Khan" and performed live on keyboards and computer by Barton McLean. Magic at Xanadu (MAX) was recorded at the Knickerbocker Theatre in Holland, Michigan in 2008 and became a feature of The McLean Mix tours through 2010. Currently, McLean is composing with and developing concepts on the Kyma system provided by Symbolic Sound.

With his wife, composer Priscilla McLean, he performs as The McLean Mix, since 1974 presenting their separate works and collaborations across the USA and internationally; in these concerts he plays the piano or synthesizer, plus woodwinds, amplified bicycle wheel, invented instruments, and small percussion.[10] The McLeans live in Petersburgh, New York.




Selected works include:

  • Fantasia for Piano, 1968
  • Genesis, electronic, 1973
  • Spirals, electronic, 1974
  • Dimensions II for piano and recorded sound, 1974
  • Song of the Nahuatl, electronic, 1976
  • The Sorcerer Revisited, electronic, 1975, rev.1980
  • Dimensions III and IV for saxophone and recorded sound, 1979
  • A Lecture, speech improvisation featuring Trevor Wishart, with electronics, 1982
  • Etunytude, electronic, 1982
  • In Wilderness is the Preservation of the World for live performance, choir, narrators, soloists, taped wolves and eskimos, electronic sounds, audience singing, 1983
  • Pathways for symphonic winds and percussion, 1983
  • Rainforest, collaborative installation with Priscilla McLean for five performance stations, digital processing, recorded sound, and slides/video, 1989
  • Visions of a Summer Night electronic suite in 5 movements, 1989
  • Himalayan Fantasy, electronic, 1992
  • Rainforest Images I collaboration with Priscilla McLean, electronic, using rainforest sounds from 3 continents, 1993
  • Rainforest Images II, collaboration with Priscilla McLean and Hasnul Jamal Saidon, music and video, 1994
  • Earth Music, live electronics with 2 performers, 1993
  • Jambori Rimba, collaboration with Priscilla McLean for live performers and electronics, 1997
  • Happy Days for live electronics using music boxes, keyboards, flexatones, party instruments, acting,1997
  • Forgotten Shadows, electronic collage using many old time songs and instruments, 1998
  • Ritual of the Dawn for 6 piece chamber ensemble, 1998
  • Rainforest Reflections for orchestra, tape, two soloists, 1999
  • Rhapsody on a Desert Spring for MIDI violin, live performance with Korg Wavestation, 1999
  • Journey on a Long String, electronic, 2001
  • MILLing in the ENNIUM, electronic collage from installation of the same name, 2001
  • Magic at Xanadu, (MAX) live computer performance with MA/MSP, 2008
  • Concerto: States of Being for piano and electronics, 2009
  • Ice Canyons for live electronic performance with MAX/MSP, 2010
  • Jubilee for live computer performance with MAX/MSP, 2010
  • Peter's People Suite from video of the same name, 2012 [11]


  1. ^ "Recital: By David Burge." New York Times, author John Rockwell, March 23, 1975.
  2. ^ Best pieces of the '70s, Keyboard Magazine (formerly Contemporary Keyboard), November 1979.
  3. ^ Dimensions III and IV by Barton McLean, The Saxophone Symposium, author Ronald Caravan, Fall, 1980, pp. 6-9.
  4. ^ Barton & Priscilla McLean Folkways Electronics, author Jim Aikin, Keyboard Magazine (formerly Contemporary Keyboard), July, 1979, p. 92.
  5. ^ New Directions in Music, 7th edition, author David Cope, Waveland Press, Prospect Heights, Illinois, 2000, pp. 124-5.
  6. ^ Artists and Activists, author Joseph Dalton, The Troy Book Makers, New York, 2008, p. 71.
  7. ^ Electric Sound, author Joel Chadabe, Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 1997, p. 331.
  8. ^ Forgotten Shadows, author Graham Simpson, International Record Review, September 2000, p. 75
  9. ^ Three DVDs from The McLean Mix, author Elizabeth Hinkle-Turner, Computer Music Journal, Fall 2010, Volume 34, No. 3, pp. 81-85
  10. ^ New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians 2nd edition, author Lesley A. Wright,[full citation needed], editors Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001).
  11. ^ The International Who's Who in Classical Music 2012

External links[edit]

Barton McLean *Official Site