Constellations by Christopher Burns

"Constellations are stories in the night sky, the tales we tell to transform the abstract patterns of distant stars and planets into comprehensible shapes. Constellations explores our human desire to create narratives, and the ways in which abstract sonic and visual materials intersect with storytelling. The fifteen movements of the work are seeded with a multiplicity of relationships, inviting each listener to construct their own chronicle of the experience."


Constellations encompasses an enormous variety of sonic and musical approaches. The music ranges from subtle studies in the variation of snare drum rolls, through meditative contemplations of the resonance of gongs and almglocken, to driving, polyrhythmic grooves created with vibraphone and woodblocks. Thunderous drumming, delicate and ethereal keyboard textures, and investigations of nontraditional percussion instruments such as glass tiles and whiskey bottles are all integrated into the music.

Constellations also uses visual materials to construct narratives. The percussionist deploys triangles, gongs, and crotales as tools for shadow puppetry. Choreography features prominently in movements for rainsticks, and for multi-percussion. Projected digital animations grow increasingly elaborate of the course of the composition, evolving from simple triangular forms to darting, organic figures and complex, patterned mosaics. And computer- controlled lighting makes color and shadow into integral elements of the experience.

Constellations is presented without intermission and has a running time of approximately 75 minutes. The work was premiered at the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, TN, on March 24, 2017. Photo credit Fistful of Tigers.


Equipment Rider


(can all or partially be supplied by artists, depending upon travel logistics)

3 snare drums
floor tom
hi-hat cymbal
2 bongos (low and high)
2 metal pipes (low and high)
3 tin cans (various pitches)
3 cowbells (various pitches)
3 glass bottles (various pitches)
7 woodblocks
8 thai gongs: F#4, G4, G#4, A4, A#4, C#5, D#5, F5 opera gong, any pitch
9 almglocken: E4, F4, F#4, G#4, A4, D5, D#5, E5, F5 3 triangles
4 crotales: C7 & C#7, plus additional pair tuned one semitone apart
12” square mirrored glass tile
2 large rainsticks
mallets, sticks, multi-rods, triangle beaters, etc. 


(can all or partially be supplied by artists, depending upon travel logistics)

video projector
10 LED PAR lighting fixtures
2 custom projection surfaces
(mounted on rack for gongs and almglocken) laptop for animation and show control 

Stage Dimension (minimum):

22’ wide, 15’ deep