George Burt has written about 40 works (orchestral, chamber and electronic) as well as scores for six feature-length films.
He began composing in his middle teens, but during his earlier years he was also known to his friends for, among other things, supporting himself by rather diverse means while pursuing musical studies. Between ages 12 and 32 he worked as a "doubler" (playing various wood winds), played jazz and "what seemed a thousand shows" in theaters and hotels. When the better jobs slackened, which they invariably did at times, he shipped out as a deckhand in the Merchant Marine, drove an ambulance or worked as a laborer. "Life was a bit more manageable" once he secured a teaching position as a professor of composition.
Born in San Francisco and raised in Sausalito, he attended The San Francisco Conservatory and went on to receive degrees from UC Berkeley, Mills College and finished graduate studies at Princeton. During these years Burt considers himself very fortunate to have studied with such luminaries as Darius Milhaud, Roger Sessions (5 years), Andrew Imbrie, Leon Kirchner and Milton Babbitt. He also worked with Gyorgy Ligeti for one year in Vienna while on an Alfred Hertz Memorial Grant
His music has been performed by the Detroit and Houston Symphony orchestras, the Paris Opera Orchestra as well as the Cleveland Chamber Symphony Orchestra and by chamber ensembles in many college and university campuses throughout the country. Most recently he has written a Symphony no I, an Octet (4 winds, 4 strings) which was played in Houston, a Quartet (Alto Flute, Bassoon, Vibraphone, and Contra Bass), taken on tour by virtuoso bassoonist, Benjamin Kamins, and a Quintet called "Child Street" (2 winds, 2 strings and Piano) performed by the "Sounds New Ensemble" in Berkeley. He's currently working on a double concerto for two violins, string orchestra and percussion called "Into Thin Air". His works have been published by Jobert, Paris, M.M.Cole, Chicago, Gemini Press, N.Y., and Alexander Broude, Inc, N.Y. His recordings have appeared under Summit Records, GM Recordings and Art of the States.
In addition to concert music, Burt has scored six feature length films, two for Robert Altman, which, according to ASCAP, have been shown in virtually every corner of the earth. "Secret Honor" (1984) won countless awards and accolades particular amongst actors and critics in the United States and Europe. Altmanšs film of "Fool for Love", a complex stage play by Sam Shepard, starring Shepard, Kim Basinger, and others attracted broad attention as evidenced by a full page notice on the cover of Newsweek and featured articles in major newspapers and magazines in the U.S. and England. Other films include "Dr. Chicago" directed by painter artist George Manupelli, "The Trust" starring Karen Black, and two low budget films from the 60's including "Curse of the Living Corpse" with Roy Scheider and "Psychomania"(both uncredited). Other non-concert music ventures include three documentaries, and two stage plays by W. B. Yeates.
In another capacity, Burt is the author of "The Art of Film Music", Northeastern University Press, 260 pgs. (1994), used as a text in film and film music classes throughout the US, Europe and the Republic of China. This book is commonly regarded as one of the best writings on the subject and has been highly recommended by experienced people in the field such as David Raksin, Robert Altman, Leonard Rosenman, Gunther Schuller, Henry Brant, Alex North and many others.
Burt has taught at Smith College, the University of Michigan, Rice University, and USC. During these years he began the now well-established electronic studio at Smith College, directed a 4-day national meeting of lectures and concerts for the American Society of University Composers in Ann Arbor, and gave thirty concerts (in thirty days) on tour throughout Alaska performing his TAPE MUSIC. He was the director of SYZYGY, the new music ensemble at Rice University (ten concerts per year for 6 years) and developed the graduate theory/analysis program at Rice. He has received awards from Alfred Hertz Memorial Foundation, ASCAP (4), Horace Rackham grants (4), the Briarcombe Foundation, The McDowell Foundation, Paul Henry Merritt Prize, Woodrow Wilson and Roy Dickinson Welch Fellowships.
He now resides in Sonoma, California where he composes and where he has initiated and directed a new music concert series, "Notes from the Underground".