Gary Butler

Gary Butler has been performing improvised music for over 20 years. His interest in extending the range of the guitar has led to him rubbing pizza into the strings, throwing a guitar from a 3rd storey window, nailing a guitar to a cross, having food fights with his family on stage, writing a PhD thesis on prepared instruments, playing J.S. Bach’s “Prelude in Dm” and playing/attacking the guitar with various items including (but not limited to) toys, a bird cage, a vibrator, shoes, sticks, polystyrene, fireworks, a battery operated masturbating hand, an axe and a kitchen sink.

He was a founding member of the improvising group Wollongong Anarchist Noisemakers Kollective (re-named Third Rail on re-locating to Melbourne) with fellow MCL members Warren Burt and Houston Dunleavy. His composition “Guardians of her Galaxy” was performed at the Melbourne Fringe Festival event Cabinet of Oddities organized by Houston Dunleavy and Laura E. Goodin (Flute: Angus McPherson. Narrator: Houston Dunleavy. Story: David McDonald).

Gary has a BCA (Hons) in composition from Wollongong University, studying with Andrew Ford, Andrew Schultz and Peter Schaefer. His Honours thesis – “John Cage was a Bastard!” – explores Cage’s relationship with Arnold Schoenberg, using the metaphor of Berg’s illegitimate daughter as a metaphor for Cage as the “illegitimate son” in contrast to Schoenberg’s fatherly links to Berg and Webern. This was followed by a PhD on the use of prepared instruments in improvised music, considering a web of different histories including John Cage, African instruments, vaudeville performers, 19th Century pianos and visual artists. The diversity of sources in his research is seen in references to James Joyce’s Ulysses, the autobiography of Malcolm X and a Bananas in Pyjamas video. This willingness to literally go from the sublime to the ridiculous in establishing unexpected connections is an important aspect of his musical philosophy.

A common theme in his music is the interaction of composition, improvisation and randomness, and the symbiotic connection between order and chaos.


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