Former NMMI student to release seventh album
By Christina Stock
The album, Burnished Alloy: Acoustic Covers of Metal and Rock, is the seventh album by Danny Birt.
Birt, a board certified music therapist with a master’s from Shenandoah University in Winchester, Pennsylvania, said in a phone interview that his career as a therapist and as a musician is based on the education he received at the New Mexico Military Institute (NMMI).
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“I grew up all over the place in the U.S.,” he said. “When I was younger, I moved with my parents; I moved for my job or to further my education. New Mexico — my first time there — was at NMMI. My parents moved to New Mexico eventually for a while, but NMMI was actually the longest I’ve lived at anywhere. I was at that school from 1995 to 2001, longer than anywhere else, so it will always feel a little bit like home.”
Birt said that he changed his career plans while attending NMMI. “I had played piano before I went to NMMI and that dropped off for a while, but I did join the choir there and then, as I continued to grow as a musician, I started noticing the way music affected the people around me; just depending on what type music was playing, how loud or soft, how fast or slow, that sort of thing. People would react differently, their behaviors would change. Combining that with what I was learning in psychology at NMMI, I did some research on paper on the psychology of music, on how it affects human beings, and that was where I learned that music therapy was a profession and I could use music to help people. So I tossed all my already accepted college acceptance letters and I started applying for music therapy for major. That was how I went to Loyola (Loyola University, New Orleans).”
Since then, Birt worked with patients of all ages, from neonates, premature infants, all the way to the elderly in hospice care. Balancing his work with his other passions seemed to come easy for Birt: He published six previous music albums as well as writing speculative fiction and a game apps designer, next to pursuing education class development.
Birt made his newest album available for preview for the Roswell Daily Record. The songs seem to be familiar, yet at the same time foreign. Some have hints of Gregorian choirs, others the liveliness of Celtic folk songs. The reason is that the various songs have been rearranged into new music styles, being originally released by some of the biggest names in the heavy metal and hard rock genre.
Asked about his choice of songs, Birt said, “The original concept behind Burnished Alloy was to take music that was inaccessible to some people and make it accessible to them. A lot of people don’t like listening to heavier metal music or heavy rock ’n’ roll and unfortunately, some people were missing out on some really beautiful music.”
One of the songs is “100 Years Ago,” by the Rolling Stones from their 1973 album Goats Head Soup. It is a song that was pretty much ignored by fans. The original song is put into a funky rock style, in large contrast to the lyrics that sound rather wistful. Birt gave “100 Years Ago” an almost happy tune that shows how melody and composition can change the written word. This is just one example of all the different styles of songs on Birt’s new album.
Asked about these different styles and changes, Birt said, “I‘ve been trying to figure out which genre I’d be putting the album into, and really, I can’t because it does span so many genres. You’re right, ‘100 Years Ago,’ is very happy now, it’s almost like a walk in the woods.”
Not every song originated from world-famous musicians, the song “Evening Star,” has almost a Celtic touch. “It does, it’s funny you should say that, the bands that created the song are from northern Europe, from an island nation,” Birt said.
Asked about his process on choosing the songs for which he pays royalties, Birt said, “I had quite a long time to decide which song I’d put in the album. This has been about a decade of work actually. It is nice to finally have it and getting it out there. For the songs, I was looking for a few different things. Of course, a beautiful melody, intricate harmony and lyrics are very important to me, both as a musician and an author and editor. I’ve also studied multiple languages and rhythm as well. If the songs had interesting rhythms to them it was more of a draw. Depending on the individual song, I might have kept more or fewer aspects of the song.
“The last song in the album, “Breakhoven,” was the last one I added and that was probably the most unusual. I knew enough Spanish to understand what the message of the song was and enjoyed the melody. When I started playing around to figure out what kind of instrumentation it would take for this song to really shine for people who don’t listen to heavy metal, I was having a hard time. Eventually, I noticed when I took away all instrumentation, it was in the hyperborean mode, it was like a Gregorian chant. I don’t know if the writers of the original song intended that that way or if it just came out sounding that way, but ultimately, that was what worked. I hadn’t intended to put any Gregorian chant in the album until all of a sudden there it was,” Birt said.
In this time of social distancing, Birt said that he has not been planning on a concert, another reason he said is that he had 15 tuned instruments and instrumentalists performing on the album. However, he said that he does play with the idea of a virtual party.
Asked about any message he has for new or old fans of his work, Birt said, “I think that I’d like to encourage people to keep dreaming. You never know what may become of a dream.”
Burnished Alloy will be available through major digital distributors such as iTunes, Spotify and Amazon Music on Oct. 30. Birt has no professional online presence as he considers himself rather as an introvert. He does have a Facebook page where he invites the curious to follow him @danny.birt.7.