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Setnor School of Music remembers first recording engineer
Setnor School of Music remembers first recording engineerFebruary 25, 2003Megan Feringtonmafering@syr.edu
Richard Burns, audio engineer for the Setnor School of Music in the College of Visual and Performing Arts for 37 years, died Nov. 4, 2002 at age 82. Throughout his career, Burns ably combined his love of classical music with his passion for preserving historical sound recordings.
Burns, a native of New Haven, Conn., received an undergraduate degree from Yale University in 1942. Burns worked for the Bureau of Standards in Washington, D.C. and Soundscriber in New Haven, and 1951 founded his own record company, Overtone Records. His first release, Alessandro Scarlatti’s “Passion According to St. John,” won a Grand Prix du Disque in 1958.
Burns became the Setnor School of Music’s first recording engineer in 1965 at the invitation of Dean Howard Boatwright. Over the course of his career, Burns recorded student and faculty recitals, orchestral and choral programs, concerts by visiting artists, and master classes. His recordings, now in the Belfer Audio Archive, include the work of such prominent musicians as Arthur Poister, Louis Krasner, Howard and Helen Boatwright, Frederick Marvin, Marie Claire Alain, Tossy Spivakovsky, and composers John Cage, Karel Husa and Quincy Porter.
Until his retirement from SU in 1984, Burns also taught several courses on historical sound recordings, spoke at many professional conferences and had a number of articles published.
Burns also applied his vast knowledge of sound engineering to the development of technology, including the Packburn noise suppression unit, invented with Syracuse engineer and record collector Tom Packburn to reduce surface noise on recordings.
His services to classical music radio in Syracuse, including WCNY and its predecessor WONO, included engineering for a series featuring concerts at Crouse College and for the weekly program, “Fresh Ink,” sponsored by the Syracuse Society for New Music.
“He had a warm, good-hearted nature and the ability to get along harmoniously with the wide variety of types and temperaments the music life brought his way,” says Don Seibert, SU music librarian from 1968-1992. “I particularly admired his knowledge, skill and capacity for patient, persistent hard work. You could always count on him.”
Burns is survived by a brother, Theodore Burns, of East Haven, Conn.
Contributions in Burns’ memory can be made to the Syracuse University Library’s Richard Burns Memorial Fund in care of Susan T. Stinson curator, Belfer Audio Archive, 222 Waverly Ave., Syracuse, N.Y. 13244. (315) 443-3477.