Jim Burton entered the New York art scene in 1969 where he practiced and taught as a painter until 1972 at which time he re-oriented his practice towards music and composition. Much in the vein of John Cage, alongside whom he occasionally performed, Burton was interested in aural invention and pressuring the limits of musically accepted sound. His experiments often innovated instruments or juxtaposed traditional sounds against the unconventional, producing noises which Tom Johnson characterized as "tactile," giving "the impression you could reach out and touch them." An early member of The Kitchen's circle, Burton collaborated with Kathy Landman, Christian Wolff, Mary Lucier, and Garrett List, as well as composing particular works for Merce Cunningham and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. After the retirement of the Vasulkas, Jim Burton alongside Robert Sterns took up roles as co-directors of The Kitchen. In 1973 Burton and Sterns saw The Kitchen through the relocation from the Mercer Arts Center to the Broome Street space.
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