Denise Burt

Graphic arts and design for music

Seeing New Music

by Denise Burt



 The website:


‘Seeing New Music’ is now available to read, free online.

Read about how the album artwork was created for a range of new and avant-garde music projects in a dedicated website at:



 The book:


Hardback book with screen-printed cover, 72 pages, ISBN 978-87-997969-0-8

Available on Amazon | Cantaloupe Music (US)
Dacapo Records (DK) | Saxo (DK) | from the author
(signed copies available)








Over the last 10 years, graphic designer Denise Burt has been on a unique discovery of contemporary classical music through her work designing covers for hundreds of art music releases.


In Seeing New Music – Contemporary classical music through the eyes of a graphic designer she tells the stories of how a selected 24 of her CD designs were made. The stories are told chronologically – spanning a decade – and describe her journey of discovery in the genre called ‘new music’. Through her assignments, we meet the work of a diverse range of composers and also get into the head of a graphic designer faced with the task of visualising conceptual music.


‘I’ve been repeatedly told over the years that the CD is dead… I don’t worry any more about them becoming obsolete. What interests me is not the format itself but the challenge of finding a way to represent and communicate conceptual music to new audiences. It’s the ultimate design task to try to make someone understand something about a piece of music before they have heard it.’


Composers and artists represented in Seeing New Music include:
Per Nørgård (DK), Paul Hillier (UK), Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen (DK), Jexper Holmen (DK), Anders Koppel (DK), Julia Wolfe (USA), Vagn Holmboe (DK),
David Lang (USA), Michael Gordon (USA), Helene Gjerris (DK), Ejnar Kanding (DK), Frank Bretschneider (DE), Bent Sørensen (DK), Morten Olsen (DK),
Rune Glerup (DK) and Peter V. Swendsen (USA).













What Does Music Look Like? – An audio-visual story about 8 album designs
“… Burt has designed nearly 300 album covers for Dacapo and other labels. We asked her to explain eight of them. Here they are, followed by the music that inspired them. ”
– Tom Huizenga, NPR (US), July 2015
> See the whole story, with music, on National Public Radio’s “Look at this” series


Classical cover art: the good, the bad and the ugly
“Burt’s thoughtfulness, imagination and visual variety is an insight into what can happen when label, composer and artist are working in creative synergy. I especially like what she came up with for Per Nørgard and Pelle Gundmundsen-Holmgreen, images that satisfy on their own terms but which intrigue and entice you to hear the music, the subtle balance that classical cover art should always try to achieve.”
– Tom Service, The Guardian, August 2015
> Read the whole article here


“The work of Denise Burt, a New Zealand-born designer based in Copenhagen, makes an elegant visual argument for the enduring value of CD cover design in her limited-edition book Seeing New Music…  Burt’s graphics respond to the radical nature of the music within, as with In C and Timber with a visual shorthand that promises a sensual, emotional experience as well as an intellectual one. Seeing New Music’s 24 items make much recent ‘cover design’ for rock and pop look hackneyed and anaemic.”
– John L. Walters, editor, Eye Magazine (UK), September 2017
> Read the review here


“The following is an excerpt from the introduction in this book… which I felt compelled to share with you.”
– Headphone Commute (US), April 2015
> Read the introduction to ‘Seeing New Music’ on Headphone Commute


“If you are a new music fan, chances are that you have seen or held in your hands album whose art was created by Denise Burt.
She just published a fascinating book focusing on 24 of her works and her creative process.”

– Thomas Deneuville, I CARE IF YOU LISTEN (US), May 2015
> Read whole interview about album art and the creative process here


“In a cultural climate where there is considerable, daily navel-gazing, bewailing even, of how to make Classical music—let alone the frightening
contemporary stuff!—relevant and appealing to today’s audiences, this is a book the relevance of which utterly belies the modesty of its scale…
What is refreshing about this story is her openness and honesty…
Seeing New Music is beautifully produced and I have found it a delight to read—and to return to.”
– Guy Rickards, Gramophone (UK), May 2015
> See full review here


“Denise Burt’s contributions spell renewed confidence in the future of contemporary classical marketing. The genre’s coexistence
with the digital age demands the thoughtful subtlety and collaboration graphic designers bring to the table.”

– Steve Nagel, (US), August, 2015
> See full article here


“Denise Burt is as sensitive to the meaning of the music as are the musicians who perform it. She listens closely to the
music, she studies it, she thinks hard about it, she interprets it. The CDs we have made together, such as ‘death speaks’
and ‘the difficulty of crossing a field’ are beautiful objects but they are also a visual window into the heart of the music.
I never knew that a CD package could do that.”

– David Lang, composer (US), June 2015



Seeing New Music is supported by the