Morton Subotnick is one of the pioneers in the development of electronic music and an innovator in works involving instruments and other media, including interactive computer music systems. Most of his music calls for a computer part, or live electronic processing; his oeuvre utilizes many of the important technological breakthroughs in the history of the genre.
The work that brought Subotnick celebrity was Silver Apples of the Moon. Written in 1967 using the Buchla modular synthesizer (an electronic instrument built by Donald Buchla utilizing suggestions from Subotnick and Ramon Sender), this work contains synthesized tone colors striking for its day, careful control over pitch and a rich counterpoint of gestures. The exciting, exotic timbres and dance-inspiring rhythms caught the ear of the public, and made the Nonesuch release a bestseller; the recording has since been re-released on the Wergo CD label.
In the next eight years, Subotnick wrote several more important compositions for LP using the Buchla Synthesizer, including The Wild Bull, Touch, Sidewinder and Four Butterflies. He continued to revolutionize electronic music with real-time setting changes, and the development of a “ghost” box and score to facilitate real-time signal processing of instrumental parts performed live. In the 80s, Subotnick continued his work at IRCAM, using ghost scores in addition to spatial placement of sounds in a quadraphonic field. He also continued to compose for symphony orchestra, chamber ensembles, theater and multimedia productions, and premiered his “staged tone poem” The Double Life of Amphibians at the 1984 Olympics Arts Festival in Los Angeles.
Subotnick’s recent works utilize computerized sound generation, specially designed software, and “intelligent” computer controls that allow the performers to interact with the computer technology. In addition, Subotnick has been developing musical creative tools for young children: he has authored a series of CD-ROMs, a website (www.creatingmusic.com) and is developing a program for classroom and after-school programs that will soon become available internationally.
Excerpts from the music of Morton Subtonick:
Silver Apples of the Moon (1967)
A Fluttering of Wings (1981)