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Posts tagged 'Morton Subotnick'

Greenroom Composer Spotlight: Morton Subotnick's "Crowds and Power"

When Nonesuch Records released Morton Subotnick's Silver Apples of the Moon in 1967, it was the first electronic record ever to be commissioned by a classical record label. Recorded on a Buchla synthesizer, Subotnick developed a provocative and unfathomably original work the likes of which had never been heard before.

Now 50 years following that release, Subotnick is the subject of a new documentary film and the centerpiece of a three-night series of live performances at Lincoln Center Festival, including Silver Apples as well as the world premiere of a bold new work, Crowds and Power. Musicologist Ted Gordon explores Subotnick's legacy and takes an early look at his newest composition in a new PSNY Greenroom feature. Read the feature here.

Joan La Barbara Performances in Zurich and Montréal

(Joan La Barbara, photo: Aleksandar Kostic)

Joan La Barbara
continues to be one of the busiest musicians working in the field of new music, both as a composer and a performer. And this work consists not only of commissions and performances, but also actively expanding the reach of her music to audiences around the globe. In October, La Barbara was involved with two festivals that emphasize the paths her work traces between seemingly different worlds. 

La Barbara's month kicked off with several performances and a master class at the Zürcher Hochschule der Kunste in Zurich, Switzerland, to celebrate the 85h birthday of her longtime friend and collaborator Alvin Lucier. Over the course of the four-day festival, La Barbara performed Morton Feldman's Only, Lucier's recent work Palimpsest (with text by Lydia Davis), and Double Rainbow, a new work for voice and oscillator. La Barbara also gave a master class and participated in a symposium with festival participants. Check out the full program here, and an excerpt of La Barbara performing Lucier's Palimpsest below: 

Across the Atlantic, La Barbara brought her mastery of the human voice to another venue: the Montreal Planetarium. La Barbara's pioneering compositional and performing voice has also reached new audiences in the electronic music community, including recognition from Red Bull Music Academy. RBMA, which has featured interviews with La Barbara and Morton Subotnick, presented a sold out concert featuring La Barbara, Pauline Oliveros, Lucrecia Dalt and Pan Daijing. La Barbara was also featured on RBMA's "Fireside Chat" radio interview series, with an episode airing on November 1, 2016 at 8pm CDT.  

New Releases of Morton Subotnick's Works for "Ghost Electronics"

(photo: Anja Koehler)

Morton Subotnick is undoubtedly a pioneer in the field of contemporary composition, most well known for his work with electronics. His Silver Apples of the Moon was the first composition commissioned and released by a recording company specifically for the medium of the long-playing record, and his influence as a composer, performer, and teacher can be observed in musicians as disparate as Wendy Carlos—his student at NYU—to DIY psych-rockers Silver Apples, to DJs around the world

But Subotnick should be recognized for much more than this landmark album, as important as it was. During the course of the 1970s and 80s, he developed a compositional process which combined the media and information theory of Marshall McLuhan with the expertise of instrument builder Donald Buchla to create works that were at once acoustic and electronic, performed live and "doubled"—in Subotnick's term, "ghosted". 

(Subotnick's "Ghost Box" and "Gesture Sketch" on a PROM chip from the 1980s at Library of Congress; photos: Ted Gordon) 

"Sculpting with sound in time and space": this is how Subotnick describes his compositional process for these "ghost pieces," using bodily gestures of touch and voice to create soundless "gesture sketches" of control information. This information is then used to control musical parameters—either on an electronic instrument such as the Buchla system, or Subotnick's custom-made "ghost electronics", which can control amplitude, pitch, and spatialization in real-time. Whether recorded on magnetic tape, digital read-only-memory, or in a contemporary Max/MSP patch, these "gesture sketches" provide a "ghost" for the real-time performer, blurring the lines between score, recording, performance, and improvisation.

(page 1 from "Parallel Lines" (1979); Morton Subotnick) 

Subotnick composed a dozen works using ghost electronics; five years ago, only five of these were available to the public. But through our work at PSNY, we're thrilled to announce that as of today, ten of these twelve works are now available. Our latest addition, Parallel Lines (1979), was presumed to be lost. But through the tireless efforts of our production team, we have reconstructed the full score and parts of this landmark work for solo piccolo, ghost electronics, and an ensemble of nine players.

In addition to this newly-available piece for rental, WERGO releases a CD of landmark recordings on July 8, collecting four "ghost electronics" pieces from the 1980s from Subotnick's staged tone-poem, "The Double Life of Amphibians". Extending metaphors of doubleness and medium-specificity to organic life, Subotnick tracks life in water, emerging onto land, and finally escaping into air. Three of the four works that comprise this large-scale piece—Axolotl, Ascent into Air, The Last Dream of the Beast, and A Fluttering of Wings—in addition to Passages of the Beast, an adaptation from The Last Dream of the Beast for solo clarinet and ghost electronics. 

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