Morton Subotnick is one of the United States’ premier composers 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, which brought Subotnick celebrity, was Silver Apples of the Moon. Written in 1967 using the Buchla modular synthesizer, this work contains synthesized tone colours striking for its day, and a control over pitch that many other contemporary electronic composers had relinquished. There is a rich counterpoint of gestures, in marked contrast to the simple surfaces of much contemporary electronic music. The exciting, exotic timbres and the dance-inspiring rhythms caught the ear of the public — the record was an American bestseller in the classical music category, an extremely unusual occurrence for any contemporary concert music at the time.
The next eight years saw the production of several more important compositions for LP, realized on the Buchla synthesizer: The Wild Bull, Touch, Sidewinder and Four Butterflies. All of these pieces are marked by sophisticated timbres, contrapuntally rich textures, and sections of continuous pulse suggesting dance. In fact, Silver Apples of the Moon was used as dance music by several companies including the Stuttgart Ballet and Ballet Rambert and The Wild Bull, and later works, including A Sky of Cloudless Sulfur and The Key to Songs, have been choreographed by leading dance companies throughout the world.
In addition to music in the electronic medium, Subotnick has written for symphony orchestra (including “Before the Butterfly” a bi-centennial commission for the NY Phil, La Phil, Chicago Symphony, Boston Symphony and the Cleveland Orchestra), chamber ensembles, theater and multimedia productions. His “staged tone poem” The Double Life of was premiered at the 1984 Olympics Arts Festival in Los Angeles.
Jacob’s Room, Subotnick’s multimedia opera, received its premiere in Philadelphia in April 1993 at The American Music Theater Festival. The Key to Songs, for chamber orchestra and computer (1985), Return, commissioned to celebrate the return of Halley’s Comet, premiered with an accompanying sky show in the planetarium of Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles in 1986.
His 3 CDROMS: All My Hummingbirds Have Alibis (1994), Making Music (1996), Making More Music (1998), an interactive ‘Media Poem’, Intimate Immensity, premiered at the Lincoln Center Festival in NY (1997) and Echoes from the Silent Call of Girona (1998). Gestures for DVD surround sound and DVD ROM will be released on Mode Records in the spring of 2001. Making Music has now sold over 400,000 copies and is in 12 languages. In addition, his website for children, creatingmusic.com, is now online.
He also produced a series of concerts and events (1990-1997) where performers interacted musically in three cities simultaneously.
Subotnick holds the Mel Powell Chair in composition at the California Institute of the Arts. He tours extensively throughout the U.S. and Europe as a lecturer and composer/performer. He is published by European-American.