One of the true pioneers of electronic music, composer Morton Subotnick has been a relentlessly forward-looking figure in American music, with a progressive sensibility even at age 89. While he’s justly revered for his classic 1967 piece “Silver Apples of the Moon”—the title of which was embraced by the sui generis 60s rock band Silver Apples—his accomplishments extend far beyond that work. In 1962 he and Ramon Sender co-founded the San Francisco Tape Music Center, a hugely influential institution where folks like Terry Riley and Pauline Oliveros did some of their earliest work.
After relocating to New York in 1966 he began working with the Buchla synthesizer in earnest, forging a rhythmic element previously missing in most purely electronic work and leading to “Silver Apples” and other influential works. He returned to the West Coast in 1969, where he became a founding member of the California Institute for the Arts in Los Angeles, where he first served as associate dean before creating a pioneering new media program at the school. He’s never stopped writing music and performing, perpetually embracing new technology while maintaining a commitment to rigorous compositional forms.
Subotnick will perform his recent work As I Live and Breathe, an interactive light-and-sound work created with the Berlin-based video artist Lillevan. The composer has said of the work, “As I Live & Breathe features live and sampled vocalizing along with some of my most advanced electronic performance techniques. At last, some Buchla modules are now digital plugins and Ableton Live has evolved into a form that will allow me to create a technological environment that I never expected, in my lifetime, to experience. It starts with my breath, moves through a vocalizing cadenza of vocal gestures and ends with a tender and simple use of gentle rhythms and melodic fragments.”