Subotnick, Morton

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Subotnick, Morton

Subotnick, Morton, American composer and teacher; b. Los Angeles, April 14, 1933. He studied at the Univ. of Denver (B.A., 1958) and with Milhaud and Kirchner at Mills Coll. in Oakland, Calif. (M.A., 1960); then was a fellow of the Inst. for Advanced Musical Studies at Princeton Univ. (1959-60). He taught at Mills Coll. (1959-66), N.Y.U. (1966-69), and the Calif. Inst. of the Arts (from 1969); also held various visiting professorships and composer-in-residence positions. In 1979 he married Joan La Barbara. His compositions run the gamut of avant-garde techniques, often with innovative use of electronics; his Silver Apples of the Moon (1967) became a classic. In 1995, working with programmer Mark Coniglio at the Inst. for Studies in the Arts at Ariz. State Univ. in Tempe, he completed Making Music, an interactive CD-ROM composition program for children; his All My Hummingbirds Have Alibis, an “imaginary ballet” set to a series of Max Ernst’s paintings for Flute, Cello, Midi Piano, Midi Mallets, and Electronics (1991), was also later converted into a critically appraised CD-ROM. His interest in the relationship between performers and technology have resulted in the composition of a series of “ghost pieces/” 11 chamber works for instruments and interactive electronics in which the “ghost” score (which contains no audible sounds) consists of a digital program that commands electronic modules to modify the instrumental sounds as they are played from a traditionally notated score; in this series are Axolotl for Cello and Electronics (1982) and Tremblings for Violin, Piano, and Electronics (1983). More recent works utilized computerized sound generation, specially designed software, and intelligent computer controls which allow performers to interact in a complex and musical manner with computer technology. On April 17, 1998 he received the annual SEAMUS Award for significant contributions to the art and craft of electroacoutic music.


dramatic: Opera: Jacob’s Room (Philadelphia, April 20, 1993). Incidental Music To: Genet’s The Balcony (1960); Shakespeare’s King Lear (1960); Brecht’s Galileo (1964) and The Caucasian Chalk Circle (1965); Büchner’s Danton’s Death (1966). O RC H. : Play! No. 2 for Orch. and Tape (1964); Lamination No. 1 for Orch. and Tape (1968) and No. 2 for Chamber Ensemble and Electronics (1969); Before the Butterfly for 7 Solo Instruments and Orch. (1975; Los Angeles, Feb. 26, 1976); 2 Butterflies for Amplified Orch. (1975); Place (1979); Axolotl for Cello, Chamber Orch., and Electronics (1982); Liquid Strata for Piano, Orch., and Electronics (1982); The Key to Songs for Chamber Orch. and Synthesizer (1985); In Two Worlds, concerto for Saxophone, Electronic Wind Controller, and Orch. (1987-88); And the Butterflies Began to Sing for YCAMS and Chamber Ensemble (1988); A Desert Flower (1989). MIXED MEDIA: Mr. and Mrs. Discóbolos for Clarinet, Violin, Cello, Narrator-Mime, and Tape (1958); Mandolin for Viola, Tape, and Film (1961-63); Sound Blocks for Narrator, Violin, Cello, Xylophone, Marimba, Tape, and Lights (1961); Play! No. 1 for Wind Quintet, Tape, and Film (1963), No. 3 for Piano, Tape, and Film (1964), and No. 4 for 4 Actors, Performers, Piano, Vibraphone, Cello, and 2 Films (1965); 4 Butterflies for Tape and 3 Films (1973); The Double Life of Amphibians, theater piece (1984); Hungers (1986). VOCAL: 2 Life Histories for Man’s Voice, Clarinet, and Electronics (1977); Last Dream of the Beast for Woman’s Voice and Electronics (1978); Jacob’s Room for Voice and String Quartet (1984; San Francisco, Jan. 11, 1985). INSTRUMENTAL: Prelude No. 1 (The Blind Owl) for Piano and No. 2 (The Feast) for Piano (both 1956); Viola Sonata (1959); String Quartet (1960); Sonata for Piano, 4-Hands (1960); Serenade No. 1 for Flute, Clarinet, Vibraphone, Mandolin, Cello, and Piano (1960) and No. 2 for Clarinet, Horn, Percussion, and Piano (1962); 10 for 10 Instruments (1963-76); The Tarot for Chamber Ensemble (1965); The Fluttering of Wings for String Quartet (1982). INSTRUMENTAL AND ELECTRONICS: Preludes Nos. 3 and 4 for Piano and Tape (1962-65); Serenade No. 3 for Flute, Clarinet, Violin, Piano, and Tape (1963); Liquid Strata for Piano and Electronics (1977); Parallel Lines for Piccolo, 9 Instruments, and Electronics (1978); Passages of the Beast for Clarinet and Electronics (1978); The Wild Beasts for Trombone, Piano, and Electronics (1978); After the Butterfly for Trumpet, 7 Instruments, and Electronics (1979); The first Dream of Light for Tuba, Piano, and Electronics (1979); Ascent into Air for 10 Instruments and Electronics (1981); An Arsenal of Defense for Viola and Electronics (1982); Axolotl for Cello and Electronics (1982); Tremblings for Violin, Piano, and Electronics (1983); All My Hummingbirds Have Alibis for Flute, Cello, Midi Piano, Midi Mallets, and Electronics (1991). ELECTRONIC: The 5-legged Stool (1963); Parades and Changes (1967); Silver Apples of the Moon (1967); Realty I and II (1968); The Wild Bull (1968); Touch (1969); Sidewinder (1971); Until Spring (1975); Ice Floe (1978); A Sky of Cloudless Sulphur (1978); Sky with Clouds (1978); Return (1984).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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