Song Of The Day 3/11/2014: Morton Subotnick - "Silver Apples of the Moon"


The Happy Electrode: The picture you see is not just any old Buchla 100 synthesizer -- it's the exact one I used to play with. It was in the Evergreen State College's audio lab, and I fiddled with it in a class called "Hybrid Music." This was the environment in which I produced my only solo hit single, called "Story," which I might address on another day as it appears to have become a minor regional hit in Toronto. I don't quite recall the class description for Hybrid Music, but my coarse newer self would probably just say "It's how to make compositions with samples." There was a little more to it than that, but a more detailed explanation of the curriculum eludes me.

The Buchla and I were not close. Its purpose in the course was to show the basic sound processing path in electronic music production. The other folks in my class seemed to manhandle the Buchla with aplomb and dexterity, understanding its flow and functions. I, on the other hand, was scared shitless of the thing. I couldn't understand its complexity, couldn't seem to manipulate the sound with the vast network of switch cables and rotary dials that came with it. My professor, Peter Randlette, consoled me about my frustration and promised that eventually we'd move on to ProTools. I did much better with that. But the Buchla is a pretty unforgettable machine. There's no mistaking it with a Yamaha DX7, that's for sure.

Morton Subotnick was one of the development team that formed the concept of the synthesizer, which was built by Donald Buchla. His work Silver Apples of the Moon was one of the first (if not the first) to harness all the power of the Buchla 100. Subotnick broke from his avant-garde peers by insinuating a rhythm to his work, rather than just space, timbre and pitch. My own work with the Buchla resembled more of a British air raid horn that got Pepsi spilled all over it.

Here's somebody who knows what the hell he's doing with the Buchla.




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