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Morton Subotnick Performs "Silver Apples of the Moon" and "Crowds and Power" at the Lincoln Center Festival

Morton Subotnick - Lincoln Center Festival - Feast of Music Jul 21  2017  8-44 PMFor all those who think electronic music started with Frankie Knuckles in Chicago, or the Belleville Three in Detroit, a tutorial of sorts was provided by the Lincoln Center Festival this week, which invited pioneering electronic composer Morton Subotnick to perform his seminal work Silver Apples of the Moon on the occasion of its 50th anniversary. It might seem ironic to stage a work that was originally designed to be heard in the privacy of one's home, but Subotnick - like most musicians - has come to embrace the pleasures of live performance.

For this performance, Subotnick - now 84 - "revisited" the composition, updating his original Buchla Box (which he co-created with Don Buchla) with a hybrid Ableton-Buchla instrument that allowed for a mix of live and recorded electronics. The music - which was split into 8 channels - was strange and hallucinatory at first, then rhythmic and propulsive. Sitting alone at a table filled with wires and various control pads, Subotnick was in complete command of the proceedings, bringing to mind another electronic composer I caught in the autumn of his career

Morton Subotnick - Lincoln Center Festival - Feast of Music Jul 21  2017  9-19 PMAfter the final bleeps and blips faded out, Subotnick went straight into Crowds and Power, a new work featuring Subotnick's wife, vocalist Joan La Barbara, along with live visuals by Lillevan. Inspired by the 1960 book by Elias Canetti, the music purports to explore the potential for crowds to overthrow their leaders - a timely subject, though one which Subotnick says long preceded the current administration - with dark, sinister sounds accompanying La Barbara's unsettling mix of guttural groans and screams, backed by images of fascist soldiers and various conflagrations. It was definitely disturbing, if all a bit obtuse. Sometimes - and particularly in Morton Subotnick's case - the music by itself is more than enough. 

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