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From Silver Apples of the Moon to A Sky of Cloudless Sulfur

Starting in the late 1950s, with my work on a sound/music score for a production of King Lear, I became infatuated with the notion of composing music as a studio art. I was convinced that an imminent technology explosion would offer, for the first time in history, an alternative to the centuries-old, three-person model of the solitary composer, alone at a desk writing music with pen and paper, the performer reading and performing the music on an instrument, and the audience listening to that music in an auditorium. This was the dream that prompted Ramon Sender and me to search for someone to create an electronic music easel; that someone became Don Buchla, resulting in the design and building of the first “Buchla Box,” the first analog synthesizer. I began my life’s work of creating a new music in a technologically impacted world; a world yet to come. The dream was realized in a series of works starting with Silver Apples of the Moon and ending with A Sky of Cloudless Sulphur; my version of a new “chamber music,” music created specifically for the turntable and intended to be heard in the privacy of one’s home. I also worked on studio art’s anti-matter twin — public performance music that depended on spontaneity; the performance would somehow invoke the techniques and aesthetics of musical studio art. I went through numerous approaches, and, as technology became more sophisticated, I ended up with an approach that finally feels right. For each season of performances, I create a new hybrid Ableton-Buchla “instrument” loaded with prepared samples from all my previous works and performances, as well as new materials developed specifically for the new season; this allows me to transform the samples while performing brand new sound gestures, creating a new and ongoing palette for performances; The work always has the same title, From Silver Apples of the Moon to A Sky of Cloudless Sulphur. In this version I have created new material especially for the three instrumentalists from the National Gallery of Art New Music Ensemble.
-Program Notes by Morton Subotnick