Morton Subotnick, Volume 3: Electronic Works

Steve Holtje

By Steve Holtje

on 12.09.11 in Reviews
Richly textured sounds of vivid intensity

Much of Subotnick’s classic late-’60s and -’70s electronic music slipped out of print. As it gradually reappears under his supervision, the composer takes advantage of current technology to tweak the works. In the case of 4 Butterflies (1973), for 4-channel tape, that just means a new stereo mix of the original analog master tapes. The other piece, “Until Spring: Revisited” (1976/2009), for live electronics, glass harp and live video (an element obviously absent here), however, is an entirely new performance, with Miguel Frasconi joining Subotnick. Like much of Subotnick’s most influential music, “Until Spring: Revisited” includes a long section with the sort of rhythmic repetition — a beat made without drumming or drum machine patterns — that prior electronic music with its more academic bent had disdained. One could easily mistake that section for an Aphex Twin track. That’s the climax atop a long arc; before and after come contemplative sections focusing on twitchy timbres. 4 Butterflies is more like the abstractly designed tape music that jumpstarted electronic music in the ’50s, full of richly textured sounds of vivid intensity. These works have aged well; this period of Subotnick’s music was so absorbed by subsequent electronica that its style lives on.