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Morton Subotnick’s Silver Apples of the Moon: ‘It blew my mind!’

Fifty years ago, Morton Subotnick inadvertently invented techno with his ‘electronic music box’, the Buchla synthesiser. Now, he’s revisiting the piece for the Adelaide festival.
Milton Subotnick

‘I wasn’t on drugs when I make it’ … Morton Subotnick with a re-creation of the Buckla synth.

In 1967, the American composer Morton Subotnick released a record called Silver Apples of the Moon. It was the first electronic album ever to be commissioned by a classical record label, and it is still revered among synth gurus for containing the seeds – or possibly the pips – of techno.

Now 80 years old, though looking at least 20 years younger, Subotnick has flown halfway round the world, from his home in New York to Australia, to perform Silver Apples of the Moon in its entirety at theAdelaide festival. But what he’s really excited about is a new app he has created that enables kids to create their own electronic compositions on an iPad.

The app – called Pitch Painter – could be seen as the fulfilment of Subotnick’s prophecy, made in the 1960s, that one day every living room would contain a synthesiser. Having downloaded the app, I’m eager to play him the jaunty little electro-nursery rhyme I’ve come up with. “That’s very good,” he says. “A three-year-old could have done it,” I reply.

“That’s exactly the point. It’s a way of enabling kids to create music intuitively, without standard notation getting in the way. You wouldn’t prevent children from expressing themselves in paint before they’ve learned to draw, so why shouldn’t they be able to compose without reading music?”

Subotnick himself studied music at Mills College in Oakland, California, where his fellow students included future minimalists Terry Riley andSteve Reich. He was all set for a career as a clarinettist, but his interest in electro-acoustic music led to the establishment of the San Francisco Tape Music Centre in 1961, with fellow musician Ramon Sender. The two men dreamed of creating compositions with sounds no conventional acoustic instrument could produce. So, with a $500 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, Subotnick commissioned electronics wizard Don Buchla to build an “electronic music box”.

For his performance of Silver Apples of the Moon, Subotnick will be using a modern re-creation of the first Buchla synthesiser (the original is now in the Library of Congress). It looks more like a miniature telephone exchange than an instrument, which may explain why it never really caught on. Shortly after it appeared, Robert Moog debuted an alternative that was adopted by the likes of Pete Townshend, Micky Dolenz and Wendy Carlos, whose Switched-On Bach, recorded on a Moog, became one of the biggest-selling classical releases of all time. Not that Subotnick was impressed. “I could never see the point in playing old music on a new invention,” he says. “If I’m going to play Bach, I’d rather use a harpsichord.”

The Buchla might not have caught on, but that didn’t stop Subotnick making full use of it. Almost 50 years on, Silver Apples of the Moon still sounds arrestingly contemporary. The piece is in two parts: the first is slower, moodier and full of profound, synthetic sighs, like a robot in despair; then in the second half, something extraordinary happens – the music suddenly develops a pulse and climaxes in the frenzied hammering of proto-club rhythms.

This had simply never been heard before. Early electronic compositions were mostly about sine waves, oscillations, timbre – all devoid of rhythm, by and large. Yet, says Subotnick, his discovery of beats happened almost by accident. “In the early days, it took a long, long time – sometimes even days – to programme a sequence. Quite unintentionally, I found I had created this pulsating rhythm. I started grooving with it – and it blew my mind.”

And quite a lot of other minds, too. Silver Apples swiftly became an essential psychedelic soundtrack. “I certainly wasn’t on drugs when I made it,” he says. “I was working too hard. But I’d been staging multimedia performances with dance companies using projections and coloured oils since the early 60s, which was several years before psychedelia is supposed to have started.”

Even the album’s trippy title is perhaps a little less trippy than it appears: Subotnick took it from Yeats’s poem The Song of Wandering Aengus: “The silver apples of the moon, the golden apples of the sun.” As Subotnick says, “It doesn’t really mean anything. I just liked the sound of it.”

More innovations followed. Subotnick’s 1994 work All My Hummingbirds Have Alibis was the first interactive concert to be conceived for CD-Rom. And in 1995, he produced the first of his children’s works, Making Music, which might be described as the young person’s guide to the sequencer.

But it’s Silver Apples he will always be most closely associated with – and that suits him fine. “It’s not a bad little piece,” he says. “It’s like a jazz composition. I’ll start out with some of the familiar riffs, then just improvise. It keeps on changing whenever I perform it.”

• Silver Apples of the Moon is at the Adelaide festival on Friday, 7 March. The festival runs until 16 March (adelaidefestival.com.au). Alfred Hickling’s flights were provided by Emirates.

This Place Is Nowhere

12 December 2013, 21.37 | re-post from Radcollector click here for original post.

ThisPlaceIsNowhereShowCardBack

This Saturday is the opening of the “This Place Is Nowhere” at the Paul Loya Gallery in Los Angles. The first art show curated by my good friend Gus Cawley this show will feature the work of Corey Smith, Gordon Holden, and Scoph. If you are in the Los Angeles area you should definitely stop by… with this combination of guys it is guaranteed to be a good time. Check out the Facebook event page here. And the full press release after the jump.

 

This Place Is Nowhere
December 14th – January 4th, 2013
Opening Reception: December 14th, 6-10 pm
Paul Loya Gallery is proud to present a group exhibition, This Place Is Nowhere.
This Place Is Nowhere, which features the works of artists Gordon Holden, Schoph and Corey Smith, brings together three artists who take a serious (or not so serious) look at the society that surrounds us. In a “selfie”-saturated world, these artists create works that are provocative and often satirical or
sarcastic remarks on pop-culture and the masses. There is a synthesis of playful curiosity and critique of the contemporary culture which calls the viewer to both internal and external discernment and reflection. Each artist works with mixed media, composing images and materials into a thoughtful perspective.

BIO

Corey Smith
Corey Smith is a multi-media visual artist who currently resides between Los Angeles, Lake Tahoe and Portland, OR. He has been exhibiting his work in galleries throughout the US for over a decade. Smith has been featured in countless print magazines and online sources.

Gordon Holden
Gordon Holden was born in 1985 in suburban United States of America. After graduating from the University of Vermont, never having studied fine arts, he soon discovered that the only way to live in a world that strives for perfection is to do just the opposite. He describes his creations as a collection of things to like and things to
dislike.

Schoph
Originally from Yorkshire in the North of England, Scophe is currently living out of a bag in his studio, travelling and showing his art at successful group and collaborative shows from the UK, throughout Europe and the US.

For more information or images, please contact the gallery at info@paulloyagallery.com

A/V live performance by the collaborative project between the german duo consisting of Alva Noto (Carsten Nicolai) & Byetone (Olaf Bender) –Raster Noton’s co-founders– at the 10th anniversary of the International Festival of Digital Creativity & Electronic Music MUTEK.MX 2013 / A/VISION 3 – NOCTURNO 1 / Foto Museo Cuatro Caminos / Mexico City

October 4th 2013

Filmed & Edited by Victor Lara

diamondversion.info
mutek.mx

Trevor Paglen creates abstract photographs of hidden government sites.  Deciding to develop the photograph where the focus of what is, is distorted through the limits of telephoto lens.  These sites being in parts of geography where observation is difficult he has developed his process to highlight the liminality of these sites and concepts of secrecy.  Paglen has taken this idea and pushed it past his initial discoveries, treading a thin line whilst not getting caught up in drama instead raising questions about the current position we find ourselves where the individual is monitored yet who is monitoring the collective who presides?

 

This is the first in a series of digital works created from my time spent on the SNEHTA art residency in Athens Greece. I proposed making audio visual works whilst there and finding a working process that would allow me to generate a series of these glitch works. These works would allow me to explore non-places and heterotopias, sites which like objects I see as represents human qualities and conditions.

The start point came from exploring sites/spaces that have lost their use in this case Ellinikon the former international airport here in Athens. The digital photographs are the backbone of the research as it is the digital data from these RAW files that I use to create the sound through Audacity. Instead of editing in Photoshop the image is edited and sampled in this sound software. The only rule is that i keep the visual details of the image. The audio samples are then layered together to create a new sound scape different from the former visual landscape. Once this is done I bring the visual samples back into the track and finally create an abstract collage moving image.  The video quality is slightly reduced due to uploading it to vimeo though as a digital collage or samples that have undergone a process of data bending the glitch feel is part of the piece.

This is the first from this series so the process will only be streamlined and understood a little more with following works.

Any feed back would be happily received, thanks Dickie

dickiewebb.com

Nicolai, carsten, 344ms, 2007, perspex tubes, gas, igniting mechanism, large crop 2

ANALOG | GROUP EXHIBITION

30 November 2013 – 1 February 2014

Berlin

Bruce Nauman, Jannis Kounellis, Max Neuhaus, Lawrence Weiner and Gilberto Zorio are among the eight artists featured in Blain|Southern’s next exhibition, ANALOG, a group show which seeks to question our experience of sound through a range of immersive installations and augmented environments.

Examining the relationship between auditory and visual perception, as well as the extent to which sound functions as an affective trigger of personal memory and emotion,ANALOG demonstrates how artists have and continue to use noise as a powerful aesthetic in itself. Some of the works, which range in date from the 1960s to the present day, invite the viewer to actively participate – generating the echo of their own voices through recording equipment, or becoming immersed in a cacophony of fragmented arias.

Among the numerous works on display, Carsten Nicolai’s 334 m/s (2007) is specifically designed to visualise the speed of sound, which is around 334 m/s. To reflect this, propane gas is set alight within two translucent tubes, which produces a sonic boom and in turn issues wild flashes of fluorescent blue light as the flame burns from one side to the other. Minimalist in form, the work consists of cylindrical tubes, gas cylinders and wires, exploring the artistic potential of chemical processes.

Cyril de Commarque will be exhibiting Migrants (2013), a work that consists of bottles containing organ-like apparatuses, attached to a vascular system that resembles the shape of a boat. The piece represents a poetic limbo, being a metaphor for the forced emigration of peoples from their native countries, and the subsequent voyages that were undertaken in a desperate struggle for survival. The work emits the sounds of anonymous overlapping vocal messages, which become obscured by their own multitude, creating a sense of confusion and disorientation. These voices are incongruous to the pulsating organs from which they emanate, depersonalising the piece to the point that it becomes a collective allegory.

In Ignacio Uriarte’sThe Beach (2012), the sound of a typewriter carriage moving from right to left is presented stereophonically. This repetitive, formulaic process of typing acquires a new dimension, as its constant patterns begin to take on the hypnotic lull of a rolling tide. The audience thus becomes focussed on the unique qualities of the sound itself, now isolated from its mode of production.

Music is the primary subject of both Lawrence Weiner’s Deutsche Angst/The Memories of Stu Irwin (1981) and Jannis Kounellis’ Untitled (1971). Weiner’s piece is a musical collaboration with experimental composer Peter Gordon, which fuses the stabs of electronic synthesisers with elements of free jazz, percussive beats and spoken word. The result is a unique avant-garde composition in which disjointed elements compete for the listener’s attention, creating a distinctive soundscape in which the human voice becomes the remote protagonist of an unsettling musical narrative.

Unlike Weiner’s work, Kounellis’ Untitled incorporates physical performance, in the segmentation of a Divertimento by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  Played by students from the Leo Kestenberg Music School and Studio a’415 two days a week, the Divertimento is staged in fragmented form, with students only performing the same five minute section of the piece for a three hour duration. This structural dissolution of the Divertimento denies the listener the enjoyment and progression of the full piece, transforming rich classical melodies into an emotionally distant and unnervingly mechanical rendition. This process ties in with Kounellis’ use of fragmentation to express feelings of alienation in contemporary society.

Bruce Nauman’s Doppelgänger/UFO (1988) is comprised of a rotating steel beam to which two audio cassettes have been attached, exploring the aural phenomenon of the Doppler effect, where sound waves become distorted as the object is put into motion. Nauman urges the viewer to engage directly with dynamic sound, encouraging us to consider the everyday noises that flash past us with greater aesthetic appreciation, such as the rush of moving vehicles, or the fragments of overheard conversations that fill our ears within urban environments.

Exhibited for the first time outside of Turin is Max Neuhaus’ Three ‘Similar’ Rooms (1989), courtesy of Galleria Giorgio Persano. The large-scale installation – staged in the upper level of the gallery – comprises three seemingly identical rooms through which the viewer wanders, though each room actually contains a distinct aural experience as determined by its individual acoustics. The spaces themselves offer no indication of the origin of each sound, causing the viewer to experience these decontextualised noises in a pure, unfiltered manner.

Gilberto Zorio’s Microfoni (1968) presents a number of concrete breeze blocks on bases of ball bearings, above which microphones hang from the ceiling. Viewers are encouraged to stand upon the blocks and speak into a microphone, with their voice then echoing back through speakers in looped, distorted form. Via this abstraction of the human voice, Zorio’s work causes us to scrutinise the sound of our own speech and the ways in which we use verbal communication.

Through the exploration of these artists’ varying engagement with sound, ANALOGchallenges the audience to perceive the noises of our daily life with greater reverence, triggering both a re-assessment of our aural experience of the world and a renewed appreciation and understanding of the nature of sound as an integral aspect of our sensory existence.

http://www.blainsouthern.com/

Image:

Carsten Nicolai
334m/s
2007
Perspex tubes, gas, igniting mechanism
Room installation/dimensions variable
Image Courtesy of Galerie EIGEN + ART Leipzig/Berlin and Pace Gallery

So Catriona Gallagher and myself wrapped up our time here on the SNEHTA residency with a small exhibition titled Unsettled Certainties.  Over the two days we had some interesting conversations with people we had met and others we had not from our time here in Athens.  It was a great way to finish our two months and hopefully will see either of us or both returning sooner rather than later.  I will post some images over the coming week.  For now here is a little GIF teaser from a sign piece I made which is the start of a new series of work titled “Concept Of Since”.

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“Unsettled Certainties”

Catriona Gallagher and Dickie Webb

Opening, Friday 29th November 6:30-9pm
(Open Saturday 30th November 3-8pm. Open Sunday 1st December by appointment.)

Gallagher and Webb have both been occupied with the notion of place, comprehending what it is to be settled or grounded and equally seeking intermediate sites to challenge their knowledge. Through certain and uncertain exploration they have found different places to work within the Athenian landscape.

Gallagher has been making interventions that highlight absurdities in the preservation of heritage and trying to understand the notion of shelter when that becomes necessary.

Webb has concerned himself with liminal spaces, sites that were but are not now, since certain events occurred. He has created reflective intermedia works that question what now, post since.

“Unsettled Certainties” is a synopsis of their research and time at Snehta and points towards possible resolutions in the future.

 

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“Ακαθόριστες Βεβαιότητες”, Catriona Gallagher και Dickie Webb

Εγκαίνια Έκθεσης την Παρασκευή 29 Νοεμβρίου 3-8 μ.μ
Ανοιχτά Κυριακή 1 Δεκέμβριος, κατόπιν επικοινωνίας

Βασικό θέμα έρευνας των εικαστικών Ghallager και Webb είναι η έννοια του τόπου, ο τρόπος με τον οποιό αντιλαμβάνεται ο καθένας τις ρίζες του, και τη βάση της ζωής του, που συναρτάται με κάποιο χώρο. Η τυχαία και πολλές φορές συμπτωματική διαδικασία που οδήγησε τους καλλιτέχνες στην ανακάλυψη τέτοιων σημείων-τόπων, τους ώθησε να επικεντρωθούν καλλιτεχνικά σε διαφορετικά σημεία της Αθήνας.

Πιο συγκεκριμένα, οι παρεμβάσεις της C.Galagher, τονίζουν τους παραλογισμούς στην συντήρηση της Ελληνικής κληρονομίας και φανερώνουν την προσπάθεια της εικαστικού να κατανοήσει την έννοια του καταφύγιου όταν αυτό είναι παρόν, ή όταν αυτό μοιάζει απαραίτητο.

Ο D.Webb ερευνά χώρους περιθωρίου-ενδιάμεσους χώρους και μή τόπους. Μέρη που κάποτε κυριαρχούσε η ζωή αλλά τώρα μένουν κενά ανθρώπινης χρήσης και παρουσίας. Βρίσκει τρόπους να φέρει στην επιφάνεια το χρόνο που μεσολάβησε ανάμεσα στις δυο διαφορετικές καταστάσεις και βάσει αυτού δημιουργεί έργα που έχουν ως βασικούς άξονες δύο καίρια για τον ίδιο ερωτήματα: «Τώρα τι? Από τότε τι?»

Η επιβεβαίωση του άστατου και συμπτωματικού χαρακτήρα που διακρίνει τον τόπο και το καταφύγιο συνοψίζουν την έρευνα που έγινε μεταξύ των δύο μηνών που οι καλλιτέχνες αφιέρωσαν στη Snehta. Μέσω της ερευνητικής αυτής διαδικασίας, δίνεται η δυνατότητα σε καθένα από τους δυο καλλιτέχνες να προχωρήσει και άλλο την εργασία του στο μέλλον προς την κατεύθυνση αυτή.

 

Earlier I posted a first draft/edit of a sound piece that I have been working on whilst here in Athens.  Here is the edit with more work done to it and at the moment I am moving onto new tracks.  I may return to this but at present this is now finished.  I am now looking at ways to combine the audio samples used within Athens Arrival with the visual sample that this glitch sounds were created from.  I hope to have a few new workings of this come next week.

Here are the visual samples:

visual samples used in arrangement no edit