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Morton Subotnick (Composer): Electronic Works, Vol. 1: Touch - A Sky of Cloudless Sulphur/Gestures

Track List

>Touch for synthesizer: Touch, Pt. 1
>Touch for synthesizer: Touch, Pt. 2
>Sky of Cloudless Sulpher for 4-track tape: Sky of Cloudless Sulphur, A (Opening)
>Sky of Cloudless Sulpher for 4-track tape: Sky of Cloudless Sulphur, A
>Gestures (It begins with colors), surround piece

Album Notes

This selection contains both AAD and DDD recordings.

This selection is also available in DVD format.

Audio Mixer: Morton Subotnick .

Audio Remasterer: Morton Subotnick .

This milestone release is not only a personal triumph for Morton Subotnick, it is a breakthrough for the new DVD audio format, taking unprecedented advantage of the possibilities of the medium. For Subotnick, it fulfills two old dreams that have been percolating since the 1960s -- releasing electronic compositions in true discrete multi-channel sound and giving the home listener the ability to interact with music. "Touch" (1969) was originally released on LP in stereo and quadraphonic versions, but neither version presented this exciting, volatile half-hour electronic tone poem as spatially as Subotnick conceived it. The DVD audio version does so dramatically, with each of the four sound sources sharply defined. The mix isn't as hot as the original Columbia quad LP, but there are startling gains in clarity and frequency response -- and, of course, you don't have to turn over the record in mid-piece. "A Sky of Cloudless Sulphur" (1978), Subotnick's playful swan song to his electronic "music for the phonograph" period, has been completely redefined. The notes on the original Nonesuch LP version contained no hint that listeners were only hearing the second half of the piece; now, the opening movement has been restored and the original eight-channel tape has been mixed down to four tracks for the DVD audio format. Though the piece's second half -- now titled "Dance" -- always seemed perfectly self-contained on LP, the austere, less animated opening part now provides a sense of anticipation before the more lighthearted "Dance" begins, perhaps unintentionally mirroring the two-part structures of Witold Lutoslawski. Having thus tied up some loose ends from his past, Subotnick then leaps into the 21st century with an extract from "Gestures" (1999-2001), a swirling, abstract, open-ended piece that accompanies some strange stories by Melody Sumner Carnahan (read here by Subotnick's wife and collaborator, Joan La Barbara). Only 16 minutes of the piece are included on the regular program; the rest can be accessed via DVD-ROM on a computer where you, the listener, can determine what is playing simply by moving the mouse or touchpad at different speeds (for those without DVD-ROM, a bonus CD-ROM disc version is included in the package). In "Gestures," a more contemplative, intellectual piece than its wilder non-interactive predecessors, it seems that the medium is more of the message than the content of the music; watching the mouse trace feathery patterns over a parchment-like pattern on the screen and having the ability to alter the textures of the sounds can go only so far. In other words, this is not an interactive masterpiece, but a brave effort to set the table for a future breakthrough. The flip side of the DVD audio disc can be played by regular DVD players in Dolby or DTS 5.1 surround, and there are loads of video interviews; the best is the one with John Schaefer where Subotnick talks about his past. And for unreconstructed technophobes, a stereo CD version (also Mode 97) is also available, though obviously minus the interactive, multi-channeled, and video features. ~ Richard S. Ginell


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