Morton Subotnick, “Silver Apples of the Moon”
Morton Subotnick, one of the founders of California Institute of the Arts, co-founded San Francisco Tape Music Center in 1962 , left his teaching post a Mills College and moved to New York City and accepted an artist-in-residence position at the newly formed Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. His previous works and performances attracted the attention of the New York City based Nonesuch label, which provided Subotnick the opportunity to compose the very first electronic work commissioned by a record company. “Silver Apples of the Moon” was the result and quickly became a best selling “classical music” album and a staple of most university music libraries.
Classical music of that time, and electronic music in particular, generally was inaccessible and avoided traditional use of melody, harmony and rhythms to produce works that seemed more composed by chance, process or mathematical rules than to be products of the heart and soul. Subotnick breaks with this general trend, balancing the non-traditional sounds with an overall lightheartedness and whimsy, with the first side being more varied and the second side simpler, and somewhat less captivating, with use of rhythmic motifs and a less complex, varied texture and range of sound elements.
Track listing[from Wikipedia]
- “Part A” – 16:33
- “Part B” – 14:52
- Morton Subotnick – Buchla synthesizer, Liner Notes, Primary Artist
- Bradford Ellis – Digital Restoration, Mastering, Remixing
- Michael Hoenig – Mastering, Remixing
- H.J. Kropp – Cover Design
- Tony Martin – Illustrations
The Mesmerizing Eye, “Psychedelia, a Musical Light Show”
As often the case in the sixties (1960’s rather than a reference to my age), the music produced by the “established” academic artists was often less compelling and relevant than than what was being done elsewhere. Here we have an album by the obscure band, The Mesmerizing Eye, that in my view has much more to say to the listener than Subotnick’s “Silver Apples of the Moon.” This is the only album released by The Mesmerizing Eye, and not clear to me if this was really a band, or if this album was a work of one or two people.
Musique concrète is a classification applied to music constructed by mixing various recorded sounds, sometimes environmental and urban sounds, sometimes such sounds with instruments added, but generally with the intent of creating an auditory experience that is produced from a mixture of disparate sounds, that have disparate associations, and that we traditionally hear in various and disparate contexts. This album draws heavily on that tradition, relying on the medium of tape for the assembly of the final product, yet unlike so many of these type of excursions layered onto tape, there is a general sense of order, meaning, and intent. The album is not only interesting and engaging, but the titles and back-cover liner notes provide additional context and clarity into the music’s relevance and purpose. For example, from the notes for the third track on side two, “The War for My Mind”: “Too many commercials on TV, too much telling us what to do — go to school, wear a tie, cut our hair. They want to control our mind.” Right on! This is classic 1967 anti-establishment philosophy! And, in terms of too many commercials and conformity to the onslaught of commercial messages, more relevant to us today than ever.
The tracks dissolve into each other, with a variety of instruments that varies from track to track. Instruments include church choir, church organ, church bells, piano, acoustic and electric guitar, trumpet, flute, bagpipes, calliope and additional instruments mixed with various background sounds (including the mandatory crying baby) on other tracks. Under twenty-five minutes, always moving forward with a sense of purpose, and making good use of it’s stereophonic capabilities, this little album leaves many of the works by established academia-blessed composers of the 1950’s and 1960’s in its dust. Difficult to find on LP, impossible to find on CD, this album is available on YouTube for those that don’t require lossless audio quality:
Tracklist (from discogs.com)
|A1||Birth Of A Nation||2:42|
|A2||Rain Of Terror||2:26|
|A5||Twenty-First Century Express||2:32|
|B1||May The Bird Of Paradise Fly Up Your Flute||2:10|
|B2||Requiem For Suzy Creamcheese||2:15|
|B3||The War For My Mind||1:54|
|B4||Dear Mom, Send Money||2:08|
|B5||Exercise In Frustration||2:07|
- Recorded At – Hollywood Sound Recorders
- Composed By – The Mesmerizing Eye
- Engineer – Jack Lees (2), Jesse Hodges
- Producer, Arranged By – Hank Levine, Larry Goldberg
George Russell’s Othello Ballet Suite was recorded in Stockholm in one of the Radio Sweden studios on November 3rd and 4th 1967. At a little under 30 minutes, this work for orchestra and jazz musicians is performed by 23 musicians including several noteworthy Swedish jazz musicians and the Norwegians Jon Christensen on drums and Jan Garbarek on tenor sax. Sometimes majestic and beautiful, sometimes wild and exuberantly chaotic, sometimes showcasing individual soloing brilliance, sometimes a collective of orchestral anonymity, this work is adventurous, forward, and bordering on uncivilized, yet alluringly riveting, and mostly coherent.
Even further out is the companion work, “Electronic Organ Sonata No. 1” which was recorded in 1968. The piece is full of interesting textures and includes many interesting moments, but for me, falls short of the appeal of the ballet suite.
A digital version of the material on this LP is available as part of a 9 CD set, “George Russell – The Complete Remastered Recordings On Black Saint & Soul Note.”
Tracklist (from www.discogs.com)
|1||Othello Ballet Suite (Part I)|
|2||Othello Ballet Suite (Part II)|
|3||Electronic Organ Sonata No. 1|
- Alto Saxophone – Arne Domnerus*
- Artwork By [Cover Painting] – Vic Kalin
- Design – Bob Flynn*
- Drums – Jon Christensen
- Executive-Producer – Giovanni Bonandrini
- Mixed By [Sound Mixer] – Gote Nilsson*
- Orchestra – Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, The*
- Organ, Producer, Composed By – George Russell
- Remastered By – Dave Crawford*
- Tenor Saxophone – Bernt Rosengren, Jan Garbarek
- Trumpet – Rolf Eriksson