September 19, 2016

20,000 Vinyl LPs 69: Don Buchla & Morton Subotnick ~ their Silver Apples of the Moon

   Cover Art – Anthony Martin
Cover, Design – William S. Harvey
photo of album cover by Styrous®

One of the pioneers of Electronic music died a few days ago. Don Buchla formed his electronic music equipment company, Buchla and Associates, in 1962 in Berkeley, California. Buchla was commissioned by composers Morton Subotnick and Ramon Sender, both of the San Francisco Tape Music Center, to create an electronic instrument for live performance.      

Buchla began designing his first modules for the Tape Music Center in 1963. With partial funding from a Rockefeller Foundation grant made to the Tape Music Center, Buchla assembled his modules into the Buchla Modular Electronic Music System (later known as the Series 100), which he began selling commercially in 1966.     

Don Buchla ca 1960's 
photographer unknown

Buchla's synthesizers experimented in control interfaces, such as touch-sensitive plates. In 1969 the Series 100 was briefly sold to CBS Musical Instruments, who soon after dropped the line, not seeing the synthesizer market as a profitable area (silly wabbits).   

1970 saw the release of the Buchla 200 series Electric Music Box, which was manufactured until 1985 (link below to YouTube). Almost every parameter can be controlled from an external control voltage.  

Buchla created the Buchla Series 500, the first digitally controlled analog synthesizer, in 1971. It is possible there were only three ever in existence.   

Barry Schrader, Morton Subotnick and John Payne
in front of the Buchla 500
CalArts' sudio B-304
fall of 1976.

Shortly after, the Buchla Series 300 was released, which combined the Series 200 with microprocessors. The Music Easel, a small, portable, all-in-one synthesizer was released in 1972. The Buchla Music Easel, an instrument combining the 208 Stored Program Sound Source and 218 Touch Activated Voltage Source in an aluminum case with power supply.       

Buchla Series 300, The Music Easel

The Buchla 400, with a video display, was released in 1982. In 1987, Buchla released the fully MIDI enabled Buchla 700.         

In 2015, various websites, including FACT, reported that Don Buchla had taken the owners of BEMI to court, citing health problems due in part to unpaid consulting fees and asserting a claim to his original intellectual property.

In 2016, BEMI and Don Buchla settled all issues prior to any Court or Arbitration proceedings.

Don Buchla died on September 14, 2016; he was 79. His influence and contribution to the field of music has been profound and completely underrated. The entire genre of electronic music owes Buchla a great debt, but it goes even deeper and wider than that. The technological advancements made by Buchla & Associates is unparalleled in so many ways, and no one did it with as much style and grace as Buchla.   

Subotnick preforms the Buchla syntheziser on the Silver Apples of the Moon. The work is in two parts: the first is slow, sparse and spacey for over a quarter of an hour. What it really means to "trip out".    

The second half slowly develops a pulse then eventually "rocks" out and develops into an almost disco/jazz piece (disco was ten years in the future). I remember being on another planet far out in the universe and hearing the work for the first time. Oh, my goodness!    

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."  Subotnick said, "It doesn't really mean anything. I just liked the sound of it."    

Morton Subotnick was born on April 14, 1933, in Los Angeles, California). He is best known for the Silver Apples of the Moon, which was the first electronic work commissioned by a record company, Nonesuch. He was one of the founding members of the California Institute of the Arts, where he taught for many years. 

Album cover artist, William S. Harvey, was the art director at Elektra Records from 1953 to 1973. He was half of the Elektra brain trust that revolutionized the music industry’s concept of album packaging and created many of rock and roll’s iconic images — for example, the Doors’ logo and the Elektra butterfly.   

Morton Subotnick ‎– Silver Apples of the Moon    


A     Silver Apples Of The Moon (Part One)     16:30
B     Silver Apples Of The Moon (Part Two)     15:00

Companies, etc.

    Copyright (c) – Nonesuch


    Composed & produced by Morton Subotnick, Synthesizer [Buchla]
    Coordinator – Teresa Sterne
    Cover [Cover Art] – Anthony Martin*
    Cover, Design – William S. Harvey


© 1967 Nonesuch Records
Barcode and Other Identifiers

    Matrix / Runout: H-71174 A
    Matrix / Runout: H-71174 B

Label: Nonesuch ‎– H-71174
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album, Stereo
Country: US
Released: 1967
Genre: Electronic
Style: Modern Classical, Experimental

Net links:  
Morton Subotnick website         
NY Times Buchla obit           
KQED Buchla obit          
The Guardian Buchla obit       
NPR Music ~ Buchla       
Buchla Electronic Musical Instruments             
Links to YouTube:    
Buchla 200 Modular Synth             
Morton Subotnick: Silver apples of the Moon               
Morton Subotnick: Silver apples of the Moon (complete album)                 
Styrous® ~ Monday, September 19, 2016              

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