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Morton Subotnick in his studio. (WQXR)

Morton Subotnick And Joan La Barbara On Q2 Music's 'Spaces'

by Hannis Brown
Apr 17, 2013 (Q2)

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Morton Subotnick and Joan La Barbara in their New York City home.

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Hannis Brown

It's difficult to overstate Morton Subotnick and Joan La Barbara's contributions to contemporary music.

Subotnick's pioneering work in electronic music includes such game-changing pieces as Silver Apples of the Moon and A Sky of Cloudless Sulphur. The composer, who turned 80 this past Sunday, also helped to develop the California Institute of the Arts's groundbreaking curriculum. He also co-founded the highly influential San Francisco Tape Music Center, where Terry Riley, Pauline Oliveros and Steve Reich would cut their teeth writing tape music.

Joan La Barbara is one of today's most iconic vocalists — John Cage and Morton Feldman both wrote music for her. Her own music, which often stretches the possibility of the human voice, has been honored with a slew of awards including a 2004 Guggenheim fellowship in music composition.

For the second installment of Q2 Spaces, we visited the couple's Greenwich Village apartment, where they've resided for the past 17 years. The walls are lined with the artwork of friends and collaborators, and the kitchen cupboard doubles as La Barbara's vocal booth. A shelf in Subotnick's studio houses a piece of the first Buchla analog synthesizer — the instrument used to create Silver Apples. The bustling sounds of the city streets sift through their kitchen window.

Soundtrack

  • Morton Subotnick, And the Butterflies Begin to Sing (New World)
  • Morton Subotnick, The Key to Songs (New Albion)
  • Morton Subotnick, Silver Apples of the Moon (Wergo)
  • Joan La Barbara, ROTHKO (New World Records)
  • Joan La Barbara, Shaman Song (New World Records)

Credits

  • Video: Kim Nowacki and Hannis Brown
Copyright 2014 Q2. To see more, visit http://www.wqxr.org/q2.

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