Silver Apples of the Moon

A few evenings ago, Susan and I were wandering around in the local Tower Records store. We picked up a few new CDs. Among them is one that both of us had on vinyl in the past, Silver Apples of the Moon, by Morton Subotnick. It was really cool getting to hear it again for the first time in over 20 years. The original recording was made in 1967 but I think I heard it first in the early 70’s.

If you have any interest in synthesizer/electronic music, you’re probably familiar with Subotnic already. For those who don’t know, he was one of the early pioneers in the field and produced several ground-breaking pieces of music using hardware designed by Donald Buchla and himself. The hardware in question would be called a modular synthesizer today but at the time they just called it an “electronic music box”. Subotnic composed using a special notational system of his own design. One thing I remember from the vinyl record sleeve that isn’t present in the modern jewel-case artwork is a sample of the notation. I’b be curious to see it again. I remember thinking how futuristic and alien it looked back then. The front cover artwork is the same as I remember. The CD is a German import on the Wergo label though my vinyl album was on the Nonesuch label.

The work was composed for the LP format and is divided into two movements, one for each side of the record. The first is very random and brings to mind the music of the ancient Krell in the movie Forbidden Planet. The second movement was done almost entirely by a sequencer and is probably one of the more amazing things anyone has ever done using a sequencer on an analog synthesizer. The CD also includes another Subotnick piece entitle The Wild Bull. It’s definitely an unusual piece of music and worth the rather steep price that imports go for these days.