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Composer, California

American Academy Distinguished Visitor - Class of Spring 2010

Morton Subotnick is a pioneer of electronic music. The first synthesizer, the Buchla modular electronic music system(now at the Smithsonian Museum), was built to his specifications. His groundbreaking work Silver Apples of the Moon, commissioned by Nonesuch Records in 1967, was the first original large-scale musical work to be specifically composed for the disc medium; a conscious acknowledgment that the home stereo system constituted a present-day form of chamber music. Subnotnick was also a pioneer in the rise of multi-media performance through his extensive work in connection with interactive computer systems.


In the early 1960s, Subotnick taught at Mills College, co-founded the San Francisco Tape Music Center, and was music director of the Actors Workshop. Subotnick went on to become the first music director of the Lincoln Center Rep Company at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center. In 1969, he founded the California Institute of the Arts, serving as associate dean before becoming head of the school’s composition program, where he introduced to the curriculum new media, interactive technology, and multimedia. In 1978 Subotnick, Roger Reynolds, and Bernard Rands founded five internationally acclaimed new-music festivals.


Subotnick has written for symphony orchestra, chamber ensembles, theater, and multimedia productions, and he has authored a series of six interactive CD-ROMs for children, a children’s website, and is developing a program for the classroom and after-school programs, centered on teaching children how to create their own music. The Library of Congress has created an archive of Subotnik’s electronic works.

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