Apparitions in the Coolidge

The following is a guest post by David H. Plylar, Music Specialist, Concert Office.  

The patrons of the Concerts from the Library of Congress will be in for a real treat at our annual Founder’s Day Concert on Tuesday, October 30th. The Library will be welcoming one of America’s great living composers, Morton Subotnick, whose music will be performed by some amazing musicians—the legendary vocalist Joan La Barbara,  pianist-extraordinaire Jenny Lin, and oft-plugged-in violinist Todd Reynolds.

Subotnick may be best known for his electronic and electro-acoustic compositions, but he is no stranger to the acoustic world. In fact, the evening will open with a very recent solo piano piece of great beauty entitled Falling Leaves. The concert will then move into its “spooky” phase, with Subotnick’s 1983 work Trembling for violin, piano and “ghost” electronics. You’ll have to come to the concert to learn why a ghost is even involved, but it references an important development in the live processing of sound.

The final work of the evening will be the world premiere of a wordless opera called LUCY: Song and Dance. We will see a concert version featuring the multimedia artist Lillevan, who will be manipulating images on the fly as we watch. I am not really sure what to expect, and that is a great feeling!

The work of composers like Morton Subotnick helped to lay the foundations for the development of electronic equipment and software used by millions of musicians in every genre, and it continues to push the boundaries today. What is now “plug-and-play” for amateurs and professionals alike used to take hours, days or years to produce before the amazing technological advances that pioneering composers and engineers have developed—it will be exciting to see what comes next.

The proximity of the concert to Halloween prompts me to address a frequent problem that presenters must manage when programming new and recently composed music—the fear that some concert-goers have of the “new-music encounter.” Of course there is always the intrepid crowd that specifically seeks out contemporary music events, but what about the rest? It turns out that there is nothing of which to be afraid once we open ourselves to the possibility of new, richly rewarding musical experiences. We are privileged to live in a time when we can hear just about anything immediately; but instead of just shuffling our existing playlist, why not explore a bit and refresh that playlist? In this case, why not go bobbing for Silver Apples of the Moon, and enjoy the music of an excellent composer and sonic pioneer? It will prove to be a more substantive treat than those to be had the next day, and not nearly as scary, either.


Event Listing

Founder’s Day Concert

The Music of Morton Subotnick

Joan La Barbara, voice

Jenny Lin, piano

Todd Reynolds, violin

Morton Subotnick, electronics

Lillevan, live animation

Tuesday, October 30, 2012, 8:00 p.m. –JeffersonBuilding, Coolidge Auditorium


SUBOTNICK: Falling Leaves for solo piano

SUBOTNICK: Trembling for violin, piano and ghost electronics

SUBOTNICK: LUCY: Song and Dance for computer, live electronics, female voice and live video


Pre-concert presentation:

Subotnick on Subotnick

6:15 p.m. – Jefferson Building, Whittall Pavilion


Read a guest post by composer Steve Antosca on working with Subotnick and the Buchla 100 modular  synthesizer here .

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