Morton Subotnick Named 2024 Herb Alpert Visiting Artist for Electronic Production and Design Department

A foundational pioneer of electronic music, Subotnick will host a master class with students and give an interview about his seminal career as a composer and educator.

April 3, 2024
Morton Subotnick

Morton Subotnick
Image courtesy of the artist

Electronic music pioneer Morton Subotnick has been named the 2024 Herb Alpert Visiting Artist for Berklee’s Electronic Production and Design (EPD) Department. Subotnick will be on campus on April 19 for a master class as well as an interview spanning his seven-decade career.

The master class, open to all members of the media and the public, will take place at 10:30 a.m. in the Steve Heck Room at 1140 Boylston St. Subotnick will be listening, evaluating, and offering direct feedback on the work of students from the EPD Department. This will be followed by an interview with Subotnick moderated by EPD Chair Michele Darling in the Oliver Colvin Recital Hall at 1140 Boylston St.; the interview will include a presentation on Subotnick's historic and influential accomplishments in electronic music and music technology. Students, faculty, and staff will also engage with Subotnick in a series of private events scheduled during his visit.

“Mort Subotnick is the embodiment of innovation in the world of electronic music, having pioneered so many of the different aspects of composition, multimedia performance, and interactive music systems that we take for granted today,” said Darling. “The EPD Department is thrilled to celebrate his long and profoundly influential life as a musician, an educator, and a trailblazer, and our students are delighted for the chance to have their art critiqued by one of the original pioneers of electronic music.”

Known informally as the Godfather of Electronic Music, Techno, and the Synth, Subotnick has been a foundational figure in electronic music from the earliest days of the genre’s inception. His debut album, Silver Apples of the Moon, released in 1967, was a landmark achievement, becoming the first album to feature a voltage-based synthesizer, the first piece of both classical and electronic music written specifically for the album format, and the first electronic work commissioned by a record company. The album received the rare honor of entering the National Registry of Recorded Works at the Library of Congress in 2009.

Subotnick cofounded the San Francisco Tape Music Center in 1962 with fellow composer Ramón Sender, creating a space that became a central hub for experimental music innovation and technological breakthroughs, including Subotnick’s Buchla 100 modular synthesizer (the world’s first analog synthesizer). He would use the “Buchla Box” to release several more groundbreaking records, such as The Wild Bull, Touch, Sidewinder, and Four Butterflies.

In 1969, Subotnick was part of a team of musicians and educators who formed a new path of music education now known as the California Institute of the Arts. Subotnick remained associate dean of the music school for four years and later became the head of the composition program, where he created a new media program that introduced interactive technology and multimedia into the curriculum. Among his many awards and achievements are a Guggenheim Fellowship, three Rockefeller Grants, an American Academy of Arts and Letters Composer Award, an ASCAP: John Cage Award, and an honorary doctorate from the California Institute of the Arts.

“It is a deep honor to welcome one of the most foundational figures in electronic music, Mort Subotnick—an innovator whose work has touched so many different corners of music, technology, machine and instrument design, and countless intersecting points in between them,” said Brian Sears, assistant director of operations for the Professional Writing and Music Technology Division. “In many ways, he is a representation of what we hope to build at Berklee: a platform for visionaries and leaders to push boundaries and bold new ideas that open new creative possibilities for future waves of artists.”

In later years, Subotnick became a pioneer of music education for children, developing several initiatives that provide access to musical education and creative tools. He is the author of a series of music education CD-ROMs for young musicians and has developed an internationally available program for classroom learning that is centered around developing skills by composing original music.

Now in his 90s, Subotnick continues to tour as a lecturer and performer, most recently appearing in Los Angeles, Brooklyn, and Knoxville, Tennessee. He is a faculty member at Brooklyn College and an adjunct professor at NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. Previous students include Ingram Marshall, Mark Coniglio, Carl Stone, Rhys Chatham, Charlemagne Palestine, Ann Millikan, Julia Stilman-Lasansky, Lois V Vierk, Betty Ann Wong, and Jeremy Zuckerman.

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