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15 Questions to Morton Subotnick

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Fine. I am home in NY.

What’s on your schedule right now?
Just [last night] finished the 3rd and last performance at the 3 Legged Dog [in ny] of a new work for computer, percussionist and 20 robotic  percussion instruments [LEMUR]. Am in the middle of creating an interactive, CDROM and web based music curriculum for 3 age groups.. probably will take about 3 more years. Preparing for the interactive part of my new Mode DVD [Until Spring Revisited], preparing the music for a full evening Dance concert to premiere in October at the Walker Art Center with the Arena Dance co. And, if time permits, will work with Anna Halprin to recreate our collaborative work, Parades and Changes [from 1965] for the Autumn Festival in Paris [2009].

What’s your view on the music scene at present? Is there a crisis?
I think this an enormously exciting time in music. We are at the moment of momentous change. Nothing will quite be the same again. In crisis?... yes, indeed.

What does the term „new“ mean to you in connection with music?
This is an old concept. [not to intend a pun]. But new suggests old... and I believe we are approaching a different understanding of the time flow... We are moving toward a moment where all the past will appear to be available. And, "new" will simply be "different" or "more".

How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
When I am writing for musicians playing traditional instruments, I leave very little, if any, room for improvisation. My work with electronics as the focus has always been and always will be a mix of composing and improvising within the limits of the "available" [as Earle Brown so aptly put it] materials.

How would you define the term “interpretation”?
Too big a question to answer here.... very important issue.

Harmony? Dissonance? The freedom to choose both, none or just one?
Not a very interesting subject to me.

A lot of people feel that some of the radical experiments of modern compositions can no longer be qualified as “music”. Would you draw a border– and if so, where?

I draw no borders... leave people alone to do what they want, as long as it does not infringe on the right of others to do the same.

Are “serious” and “popular” really two different types of music or just empty words without a meaning?
This is a queer distinction. It suggests that "popular" is the opposes "serious".... how is that possible? It is sort of an apples and oranges question.

Do you feel an artist has a certain duty towards anyone but himself? Or to put it differently: Should art have a political/social or any other aspect apart from a personal sensation?
Should is a moral term... must may be a legal term.... Hopefully, art is outside of both of these... If it is an ethical concern... than a softer term than "should" might be used.

True or false: People need to be educated about  music, before they can really appreciate it. some cases, VERY false.

True or false: The cultural subsidies doled out by governments are being sent to the wrong kind of people and institutions.
Yes and no... ALL people should be, at least minimumly, with some subsidy.

You are given the position of artistic director of a festival. What would be on your program?
No time to answer that.

Many artists dream of a “magnum opus”. Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?

Many thanks to Peter Grenader of Plan B for making this interview possible.

Silver Apples of the Moon/The Wild Bull
The Key to Songs/Return
And the Butterflies Begin to Sing/All My Hummingbirds Have Alibis
Touch/Jacob's Room

Morton Subotnick

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