The Silver Age

Influential electronic-music pioneer Morton Subotnick appears as part of UM-St. Louis's art and technology conference

Since then, the composer has remained on the edge of the technology, releasing more than a dozen compositions harnessing the latest advances; in the past decade he has directed his attention toward compositions for CD-ROM. "The speed, depth and economy of the computer," he says, "has given us a major form of random-access technology where you can create things that are not necessarily linear. Like CD-ROM -- I've done a lot of work in this, and some of it was inadvertently pioneer work. It's one of the things that I'm going to be talking about in the lecture. There's a whole body of work that has to do with what I'm calling 'chamber art.' It isn't quite there yet, but certainlythe potential is there for it, where composers, artists can create works for the living room. And when I did Silver Apples ofcontinued on next pageSUBOTNICKcontinued from previous page the Moon, that's really what I was thinking about, except the technology wasn't really there for it."

The Internet has blurred the line between the public and private in ways that will change the performance of music profoundly, says Subotnick. It will be possible for an artist on the other side of the world to perform as though in the viewer's living room in a sort of one-on-one setting. The possibilities change almost daily -- perhaps, he implies, a bit too quickly. "The world we're living in right now is moving so quickly that the natural evolution doesn't take place. Language developed over a long period of time, as society developed. But let's say language had developed overnight and was created by mathematicians. It's doubtful we would have had poetry if that had happened. If you have exact language, you can't have poetry. And I'm afraid that all the new technologies that are occurring is a kind of language; the computer itself is a form of language. It's the way people are going to be thinking for generations to come, and unless it gets impacted by poets, so to speak -- there have been societies without art. There were a couple of societies uncovered that evidently had no form of art that we can detect. We could turn into a completely mercantile commercial society in which we mistake wallpaper for art. In fact, we may have already gone that far (laughs) -- no, I don't think there's a chance that will happen, because, in fact, the new technologies defy that, the network has such a room for underground that we'll be fine."

Morton Subotnick lectures at the University of Missouri-St. Louis at 10 a.m. Thursday, March 11.

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