Ridiculous Vinyl Purchases Part I : Morton Subotnick’s ‘Silver Apples Of The Moon’

I think it’s safe to say that if you’re a vinyl collector/lover/addict/sociopath, then more than likely you’ve got a few “Whaaaa????” purchases in your collection. Sometimes curiosity, nostalgia, melancholy, uncontrollable urges, madness, and even possibly pride pushes us to snag some record that you may listen to once and then shove it into the record shelf(alphabetically, you fool!) and then forget you own it for years until you’re looking for that debut Violent Femmes LP and come across Vinnie Vincent Invasion’s self-titled instead. You wonder why in God’s name I have that, until you remember you bought it when you were 13 and never got rid of it. And that reason you didn’t get rid of it is because that girl(which will remain nameless) you had a crush on in 7th grade thought the androgynous guys in the band were hot. And that gave you a glimmer of hope that maybe she might let you hold her hand, or play “House Of The Rising Sun” on your crappy acoustic guitar for her, or maybe even have a quick heavy petting session in her darkened bedroom while your parents and her parents get drunk and play cards in their dining room.

But hey, that’s just a hypothetical situation that I’m sure is far too vague to assume is someone’s actual story. Move along, nothing to see here. Nothing to see here.

So yeah, I’ve got a few of these purchases that will be played once and then shelved into the Hubner vaults for all eternity. Or, until I die and leave my records to the many miniature schnauzers I will leave behind(“I know you’ll appreciate Vinnie Vincent Invasion’s debut, Mr. Pooch McGooch and Col. Klink!”) I thought I’d share a few of them with you before I lose my nerve and trade them in for something even worse. First up, Morton Subotnick’s Silver Apples Of The Moon.

Let me make it clear with Mr. Subotnick’s record, that I don’t find it embarrassing. In fact, I think it’s pretty cool. But on the repeat listens scale it’s at about a 4. It’s one of those albums that you put on to show off to a house guest…or to scare them off. Subotnick is an experimental electronic music composer that made music on a modular synthesizer. I’d first heard of MortonIMG_0966 Subotnick a couple years ago when I first started getting into the likes of Steve Reich and Terry Riley. His name was mentioned in articles when discussing electronic and avante garde composers. While Reich and Riley composed pieces reveling in repetition and phasing, their music was still quite palatable and engaging. Morton Subotnick on the other hand made sounds that wouldn’t sound out of place in the back room of IBM laboratories back in 1963. Silver Apples Of The Moon is an album of noises, bleeps, pings, whaaaas, and whizzes that is the sound of a modular universe being born.

The first modular synthesizers were these gigantic machines that weren’t unlike some of the first computers. Huge machines that filled up a whole room, and something the regular music guy wasn’t going to figure out or have the cash to purchase. Subotnick was already heavily involved in experimental electronic music in the 50s, and by the early 60s he taught at Mills College. Why do you need to know this stuff? You don’t. In the mid to late 60s Subotnick began working with Don Buchla, and electronic instrument designer. Buchla created the modular voltage-controlled synthesizer, with some of Subotnick’s suggestions taken into consideration. The results were a much easier and compact synth Subotnick could compose on. The initial result was Silver Apples Of The Moon.

While most electronic music of the time was pitch and timbre shifts, with no discernible rhythm, Morton Subotnick actually tried to infuse rhythm patterns within his android noises. But regardless of those rhythms, it’s an insane listen. I mean, we’re talking about Subotnick and his electronic composer pals that actually had a red-colored plate on the front of one of these synthesizers that had LSD on the plate. So, while you’re composing you could run your finger along the plate, swipe your tongue, and BAM! you’re in another dimension fighting interstellar ogres and performing brain salad surgery with wooden spoons. This is hardcore. These are guys that actually got pissed off when Robert Moog added a keyboard to his modular synths in order to make it easier for people to use, and would allow them to actually play melodies.

Melody????  Melody????? We don’t need no stinking melody!!!

So why buy this album? Well, I guess it comes down to a couple things. The bizarre nature of the music for one. Besides the fact of the album sounding like a robot dying with a bird inside it’s metal chest, or the universe being re-programmed by Daleks, there’s something insightful about Subotnick’s musical “vision”. The more you listen to this album the more you can hear a musical arc, albeit a bizarre one. The guy is incredibly bright, and I’m sure he was incredibly high at some points as well, so I can only imagine what he was seeing and hearing around him as he sat at this strange machine and composed.

The other reason to own this quite simply is because I think it’s an important step in the history and evolution of electronic music. This was where electronic music went from soundtracking The Day The Earth Stood Still and Lost In Space, to being taken seriously as a musical art form. And really, you couldn’t be a complete dolt and use one of these modular voltage controlled synthesizers. Not by a long shot.

This won’t be thrown on the turntable for get togethers or for a quiet evening of beer sipping and reflection, but as far as oddities go it’s a fun one to throw on now and then. I’m glad I (recently)grabbed a copy of this off of Discogs for a pretty low price. It’s an OG pressing and in NM condition to boot. Silver Apples Of The Moon will spend a lot of shelf time next to the likes of Sufjan Stevens and Sonic Youth, but I think they’ll get along just fine.

Up next : TBD





16 thoughts on “Ridiculous Vinyl Purchases Part I : Morton Subotnick’s ‘Silver Apples Of The Moon’

  1. I’ll be honest – I’d probably buy this, too. Well, if I saw it cheap. Definitely. Awesome name and I really like the back cover … and the font on there actually. I probably wouldn’t enjoy it, though. But that doesn’t matter, right?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I bought a Jack Marshall album a while back (Soundsville) – looks real swell, but that’s it. I don’t reckon I’ll ever listen to it again.


  2. Oh yeah, strikes me as one to throw on to get da laydeez in the mood for some lovin’.

    Well, if they were 19 foot atonal robot chicks I suppose. Damn those tin bitches!

    I loved this piece. Obviously everything in my own collection stands up to close scrutiny…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. We need more 19 foot atonal robot chicks. At least in Indiana. I’m sure they run rampant in the English countrysides, on account of all the mad scientists and whatnot.

      And thanks. I believe I have quite a few of these posts in my future.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Loved this. From para 4 it could be me speaking, except that I’d never come up with anything as wonderful as “a robot dying with a bird inside it’s metal chest, or the universe being re-programmed by Daleks”. I do think that as music aficionados and record collectors, it makes total sense to have some sort of historical perspective on the genres or stream of musical development that we enjoy. That’s why I have one even more bizarre than this, The Nonesuch Guide to Electronic Music wherein Beaver and Krause (pioneers I’m sure you are familiar with) demonstrate this new-fangled instrument. It’s a demo record. Well two records, actually. And one of the few I didn’t award a second listen to before filing. But I won’t part with it, no I won’t let go…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Nonesuch was such a pioneering record label, weren’t they? There was an aesthetic to them and what they put out that really is non-existent anymore. I see El Paraiso doing similar things, but Nonesuch in the 60s and 70s was unbelievably good. I would love to hear that record of yours, if just once. I have one I found last year that came from a Public Radio station. I do visit it now and again. It was on the Odyssey label, ‘New Sounds In Electronic Music’ with Steve Reich, Richard Maxfield, and Pauline Oliveros. Really interesting stuff.

      That may have to be my next pick.

      I feel now that we must all dig deep for some obscure record posts. Here’s where we get to truly see the guys and gals behind the blog curtain. Your words are much appreciated!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Amen Comrade. Hope you might enjoy today’s VC post – pick up on your list theme in a kind of a way.
        I’d thought of starting yet another series on ‘obscurities’ but wondered whether anyone would read them! (Other than you, of course). 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I can’t wait to read it!

        You should do the obscurities theme. I think everyone that steps in and out of these like-minded blogs should. It would be great to see what each others obscurities are.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I have a few “whaaaaa” LPs in my collection, but I don’t know that I’ve bought many of them. I had boxes of LPs given to me a while back, and there are some “gems” in there, lemme tell ya! Hahaha hooboy.

    I suppose with music being subjective, though, just about anything I have might make someone somewhere say whaaaaa? when I think whatever it is is cool.

    Cool post!

    Liked by 1 person

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