Excellent, Classic Quad/Surround
surroundguy | Peripatetic | 12/14/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It's great to discover another new music DVD-Audio. (The only other one I've heard is the excellent "Immersion.") This is a wonderful surround sound experience. Since at present the Amazon listing offers no info about this release, I'll try to be informative. Subotnick has been one of the most important electronic music composers. When his pieces like Silver Apples of the Moon and The Wild Bull were released on LP in the late `60s, they were striking demonstrations that true new music could be exciting, vibrant, and readily accessible. Subotnick's deft, masterful touch was much more appealing than other electronic music emerging from academic settings. Around this time, the ill-fated "Quad" format appeared, and Subotnick wrote some Quad/surround sound works. Touch (1969) was originally released on a Quad LP. But since that format never really worked properly, we are in reality hearing this work correctly for the first time on this DVD-Audio. This is an excellent piece. There are rapid pulses, layered gestures, dense passages of percolating rhythms. The music is distinctive, otherworldly, sophisticated, and holds up well. The quality of these old analog tapes is quite good; just a little hiss.The next piece is A Sky of Cloudless Sulphur (1978), another surround piece originally written for 8-channel tape and commissioned by the JBL speaker company (great idea). This was originally released on LP in only a shortened, stereo version, so we are truly hearing the work for the first time on this DVD-Audio. This is also an excellent, enjoyable surround sound piece.In the `80s and `90s, Subotnick has remained technically innovative, but somehow his music seems less interesting and vital. The last piece on this DVD is Gestures (1999-2001). This is a surround sound piece essentially performed "live" by the composer. There are active, dense, strongly surround sections; other music has a swirling, floating type of atmosphere. While the sounds can be interesting, overall it's something of a hodge-podge that's not so convincing. There is some text read at times, which is boring. It's a weaker piece. Subotnick's later music has a hard time emerging from the shadow of his early, powerful works.The visuals during each piece consist solely of a title slide. But that's ok, since there are excellent booklet notes. The DVD also has long video interviews with Subotnick and others. If you like Subotnick's music and are setup for surround, it's a no-brainer to get this. If you want to hear excellent surround music that's more sophisticated than re-issues of old rock stereo CDs, check this out.The main DVD is supplemented by a separate DVD-ROM, which contains an interactive version of Gestures. When you "play" this DVD-ROM in your computer, you can use the mouse to trigger different musical elements. While it obviously took a lot of work to set this up, noodling around on your mousepad producing quasi-random sounds is not very interesting. I think they should have sold this separately and lowered the price of the main DVD so that more people would hear Subotnick's fine music."