Mort Subotnick On Funding The Original Buchla Modular System

In this interview by Eric Chasalow, composer Morton Subotnick discusses the origin of the original Buchla Music Box (Series 100), commissioned by Subotnick & fellow electronic music pioneer Ramon Sender.

Subotnick and Sender, along with Pauline Oliveros, founded the San Francisco Tape Music Center in 1962.

Subotnick explains that funding for the Buchla was initially rejected, because it was thought that interest in electronic music making was so limited that there was no need for another electronic music studio.

Note also that Subotnick was ultimately able to get funding for the first Buchla, because the cost – $500 – was so modest.

In the following video, via Waveshaper Media, Subotnick and Sender revisit the first Buchla 100 at its home at Mills College. They talk with Professor Maggi Payne, co-director of the Center of Contemporary Music, who shares the story of when Don Buchla visited, and offered to buy the vintage system back:

7 thoughts on “Mort Subotnick On Funding The Original Buchla Modular System

  1. According to the consumer price index, that $500 in 1962 would be $4,240.78 today. While that’s not the eye-watering price of a Buchla system today, it’s not chump change.

    1. A modern Buchla could easily cost 5-10 times that amount.

      But it sounds like their Red Series, which I think is based on the system 100 modules, is going to be priced pretty reasonably.

    2. That’s less than the cost of developing a few Eurorack module prototypes (assuming you had to pay the contractor, in this case, Don Buchla).

    3. It would easily cost $4K to develop a relatively simple Eurorack module today, from concept to prototype (assuming you had to pay the contractor, in this case, Don Buchla) and the cost cited by Subotnick also includes the cabinet and power supply.

    1. Moog didn’t sell many modular systems either. Universities and a handful of wealthy composers were the main market for modular gear in the 1960. Moog ultimately found more commercial success of course but that wasn’t due to modular system sales.

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