San Francisco Tape Music Center
Morton Subotnick and Ramon Sender founded the San Francisco Tape Music Center; founded means that they established it as a non-profit arts organization. And the mission was to find a way to create a instrument that would serve to make electronic music, because at the first San Francisco Tape Music Center, it was a collection of instruments that were really test instruments. They weren’t intended for making music at all, but the studio was kind of strung together with all of this variety of oscillators and patch bay, and different kinds of things like ring modulators and so forth.
So, Morton and Ramon were seeking an engineer that could make what was later referred to as a synthesizer. And eventually they met with Don Buchla, and Don made his modular synthesizer, and the first modules had San Francisco Tape Music Center on it, before it became the Buchla Modular Synthesizer.1 Don was downstairs in our building, demonstrating his new synthesizer, and I was upstairs making Bye-Bye Butterfly. Now, I had invented my own way of playing our studio with the tuba oscillators that we had, and the big tape machines. And so, that’s how — I mean I’m — I had been doing pieces before Bye-bye Butterfly, and I had decided that evening that I wanted to use a recording of some kind to play with.
And so, there was a record, a 33 1/3 record, laying on the table, and I picked it up and put it on the turntable, without knowing what was on it. And so, then it turned out to be the Aria from Madam Butterfly. It was a real time improvisation that I did with that piece that night.2