Moon Landing Concert

During the summer of 1969, Salvatore Martirano and his former student, experimental composer David Rosenboom  performed a Moon Landing Concert that was taking place simultaneously with the Apollo 11 spaceflight. The performance took place in Gregory Hall Auditorium and was accompanied by multiple monitors showing the first “moon-walk” made in July 1969 by the U.S. astronauts.

3 people standing together
David Rosenboom, Sal Martirano, and Mary Ashley, 1976. Photo courtesy of David Rosenboom.

The original piece performed by Martirano and Rosenboom – titled B.C. – A.D. – employed chaotic frequency dividers that allowed creating a complex texture of simultaneously ordered and indeterminate electronic sounds.

computer tower with many wires and speakers
Electronic Performance set-up for the Moon Landing Concert, 1969. Photo Courtesy of David Rosenboom.

Rosenboom was at the University of Illinois as a resident composer and performer for a contemporary music workshop. He recalls, “I brought an electronic system with me that I had built in New York and which explored ideas about non-linear dynamics. The key device was a set of voltage-controlled, semi-chaotic, frequency dividers. In Sal’s garage, we built a copy of this device, partly as an exercise in circuit building for Sal, and also so that we could play duets together with identical circuits. We were also exploring how to derive controls for this using a modular digital logic circuit device.”

The recording was recovered with the help of Sal’s son, John Martirano, and was released in 2012 on double-CD “Roundup Two” of David Rosenboom’s work.

Up to that “summer of electronic experimentation” Salvatore Martirano had already developed his interest in electronic circuitry and was in process of conceiving what was to become the SalMar Construction (1972). David Rosenboom, who was already involved in the practice of building electronic music instruments, and Martirano designed two identical systems generating musical patterns (exemplifying nonlinear dynamical behavior) to use for the live moon walk performance.

“Many conversations with Sal about instruments, cybernetics, composition, and more took place during this summer project. Following that, I believe there were at least a couple of iterations of circuit building by Sal and his engineering collaborators that lead to the final emergence of what we know as the SalMar Construction.”

4 people standing together
International Computer Music Conference. David Rosenboom on left, then Salvatore Martirano, JB Floyd, and Dorothy Martirano (1986), Photo courtesy David Rosenboom.

Other concert events featured composers Edwin London conducting Pierrot Lunaire of A. Schoenberg and Charles Hamm who made an arrangement of Franz Joseph Haydn’s Overture to Il mondo della luna that was played by all musicians with instruments they didn’t learn to play. Films of Ron Nameth, Carl Volkers’s “Interpretations from the History of Recorded Sound”, and dance performances were also on the program.

 

  • Rosenboom, D. (2020). Exploring Compositional Choice in the SalMar Construction and Related Early Works by Salvatore Martirano. Between the Tracks: Musicians on Selected Electronic Music, 15.
  • Rosenboom, D. (2017). “2 + 2 = green”: Innovation in Experimental Music at the University of Illinois. In F. E. Hoxie (Ed.), The University of Illinois: Engine of Innovation (pp. 121–134). University of Illinois Press. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/j.ctt1m3217b.29
  • Rosenboom, D. (1996). B. C.-A. D. and Two Lines: Two Ways of Making Music While Exploring Instability–In Tribute to Salvatore Martirano. Perspectives of New Music, 34(1), 208–226. https://doi.org/10.2307/833501

 

Martirano, D. (2018). Salvatore Martirano. http://sal.martirano.net/about.html

Rosenboom, D. (2021). David Rosenboom. https://davidrosenboom.com/

Photos courtesy of David Rosenboom

Contributors: Anastasia Chernysheva