"The Key to Songs" is music for an imaginary ballet inspired by A Week of Kindness, or The Seven Deadly Elements, the 1933 novel in the form of a collage by the surrealist painter, Max Ernst.
The 'novel' is wordless, being composed of dramatic and often erotic collages, using, principally, illustrations from French popular fiction. Each of the novel's seven chapters represents a day of the week and each day has a "deadly element" associated with it. Beginning with Sunday, the elements are: Mud, Water, Fire, Blood, Blackness, Sight and Unknown. A motto and a Dadaist or Surrealist epigraph prefaces each chapter, and the motto becomes an enigmatic visual motif.
Subotnick's score - which calls for two pianos, three mallet instruments (marimba, xylophone and vibraphone) shared by two players, viola, cello and the Yamaha Computer Assisted Music System (YCAMS) - provides a musical counterpart to Ernst's enigmatic collage in several ways. The phantasmagorical ambiguity between reality and fantasy found in Ernst collages, and in the surreal groupings of images, has its equivalent in Subotnick's application of electronics.
Reviews"For starry nights when only cosmic electronics shining brightly will do." - L.A. Reader