Music / Film
Documentary Unlocking Dockstader Profiles an American Electronic-Music Visionary
by Dave Segal
on Tue, May 27, 2014 at 1:11 PM
This is welcome news: University of Rhode Island student Justin H Brierley is making a documentary about the American composer Tod Dockstader. Now 82, Dockstader is a self-taught sound engineer and sound-effects specialist who produced some of the most interesting and important musique concrète recordings of the ’60s. Beyond these, a track from Dockstader's first album, Eight Pieces, was used in Federico Fellini's film Satyricon. He also worked in the library music world, creating tracks destined for use in specific scenes in television programs and films. In the latter vein, the UK label Mordant Music re-released two volumes titled Electronic in 2012 and 2013. I recommend getting both.
But Dockstader is probably best known for the series of albums he cut in the first half of the ’60s: Apocalypse, Luna Park, Drone, Water Music, Quatermass, and Two Moons of Quatermass. (Starkland reissued these on CD in the early ’90s, but they’re still hard to find. Another reissue campaign would be nice.) These records comprise a body of work that still sounds vital, evocative of a complex matrix of moods and innovative in texture and dynamics. British electronic duo Autechre owe a serious debt to Dockstader in that regard. Some of today's greatest electronic-music producers—Three Legged Race, Raglani, Matt Carlson, et al.—also have been influenced by Dockstader.
Brierley's documentary has been in the works since 2011. He's currently working toward a feature-length documentary. Below is a segment on Dockstader at age 80, which will end up in Unlocking Dockstader. It's not easy viewing, as the composer suffers from dementia. This clip finds Brierley describing in depth Dockstader's music, which I hope is part of university syllabi worldwide.