Unlocking Dockstader is a short documentary film, by Justin H Brierley, that takes a look at the life and legacy of electronic music pioneer Tod Dockstader:
I’ve been working with legendary electronic composer Tod Dockstader for the last year, trying to write his life story and uncover the mysteries of his as-yet-unreleased late works.
The first phase of this work is the short documentary seen above.
Dockstader is a self-taught sound engineer and sound effects specialist.. In the late 50’s, he started to use his off-work hours at Gotham Recording Studios to experiment with musique concrète.
By 1960 he had amassed enough material to assemble his first composition, Eight Pieces (later to be used in the soundtrack of Fellini’s Satyricon), the last of which was re-worked into his first stereo piece Travelling Music. His last piece at Gotham was Four Telemetry Tapes in 1965, after which he left to work as an audio-visual designer on the Air Canada Pavillion at Montreal’s Expo ’67.
It was around this time that some of Dockstader’s pieces were released on three Owl L.P.s, and his work became known to a larger audience (he had previously released some pieces on Folkways). However, he no longer had access to studio facilities and was denied access to the major electronic music centres because of his lack of academic credentials. Because of this, he concentrated on educational audio-visual productions, and has written and produced hundreds of filmstrips and videos for schools.
In the early 21st century, Dockstader started exploring the capabilities of computer music, and has several recent releases.
Brierley notes that “by the mid-aughts, Tod had been showing some minor signs of dementia, which were then accelerated by his depression over no longer being able to speak to his beloved wife. However, he continued to create until his own dementia made it no longer possible. His old computer is filled with hours of as-yet-unreleased works that are strikingly different than anything else in his catalogue.”
More is planned for the unlockingdockstader site, including new documentary shorts, audio podcasts and rare photos.