‘I Dream of Wires’ Modular Synth Documentary Now Streaming on Netflix

i-dream-of-wiresThe theatrical version of the modular synth documentary I Dream of Wires is now available via streaming on Netflix in the US.

I Dream Of Wires is an independent documentary about the history, demise and resurgence of the modular synthesizer. It features interviews with modular musicians, inventors and enthusiasts, including Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails), Gary Numan, Vince Clarke (Erasure), Morton Subotnick, Chris Carter (Throbbing Gristle), Daniel Miller, Carl Craig, Flood, Cevin Key (Skinny Puppy), James Holden, Factory Floor, Legowelt, Clark, John Foxx and Bernie Krause and more.

Here’s a preview:

In addition to the theatrical version that’s available via Netflix, a 4-hour cut of the film, I Dream Of Wires: Hardcore Edition, was previously released on DVD and BluRay.

Update: IDOW is available on Netflix USA only for now. It is available via iTunes in all territories except Canada (coming Aug 18) and Japan (release date TBD). The DVD is also available via Amazon.

38 thoughts on “‘I Dream of Wires’ Modular Synth Documentary Now Streaming on Netflix

  1. Cheers! Just a note (from IDOW’s producer) to say: Netflix USA only for now – will be available in some other Netflix territories TBD in the future, but only on Netflix USA for August. However, the film is available NOW on iTunes in all territories except Canada (coming Aug18) and Japan (release date TBD). DVD is also available now!

      1. Although it’s only available on Netflix in the USA at the moment, it’s available through iTunes and Vimeo On Demand in all territories *now* except Canada (coming to iTunes Aug 18) and Japan (release date TBD).

  2. That is great news, but unfortunately it doesn’t show up on Australian Netflix… 🙁
    Why there is no uniform content across the world is beyond my understanding…
    Big BOOO to Netflix for that, or are these restrictions created by producers of the film, in which case BOOO to them.

    1. @leslie, I use uflix to get round that limitation and there are other alternatives to view US Netflix with your AU login credentials. only downside with uflix is that overseas content often does not come down the wire in HD. Will be watching this again for sure.

    2. Nothing to do with Netflix or the producers. Films are sold around the world, and each territory is controlled by whomever bought it. So the company who owns a film in USA does a deal, the company in the UK does another. Netflixs pays a different price for each territory based on population, so it’s not like they can just pay one price for a film. And different films have different release dates, which dictate when they can go on Netflix. There is a logic to it.

  3. I Dream of Wires is a thin psuedo-documentary that goes out of it’s way to not feature the music it talks about. The original score on I Dream of Wires is bland – it could have benefited greatly from actual samples of the artists and music it mentions. For example, the film credits the impact of Switched on Bach with the breakout of the synth into the popular music culture of the 60’s but not one piece of music from that album is heard. Also never heard was the word MIDI, Or polyphonic. The film tries to directly link the initial demise of modular synths to the release of the Yamaha DX-7 but there were a LOT of performance synths that came out prior to the DX-7. i Dream Of Wires traces a rather jagged line from the initial modular synth of the 60’s to today’s Eurorack market but it does so by selectively leaving out many devices, artists and inventors (ex. an ARP modular synth is pictured but Alan R Perlman is never mentioned). Overall, I Dream Of Wires is far from being a satisfying and serious essay on the history of synthesizers. Maybe the four-hour version fills in the gaps?

    1. It’s very expensive to license music, and even more expensive to get sued for unlicensed material.

      Big-budget productions get to have 30 seconds of a famous song for a few hundred thousand dollars – everyone else has to buy royalty free generic clips.

      The doc isn’t claiming to be the Complete History of Synths. It gives decent background context for the current rise of modular and eurorack, and talks to a lot of people about why they love it.

    2. Just a couple of responses to this (I’m IDOW’s producer):

      – “it could have benefited greatly from actual samples of the artists and music it mentions. For example, the film credits the impact of Switched on Bach with the breakout of the synth into the popular music culture of the 60’s but not one piece of music from that album is heard”
      – This critique comes up fairly often, and what people don’t consider is the cost of licensing music. To license certain pieces of music could’ve cost, literally, more than the entire budget of this film. This was a 100% independent project with a shoestring budget. And in the case of Carlos specifically, she is unwilling to license her music at all (we tried).

      – “I Dream Of Wires is far from being a satisfying and serious essay on the history of synthesizers.”
      – It’s actually not meant to be a history of synthesizers, it’s meant to be about the story of the modular synthesizer. The fact the it takes in the history of other synthesizers along the way are all incidental in telling the story of the modular synthesizer.

      1. Switched on Bach was classical music which is public domain and royalty-free. If Wendy Carlos was unwilling to license her recordings there is no reason why Bach’s music performed on a modular synth could not have been used to represent Carlos.

        1. I think that would have been much less tasteful than simply leaving out the music and acknowledging the influence. I, for one, am looking forward to viewing this for what it is: a small-budget, independent documentary on a subject I find interesting.

        2. “If Wendy Carlos was unwilling to license her recordings there is no reason why Bach’s music performed on a modular synth could not have been used to represent Carlos.”

          So, you’re criticizing the producers for not ripping-off one of the most influential artists in electronic music? I’m pretty sure no musician or documentary producer, is going to agree with you on that.

          Give these guys kudos for making a documentary – when they are not filmmakers by profession and they were working on a shoe-string budget – that is good enough to get shown in theaters around the world.

      2. Carlos seems to be an odd duck when it comes to her ‘classic’ stuff. She’s apparently let it all fall out of print, and it’s not available for download or streaming anywhere, so if you want it you’re stuck looking for used vinyl or CDs — and the CDs can go north of $90 right now. A real shame — my folks had it on LP and listening to it when I was 3 was one of my first childhood memories. I do have them on MP3 but it’s not really the same, is it? But yeah, the way everyone in the film talked *about* her without actually *showing* her made it pretty plain how that played out.

        I did enjoy IDOW, and I may watch it again or pick up the long version. The person I was sorely missing from it though was Suzanne Ciani. I know she’s still active (she recently did a spot with Moog for their modular redux) and she was so awesome in that 3-2-1 Contact bit that’s on YouTube. Oh and Felix from The Tuesday Night Machines, but maybe he didn’t really become active until after the film was in the can.

        1. YES! I’ve almost pulled the trigger on the DVD several times, but I lack a device to conveniently play DVD’s (as odd as that sounds in this era). Psyched to finally get to watch it.

    3. Hahahahhahaha! Man, you lead a sad life. “…thin psuedo-documentary…” What the hell does that even mean!!

      “i Dream Of Wires traces a rather jagged line from the initial modular synth of the 60’s to today’s Eurorack market but it does so by selectively leaving out many devices, artists and inventors”

      Because documentaries have to include every detail of every moment right??

      I make docs for a living and you have no idea what you are talking about. The 4 hour version was great, but only if the material really matters to you. Look forward to seeing this cut. Truth is not just the facts. All docs are biased and you hope the filmmaker can get across “a truth” and make you give a shit about something you know nothing about.

    4. I have to agree. I was expecting something interesting but instead got a rather dry & didactic snooze of a history lesson on Moog vs. Buchla and the evils of the cheap Japanese synthesizers. Google the IDOW extended interviews – that’s where the good stuff is.

      1. Unlike, say The King of Kong or Harmontown or Special When Lit or, IDOW has no dramatic through line.

        There are no character arcs. There’s not a single weepy reuniting with a long lost father, no bittersweet victories, no Hero’s Journey. It does not focus on broken people. There’s zero prefabricated drama, no manufactured crisis before an act break.

        Most docs try to shoehorn in these elements to appeal to story-addicted audiences. Otherwise, they are usually maligned as “dry.”

        It’s a documentary about a niche told by members of that niche. It’s talking heads and inserts of archival photos and rack focused patch nests. It’s great for us. It’s not going to be a crossover hit where you “don’t need to like modular synths to enjoy the documentary.” But that’s good – that version would have rung hollow for us.

        What’s more interesting: Crying, or synths?

        1. Have to agree with this assessment. IDOW captures a slice of the complex world of modular synthesis and it turns out we are a pretty quirky bunch. And I think that’s pretty much what it set out to do.

          IDOW is also made by people coming at it from the perspective of today’s modular users – who are influenced a lot more by artists from the last decade or so, not people like Carlos or Tomita.

          I think it’s easily as good as the Moog documentary and better than most electronic music documentaries that I’ve seen. The Raymond Scott was more interesting on a human level, because he was such an interesting piece of work and it was told from the perspective of his son.

  4. The good… An enjoyable and well made movie on SYNTHS…how often do you get that?
    The not so good… DX7 destroyed the modulars, the JP synth companies are EVIL!…
    Seriously, the only thing I missed is that there’s no mention of Clavia’s Nord Modular series, or NI’s Reaktor.
    That said, IDOW is a great doc, go watch it! – who’s perfect, after all?

  5. I wanted to like this more than I did. It was a little hammy. The narration especially. The shots of bleak American cities to show the decline of modular synths and the rise of the DX-7 was particularly corny and off. It also, to me, really underscored the basically overwhelming whiteness of the documentary, perhaps (maybe?) also the modular scene itself. Relatedly, the history of popular electronic music would be nowhere without the cheaper, more available and accessible technology the doc tends to unnecessarily malign. Roland is there (hard to deny) but the ‘us vs. them’ undercurrent the doc cultivated seemed more beside the point than really illustrative or useful. Also — but way less seriously — couldn’t they find more 60s stock footage to use instead of reusing the same set of clips? That one dancing hippie will haunt my dreams ….

    1. def check out the longer version. this was chopped badly and they actually changed the narative completely. im not sure why they did this.

  6. I haven’t watched the theatrical cut, but I absolutely love the 4 hour version. I usually watch it in two parts instead of at once, but I wouldn’t change a thing. Really good interviews with many of the creators of both vintage and modern modular synths, I feel like the personalities behind the synths really illuminates many of the design choices made.

  7. I went to the screening of IDOW in Portland OR. Saw it on the big screen!

    I will support anyone and anything that has to do with synth/electronic music culture. You have to appreciate the work, time, and money that went into making the film, no matter what. I hope there are more films like this in the future.

    That said, I would also have to say that I agree with some of the critics of the film. I had hoped that the film was going to feature some hot shit sound programming, performances, and eye popping studio tours. The friend I took to the viewing was bored to tears! I’d say that the film failed at being both – a compelling historical essay, or a down-n-dirty synth porno. I lost interest half way through, to be perfectly honest.

    Nevertheless, there is some really good stuff in the film, and the extended interviews are fabtastic. i applaud and appreciate the effort, and will certainly check out the long version.

  8. It’s certainly not much of an educational piece. …but I love synth porn. I was inspired to spend most of the 96 minutes on eBay and Doepfer’s site putting together a hypothetical modular of my own.
    My favorite piece of the film was my favorite synthesist – Vince Clarke – suggesting that everyone stop shopping and start playing.
    Creativity is born of limitation.

  9. I was surprised no brief mention of heavy hitters Raymond Scott, Gershon Kingsley, or Moogsploitation Albums and how they tried to drive the market, especially during the Switched On Bach segment.

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