Tod Dockstader Documentary – Unlocking Dockstader

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.

via wired

15 thoughts on “Tod Dockstader Documentary – Unlocking Dockstader

  1. Thanks for sharing my video. I’m very excited about this project and am looking forward hearing people’s reactions.

    1. It is hard to watch at points – as when he’s ‘discovering’ his own music. But it is respectfully done and ultimately rewarding.

  2. really liked the music- but agree that it is hard to watch at times and makes me really sad . Fuck Alzheimer

  3. Wow! Thank you, this touched me on so many levels! Please some one release these works before its to late…..nothing lasts forever, the beauty of this world is fleeting to say the least! Thank you again, I wish the best for this project!…dk

  4. Watched this a couple of times today. Shared it with some friends.

    I hold much respect for Dockstader and his body of work.

    Such a great artist.

  5. “I wish I did this”, “You did”….. Probably one of the most poignant and effective pieces of film I have ever seen illustrating this form of dementia, incredibly touching and very powerful. Sad to see a composer I have a huge amount of respect for afflicted in such a way.
    I remember an interview with Dave Gilmour saying it makes him sad that he never got to listen to Dark Side of the Moon the same way the rest of us did, from start to finish having never heard it before. In some ways it’s rather touching that Tod gets to hear his music this way but the circumstances that give him this gift are cruel beyond comprehension.
    As others have said, this was at times hard to watch but I am looking forward to seeing the full film. Huge respect to Justin.

  6. Dockstader is genius and should be a world renowned name. Perhaps belated recognition is better than none. He is one of my favorite composers and you can certainly hear it in my stuff. Tod blazed the trail .

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