Tod Dockstader: From the Archives
The Latest Update
Excellent initial reviews
“Best of the Year List” (The Big City Blog)
“One of the best releases of 2016” (Avant Music News)
“One of the best composers in the field.” (Vital Weekly)
“A major and important release” (New Music Buff)
CD Video Trailer Posted
We have posted a video trailer for the CD.
Booklet Excerpt: Geeta Dayal
“Dockstader stayed relentlessly modern and innovative, pushing into new sonic territories well into his 70s. ‘From the Archives’ sounds radical and new, as fresh as if it was made today. And through it all, this music – like all of Dockstader’s music – is endlessly listenable and inviting, showing a flair for melody, texture, and rhythm even in its most challenging passages… Here, we see Dockstader’s tremendous sonic and emotional range on full display. The cascade of bright music-box chimes of Anat Loop is punchy and upbeat; the clatter of Creek Bells is eerie and sepulchral, like imagined music for a black-and-white horror movie. Mystery Creak is busy and active, a collision of contrasting textures; Choral Mix is placid and slow-moving, a meditative expanse of sound.”
Booklet Excerpt: Tina Dockstader Kinard
Tod Dockstader’s daughter, Tina Dockstader Kinard, who has enthusiastically supported this project, graciously agreed to provide some comments for the CD’s booklet. At one point, Tod was firmly rooted in the analog world, planning to never enter the digital realm. Tina’s story about converting Tod to using a computer is illuminating:
“I had my father reserve computer time at the public library, and I arranged for a friend to stay with my mother. I knew I had one shot to make this work, and I decided to appeal to my dad’s curiosity – about himself. My father was not a vain person, but I knew he would be surprised how many people were still interested in him. I typed ‘Tod Dockstader’ into the search engine and asked my dad to watch the screen.
“Thousands of entries appeared, and his eyes widened. His lips parted, and, for a moment, he was speechless.
‘I thought they thought I was dead,’ he half-joked. ‘Maybe they still do think I’m dead.’
“Since that day in 2001, my father showed all of those people already interested in his music, and others unfamiliar with his music, that he was still very much alive and that he had more to say.”
Booklet Excerpt: Justin H Brierley
We have been gathering materials for the CD booklet. There will be an essay by Justin H Brierley, who, having scoured over 4,000 audio files left behind by Tod, has been an essential part of this project. Some excerpts from Justin’s comments:
“By early 2011 I had become a Dockstader fan, and when I learned he was still alive, I decided I wanted to interview him for my radio show, Music For Internets… Tom Steenland informed me that Tod’s health was failing, and then put me in touch with Tod’s daughter, Tina. Through her I learned that Tod had been living with dementia for a few years… She invited me into her home where I was able to meet one of my musical heroes. During my fourth visit with Tod, I asked Tina if his old computer was still around. I knew he had been using it to make music and was curious about whether or not it contained unreleased works. My expectation at that point was that she and I would browse his computer together. Instead, she walked back into the room a little while later and handed me his old computer tower, literally saying ‘Merry Christmas!’ I discovered a vast treasure trove containing over 150 hours of audio, spread out over thousands of sound files. With little information about the content, sorting through this bountiful collection was a daunting, albeit enjoyable, task.”
Exploring Tod’s Archives
The hardest part of this project was how to appropriately deal with music left behind by a talented, perfectionist composer who has passed on. Tod had saved thousands of audio files on his computer, with little annotation. If there were several versions of a single piece, which should appear on this CD? If a selection with striking material didn’t feel 100% complete but nearly so, should we include it? Sometimes, we did.
Another issue was titles. How should we name a piece with file title like “ELLIE SMOOTHED MIX W. WHISPER PIANO 2 (18.104.22.168.1)”?
Plowing thru all this was a lot of (enjoyable) work, but our goal was always to carefully balance our respect for Tod’s high standards vs. documenting and disseminating music that we anticipate many will enjoy hearing. I hope we’ve succeeded.
Thanks so much to New Music USA for supporting this CD project. We look forward to presenting this wonderful, unexpected material from Tod Dockstader to the world.
This CD will premiere some unexpected, buried treasures from Tod Dockstader, a highly regarded electroacoustic composer.
When Tod passed away on Feb. 27, 2015, it appeared that his 2006 CD (“Aerial 3”) would be his last public music. However, Tod’s daughter Tina encouraged a dedicated fan, Justin H Brierley, to examine Tod’s computer. Justin found over 4,200 sound files Tod had created from 2000 up to 2008, when he developed dementia and stopped composing. Most were samples, seeds for development, or remnants of earlier work. Still, there were hundreds of tracks possibly viable for public release. Justin sorted through these, sending over 50 promising tracks to Starkland.
Starkland’s Tom Steenland, who’d been in touch with Tod for over 35 years, during which he released and successfully promoted recordings of Tod’s music, carefully reduced these to 15 tracks that felt like completed (or nearly completed) works appropriate for public release.
These richly distinctive works reflect the imaginative, ever-exploring mind of this self-taught pioneer. The music ranges from the powerfully pulsating Super Choral, to the lulling rhythms of First Target, to Anat Loop’s spasmodic juxtapositions, shifting from electric arcing to a xylophone trapped in a hurricane. We also hear driving unnatural machines, organ clusters, meandering buzzes, a slowed-down animal roar, violent whooshes, some ominous German, and garbled, underwater murkiness.
The CD will present the most startling track as an Extra, because it’s unlike anything previously heard from Tod. A pulsing “noise” piece that could have emerged from Japanese noise composer Merzbow, Big Jig is what you might hear while being inexorably pulled into the Devil’s underworld.
The CD’s booklet will include comments from Tod’s daughter Tina; the archivist Brierley; and a noted new music authority. The CD will be released by Starkland, which has previously released 2 Dockstader recordings to outstanding acclaim, and will be distributed by Naxos (the world’s largest classical digital distributor).The album will be mastered by Grammy-winner Silas Brown. Funding will help with the final steps of graphic design, manufacturing, and promotion. In addition to paid advertising, about 150 promo CDs will be sent to top critics, publications, and radio stations.
About Tod Dockstader
Tod Dockstader is recognized as one of the great electroacoustic composers:
- “Tod Dockstader belongs in the select company of Varèse, Stockhausen, Luening, Schaeffer, Subotnick, and the other pioneers of electronic music or musique concrète. His achievement is on a par with the best in his field”(Stereophile).
- The “highly imaginative pioneer” Tod Dockstader is “one of the giants in the field” (The Washington Post).
- “Along with Stockhausen, Henry and Varese, Tod Dockstader should be recognized, not merely regarded, as one of the great figures of musique concrete composition” (Dusted).
A New Music Box article reviews Tod’s history: learning about sound while working on cartoons; creating his early masterpieces during off-hours at a New York studio; the rave reviews for his CDs; his transition into the digital world and the resulting Aerial CDs; and, finally, his deteriorating health.
Start and End Dates
11/16/2015 — 12/30/2016