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In Memoriam







Tod Dockstader





Tod Dockstader





Tod Dockstader





Tod Dockstader


Tod Dockstader
March 20, 1932 - February 27, 2015



"Tod Dockstader was a pioneer, a unique and visionary composer whose personal take on musique concrete and electronic music was extraordinarily visceral, setting him apart from the academic composers who ruled that realm in the late 1950's. In the summer of 1968 while on a summer National Science Foundation residency, I was DJ'ing a late-night slot at WRCT, the radio station of Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh. The station's library was well-stocked with current jazz, rock, and contemporary music- it was a fantastic time for new music. Searching the stacks for material, I was struck by the mysterious and homespun look of Owl Records and their releases of Tod Dockstader's music. On listening I was blown away by the incredible timbres, relentless pace, and rhythmic urgency. I frequently played his pieces Apocalypse and Quatermass on my show and they burned their way into my shortlist of favorite electronic music. He was an unsung master who will hopefully receive long overdue honors."
- Elliott Sharp

- Wired

"Dockstader, like Luc Ferrari, had a background in film editing and sound, and he composed in the arena of what now is called Electroacoustic Music--electronic sources and natural sounds, often still recognizable--all were fair game for his work. His emphasis was on 'composing,' the careful arrangement of sounds, whatever their novelty, into structures that were satisfying and effective from a narrative point of listening. Working with limited means, he completed a substantial body of work, originally issued on the Owl label, with distinctive black and white cover art and minimal restrained graphic titling, that hypnotized a generation of younger composers who sought out his records with great relish."
- Charles Amirkhanian

"One of the giants in the field"
- The Washington Post

"What a revelation and courageous inspiration -  to open one’s ears to the music of this man, Tod Dockstader, one of those towering American Originals like Harry Partch, Conlon Nancarrow, Raymond Scott, who while working in relative obscurity defined his own sonic landscape, detailed and infinite, solitary and expansive, and people it with the fruits of his imagination, technique and inventions.  As the imposed weight of artifice and theory collapses one bankrupt European narrative of the history of 20th century music, pillars of invention like Tod Dockstader stand tall in the rubble."
- Bruce Odland

"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

"I was already working with tape in a concrète way when I entered college in '81, and actively listening to whatever I could get my hands in that style. But it wasn't until Barney Childs laid a copy of Tod Dockstader's LP on me that I heard where the medium could really go. His virtuosic work blotted out all the tape and electronic music I had heard up to that point: His was the bar to which all else was measured (at least in my mind) for many years. May his work continue to inspire and stretch ears for decades to come."
- Gino Robair

"Tod Dockstader was a major influence upon me. I discovered some of the Owl Records in the early 70s when I was still in high school.The music was a revelation. What was equally important is that Dockstader  was using the tape studio as his instrument or as his own personal orchestra. This DIY approach was a inspiration to me."
- Paul Dolden

"Very sad to hear about the passing of electronic music composer Tod Dockstader. To me he was one of the greatest. I'll place him above all of the famous names – Karl Stockhausen or Pierre Henry never made music that came close to the pure genius of Dockstader's work in the 1960s. They may have preceded him, and may have better secured their places in history books, but they can not match the level of intensity, inventiveness and pure sonic joy found in Dockstader's music. Along with Bernard Parmegiani and Roland Kayn he's the electronic composer whose records I've listened to the most. I'll never tire of works like Luna Park, Water Music or Quatermass. As I understand it he gave up on making music for a long time not being accepted into the established institutions because of his lack of academic experience. We can only imagine the music he would have created had someone given him due credit when he needed it. He did get some level of recognition later in life, with his work being reissued and available to a new generation of more attentive ears. Dockstader also made new works which are really good – a transition from old analog to new digital methods few of his generation mastered with the same elegance. The monolithic Aerial became his swan song. Thank you for the music."
- Lasse Marhaug

"I can't say I'm in shock, per se, as those in the know all knew how bad things had gotten for him. And it is indeed a dirty shame that he wasn't able to bounce back any better, to at least remember a fleeting inkling of his own former, albeit understated greatness. I guess some small part of me--perhaps a vestige of the part that, as a callow undergrad futzing around with envelope filters, heard Eight Electronic Pieces some three decades after it was first released on Smithsonian Folkways and just stopped--thought he'd snap out of it. Still, it's hard to fathom any sound world where Tod Dockstader no longer breathes. The last time I remember consciously hearing from him, well, suffice it to say it was purely incidental. Thursday, September 5, 2013. 11:28 p.m. EST. Bob Bellerue had cued up the Starkland reissue of Two Moons of Quatermass in between sets at ISSUE Project Room. The kids down from Williamsburg to hear Richard Youngs seemed genuinely puzzled. Hell, I even saw the lankier one fetch his iPhone from his back pocket, swipe right and hold it to the sky. No way, I thought to myself devilishly, would Shazam get this one...."
- Logan K. Young

"I was just informed that Tod Dockstader - to my mind the greatest electronic musician ever, and my good friend - passed away this evening. May peace be with him. Please listen to his music."
- David Myers

"RIP Tod Dockstader, a key figure in the history of electronic music. I was lucky to interview him for Wired in 2012."
- Geeta Dayal

"I know that many people hold tod's earlier tape work in high regard, as is only proper; its clarity of vision and the craft in the service of that vision are such that any serious listener comes away touched and amazed. But I wanted to say a little about his music constructed from shortwave broadcasts - the series referred to by the collective title 'Aerial.' In much the same way that I encountered Tod's original recordings, the Aerial pieces arrived as if from out of the blue as something fully realized and painstakingly constructed, and they arrived after a long period of relative silence. But unlike the earlier work, this source material was familiar to me - while I had no facility with razor blades and tape, I *had* spent hours marveling at the space between stations on the shortwave bands, the accidents of weather and solar flares and the vagaries of my electronics, thinking of what aesthetic use might be made of them (while knowing that any urge to do so would require untold hours of patient listening and collection whose result would distill days and hours into seconds). To hear it was to appreciate Tod's genius anew - he was already where I dreamed of being, and had been there for months or even years. Patiently listening, collecting, and performing a kind of alchemy whose result turned my attention not to his genius, but to the beauty of the things he made. T.S. Eliot dedicated 'The Waste Land' to Ezra Pound with the inscription, 'the better workman.' That says it entirely."
- Gregory Taylor

"Tod Dockstader was that rarity, a master of tape technology, ears and scissors, whose sound constructions were led not by the aesthetic of the academy or a reverence for systems but by a profound affinity with the minutiae of sound and disregard for 'schools.'"
- Chris Cutler

"Dockstader’s output was a kind of crowning tribute to the composer-technicians of the early fifties, and in spite of the popular penchant for electronic novelty sounds of the late sixties, he produced a music that was fresh and free of the clichés of the medium."
- Recordings








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