TOD DOCKSTADER: Quatermass
"The obsessive care with which Starkland have compiled these extraordinary
recordings should ensure that Dockstader will be remembered as the
innovative, visionary figure he undoubtedly was."
The Washington Post :
"Strong recommendation... a highly imaginative pioneer... The style
and texture vary tremendously, from the ebullient Water
Music to the surreal
"An astounding technical and artistic success."
Tod Dockstader's "organized sound" has captivated,
delighted, and sometimes frightened listeners for several decades. With
dozens of highly enthusiastic reviews, Starkland's two CDs have led to the
recognition of Tod Dockstader as one of the finest musique concrete composers
yet to appear. The Washington Post calls Dockstader "one of the giants in the field," while Stereophile places his output "on a par with the best."
These two CDs, each containing over 70 minutes of strikingly original electronic
music, offer significantly improved sound over the limitations of the original
LPs. Dockstader carefully supervised Starkland's transfer from his
original master tapes to the final digital masters. The Washington
Post notes that the extraordinary sound of the CDs "at last,
is equal to the remarkable sounds Dockstader has produced."
The booklets for these two CDs offer thorough documentation
on Tod Dockstader and this music: biographical information, notes on each
piece, photos, authoritative Introductions, and additional Dockstader commentary
on his early influences and tortuous studio techniques. Fanfare found
the booklets "gratifyingly thorough... among the best prepared I've seen."
"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.' These works are not only historically important,
but defy genre categorization and make exquisite listening."
The first CD opens with Water Music. Dockstader
"Water Music began with the sound of water; there is little
else in the piece. I've described organized sound as a technique using
everything and the kitchen sink; this is the piece that uses the sink – a
kind of kitchen La Mer. I suspected these sound sources were capable
of complex organization – in short, of making a kind of music. And
yet the processes of mechanical and electronic abstraction they went
through during organization did not rob them of their essential quality:
a sometimes delicate, sometimes ponderous, wetness. There are six short
parts, each one of varying degrees of density, acceleration, loudness.
Some are lyrical, some violent – both, I feel, are qualities of water... Water
Music had its premiere on WQXR in June 1963. At the end of the broadcast,
the announcer stated that, since electronic music wasn't going anywhere,
the broadcast would be the last of its kind. They'd also played Stockhausen's Gesang
der Junglinge – so I went out in good company."
ripitup (New Zealand):
"This crushingly good 73:11 disc...is the best
heard... never been surpassed... a masterpiece!"
CD also presents the darkly ominous, 45-minute work many
regard as Dockstader's musique concrete masterpiece, Quatermass.
The composer offers some thoughts about this extraordinary work:
intended, from the start, to be a very dense, massive, even threatening,
work of high levels and high energy. It was my antidote to the preceding
Water Music – a work of small details, delicate textures,
and some playfulness... As with all my pieces, work began with collecting
what I call 'cells' (Schaeffer called them 'sound objects'):
hours and hours of quarter-inch tape recordings of whatever interested
me, the original sound transmuted with (what are now called) 'classical'
tape-studio techniques. By the time I did Quatermass, I guess I
had a library of around 300,000 feet of tape (125 hours at 15 ips). From
this mass, I would select cells that seemed like they might work together
into a piece, and then turn them into stereo (with more classical techniques
of tape-delay and tape-echo between channels, panning, reverberation,
and placement). For Quatermass, I had, for the first time, use
of a three-track recorder (the third track filled the center 'hole'
in early stereo recording), which allowed me to do more complex tape-echo
rhythms than before (heard in 'Tango' and 'Flight')
and thicker sound-masses – the 'wall' of sound I wanted
for the piece.
"To mix all this together, I had a six-channel
mixer (tubes), one mono, one 2-track, and the 3-track machines as feeds
into a quarter-inch, 2-track recorder. That was it (the most elaborate
setup I ever had) – no 'tracking,' no sel-sync, no 'layering,' just
one-pass mixing to the master tape. All this was tube equipment with
no noise-reduction... The final (and longest) stage was to edit the
mixes into the five movements. I'd guess the forty-six minutes of Quatermass were
wrenched out of probably a dozen hours of mixed tape.
" 'Song and Lament' does
indeed have a song and a lament. 'Tango,' although it doesn't
start like a tango, becomes something like a tango, and 'Parade' is
sort of a pompous, John Philips Sousa crashing about. 'Flight' continues
the source-ideas of 'Tango' on a darker level, and the final
part, 'Second Song,' is a long working-out of the energies,
and an attempt at balancing the weights, of the first four parts..."
"Some of the most extreme aural spaces (un)known to man... Timeless
soundscapes which stand totally apart from anything created in the academy
or rock-influenced music circles... don't
miss these superb discs."
The CD also offers Two Moons of Quatermass,
unused sections from Quatermass that were heard on this CD for
the first time. Dockstader writes:
"Two Moons of Quatermass were spin-offs
they were flung out, in the long process of editing, as outs. Later,
after Quatermass was
done, I went back and edited them into the Two Moons. They separated
themselves from the main work because: the first Moon was too languid
to work into Quatermass, and the second Moon was more
playfully chaotic than Quatermass."
Computer Music Journal:
"A series of
powerful compositions... meticulously composed and engineered."
Anyone who has an interest in musique concrete and
electronic music should hear this powerful, classic organized sound.
Visit a fine unofficial Dockstader website.