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."
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 comments:
"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 that I’ve 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:
"Quatermass was 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 from Quatermass: 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.