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Tod Dockstader: Quatermass

by Tod Dockstader

  • Compact Disc (CD) + Digital Album

    Tod Dockstader's "organized sound" has captivated, delighted, and sometimes frightened listeners for 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 concrète 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."

    Containing over 70 minutes of strikingly original electronic music, this CD offers 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 master. The Washington Post notes that the extraordinary sound of the CDs "at last, is equal to the remarkable sounds Dockstader has produced."

    The CD’s booklet offers thorough documentation on Tod Dockstader and this music: biographical information, notes on each piece, photos, an authoritative Introduction, and additional Dockstader commentary on his early influences and tortuous studio techniques. Fanfare found the booklet "gratifyingly thorough... among the best prepared I've seen."

    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 Jünglinge – so I went out in good company."

    CD also presents the darkly ominous, 45-minute work many regard as Dockstader's musique concrète 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..."

    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."

    Anyone who has an interest in musique concrète and electronic music should hear this powerful, classic organized sound.

    Praise for this CD:

    The Wire:
    "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 Quatermass."

    "An astounding technical and artistic success."

    Includes unlimited streaming of Tod Dockstader: Quatermass via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
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    Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
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released November 3, 1992

℗ Starkland and Tod Dockstader
© Starkland
All rights reserved.


all rights reserved



Tod Dockstader Connecticut

"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

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