"I Dream of Wires" -- Documentary on the Modular Synth

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Ordered my copy of the "Hardcore Edition" and received it this week. Really liking it so far – lots of heads in the opening section on the beginning of modular, Bernie Krause, Morton Subotnick (sadly no Don Buchla).

Anyone else (read: MiltonParker) seen it yet?

Naive Teen Idol, Wednesday, 21 August 2013 03:29 (six years ago) link

No, but this sounds great.

emil.y, Wednesday, 21 August 2013 17:37 (six years ago) link

I'd totally watch this... and it's named after a Gary Numan song...

I wanna live like C'MOWN! people (Turrican), Wednesday, 21 August 2013 17:56 (six years ago) link

(sadly no Don Buchla)

Don has loosened up a lot over the last ten years, but when it comes to interviewing him he can still be a little on the challenging side

Moog or Buchla

Milton Parker, Wednesday, 21 August 2013 18:32 (six years ago) link

As a soon-to-be owner of a modular (I ordered a Make Noise Shared System) for my 40th birthday, I'm really jazzed about this

Despite no Don Buchla, the stuff with Subotnick (who looks great for being 80) and Ramon Sender is great. I've only made it a bit into part 2, but they do a good job of summarizing the East Coast-West Coast/Moog-Buchla philosophical battles and appear to be setting up nicely how the revival is kind of demonstrating that Don may ultimately prove to be the victor.

Naive Teen Idol, Wednesday, 21 August 2013 22:22 (six years ago) link

two months pass...

saw this. pretty epic / sprawling / LONG, but as this thing from the outset is catering to, and portraying, the obsessive nature of this, I found it all pretty gratifying

I was a little allergic to the faux-BBC documentary cliches; a lot of the narrator's content-free statements had me wincing, but the content & the interviews come through if you can make it past the intros. And I know they felt they had to keep the pace up to get to Moog & Buchla, but I was still a bit mystified at the way they condensed the major instrument designers of the first 50 years: Theremin > Sackbut > RCA Mark II. No Telharmonium, no Mixtur-trautonium, no Barrons, no ANS, no Manhattan Research Industries -- I know they didn't want to get bogged down, and I'm happy to see Hugh Le Caine get more discussion, but wow that is some shorthand, especially for a 4+ hour documentary.

The strength in the first part is in the relatively balanced coverage of the Moog / Buchla aesthetic divide. The second part is an exhaustive 2.5 hour overview of the modular renaissance of the last 10 years, great interviews with most of the key founders & module designers.

Watched it with my pal Bubba, who played a 200e on our last tour together. He was there to chime in whenever the narrator said something like '...and the Moog 1 volt per octave standard remains in place to this very day' by yelling things like 'except for Buchlas! 1.2V, you assholes' etc

Milton Parker, Thursday, 7 November 2013 22:51 (five years ago) link

lol is that T0m D?

sarahell, Thursday, 7 November 2013 23:17 (five years ago) link

D!muzi0?? Love that guy, we have good friends in common but have only hung out once.

sleeve, Thursday, 7 November 2013 23:28 (five years ago) link

Lol, Jon. Agreed.

Naive Teen Idol, Friday, 8 November 2013 05:13 (five years ago) link

ten months pass...

saw the 93 minute cut last night that's ready for theater distribution, and was very impressed. they managed to make the leap from this being a documentary for modular obsessives to being a wide-appeal film for anyone even remotely interested in synthesizers / music history.

they recut the narration entirely with Patti Schmidt -- as someone who really misses Brave New Waves, I knew it was her two sentences into the film, but she just has one of the most calming yet authoritative voices anywhere and she just makes even the most obscure parts of it go down without seeming pretentious which is no mean trick.

I was worried they'd give the 1950-1980 section of the history short shrift, but they kept almost all of the Moog / Buchla stuff, and the edit has much greater focus, trying less to be a history of all electronic music instruments everywhere than a history of Modular design. The instruments they leave out no longer grate, and the time spent on the RCA Mark II (over, say, the Trautonium) makes a lot more sense as that room-sized beast really was the grandfather of Modulars both in appearance and workflow. Just about the only confusing omission was the Serge; I can see why his stuff didn't fit into the curve of their 70's narrative, but... cutting him out entirely is just about the only problem I can think of in this new cut, because his low-cost systems made a big impact, played into the West Coast aesthetic, and were used in a lot of strange new age & industrial music well into the 80's. (I even forget how much he was in the Hardcore cut, but I seem to remember him getting mentioned at least a little bit).

Buchla was in the audience for last night's screening. The 93 minute cut leaves in almost the entirety of the Moog/Buchla East/West Coast discussion, which in the shorter cut keeps coming back as one of the main organizing structures of the film, especially towards the end as it loops back to cover indie Eurorack designers. Was weirdly emotional watching the film with him even in the audience (Roger Linn, Tom Oberheim and Dave Smith were there too). I asked Don what he thought afterwards and in true laconic form, he said it was fine. "It was well edited," he said.

Milton Parker, Thursday, 11 September 2014 18:49 (four years ago) link

Weird that he'd be there but not in it. His RBMA interview from a few years back was pretty good.

Naive Teen Idol, Friday, 12 September 2014 00:03 (four years ago) link

Didn't know about that one, thanks!

Even the people who've been making the documentary 'Buchla' for the last two years are having trouble getting him to commit to an interview.

Milton Parker, Friday, 12 September 2014 17:01 (four years ago) link

One of my favorite lines from the 4.5 hour cut that went missing in the short version was a modular manufacturer saying that he was pretty sure only a tiny fraction of his customers were actually gigging / professional musicians. The long cut definitely gets way inside the fanatical aspects of the subculture, people who are spending five six seven figures easy to assemble these cavernous, largely immobile studios which they then never leave. There is one line remaining in the short cut where someone makes a crack on the order of 'Have fun you guys, but don't forget to press record every once in a while!' The long cut edges right up to some of the implications of the hermetic audienceless nature of the music where people are content to get lost nudging and modifying a music that doesn't like being nailed down or finalized; the short cut ends with a 'triumphant' performance montage of people like Keith Fullerton Whitman and Clark performing out live in concert halls with their Euroracks (or, more often, a laptop with a halfrack carefully mounted alongside).

Watching the long cut I was thinking of the history of self-playing music and characters like Roland Kayn and the League of Automatic Music Composers and how those 50s/60s/70s aesthetics are really incubating on a massive scale, being rediscovered individually in private studios across the world. It points at something very different than the short cut's ending montage of large audiences watching one person on a stage tweaking knobs. Going to have to watch the second half of the long cut again sometime.

Favorite group from the last ten years not in the short cut is Dewanatron. I bought all three of their records after watching, anyone who's favorite Cluster record has ever been 'Curiosum' should just buy 'Semi-Automatic' without even pausing, then the self-titled, then the live one: http://www.dewanatron.com/music.php?page=buy

Milton Parker, Friday, 12 September 2014 17:39 (four years ago) link

four years pass...

hey guys what are some cool recent modular synth records

j., Friday, 5 April 2019 21:02 (four months ago) link

I'm not super into modular but you might want to check out Jamie Stewart's solo record, that Caterina Barbieri record from last year, the most recent Richard Devine, and what Venetian Snares has been up to (actually his record with Daniel Lanois is surprisingly cool)?

change display name (Jordan), Friday, 5 April 2019 21:57 (four months ago) link

one month passes...

not at all new but not knowing my history, i was ignorant of suzannie ciani, but am delighted to know about her now

j., Tuesday, 14 May 2019 23:06 (three months ago) link

new caterina barbieri is quality

lowercase (eric), Tuesday, 14 May 2019 23:11 (three months ago) link

two months pass...


j., Friday, 19 July 2019 20:22 (one month ago) link

needs a bigger KFW picture imo

koogs, Friday, 19 July 2019 21:08 (one month ago) link

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