Six years after Toru Takemitsu’s “Water Music” and eleven years after Hugh LeCaine’s “Dripsody” piece we have another piece utilizing the sound source of water droplets. In this example one notices the utter elasticity of the Tape Music medium. Dockstader comes from a background in film editing and sound engineering in Hollywood. While most if not all of his peers from this time came from strictly academic backgrounds, Dockstader forged his own path and arguably presents us with the most beguiling and rigorous examples of the American Tape Music tradition. When the studio he was employed at (Gotham) and composed his early works at shut down, Dockstader was unable to continue his tape experiments due to the snobbery of his academic peers despite radio play and critical recognition. Rejected by the likes of Otto Luening and Vladimir Ussachevsky of the Columbia Princeton Electronic Music Center, it wasn’t until the 1990’s when re-issues of his music appeared on CD that Dockstader regained the confidence and the opportunity to return to composition. His Aerial series on the label Sub Rosa is worth seeking out.
As I went, the sound got easier but the organization got harder, and I entered into a struggle I hadn’t anticipated. John Cage (in Silence) tells of the effort it took him to overcome his musical training and become a Listener to sound again. There came a struggle to resist forcing the sounds too far into Music and away from a true art of sound, This, I think, is the continuing struggle in electronic music of all kinds. It’s very hard to stay a Listener.
Tod Dockstader : Two Moons of Quartermass: II. Second Moon
Dockstader on Dockstader :
I don’t remember just when I first heard musique concrète; it must have been in the early 50s. I think I liked the idea
of it more than the Toonerville-Trolley sound of the early pieces. In
Pierre Schaeffer’s original definition, it meant working with the sound
in your ears, directly with the sound, as opposed to “abstract” music in
which the sounds are written. Like Schaeffer, a working sound engineer,
I had the training to be a “worker in rhythms, frequencies and
intensities.” As a non-musician, I couldn’t write music, but this “new
art of sound” didn’t need notation. In the beginning, musique concrète wasn’t even agreed upon to be music; Schaeffer’s first presentation of his work was called “a concert of noises.”