Sisters with Transistors (2020) Movie Script

Are you guys going to stop ever,
or are you gonna keep dancing forever?
I'm gonna keep dancing forever, I mean.
Well, at least 'til I remember
where I put my car.
This is the story of women
who hear music in their heads,
of radical sounds
where there was once silence,
of dreams enabled by technology.
Technology is a tremendous liberator.
It blows up power structures.
Women are naturally drawn
to electronic music.
You didn't have to be accepted
by any of the male-dominated resources:
the radio stations, the record companies,
the concert hall venues,
the funding organisations.
You could make something with electronics
and you can present music
directly to your audience
and that gives you tremendous freedom.
But somehow women get
forgotten from that history.
The history of women
has been a story of silence,
of breaking through the silence.
We shall not be robbed any longer.
With beautiful noise
This is April 30th, 1974.
And we're all here at the Bonino Gallery.
What's your name?
Suzanne Ciani, C-I-A-N-I.
And I'm going to give...
I'm going to play a concert
on the Buchla synthesizer.
These instruments are
designed by a manufacturer
in Berkeley, California.
They're probably the most
sophisticated system that's available.
And I think they're sensual.
May I have a cigarette?
- They're what?
Thank you.
With this new technology,
you could do it all yourself.
So you were the composer.
You were the performer,
you were the sole arbiter
of your creation.
And the machine was alive.
It was warm.
It communicated.
It was sensitive.
You know, you could move something
just the littlest bit
and then a whole new
expression would open up.
One of the most amazing
experiences you can have
is to be in the middle of
this sound that's moving.
The thing that I've always
loved about electronic music
is that it's in motion.
It's malleable.
It's a much more open set of dynamics.
In electronics, you're not
dealing so literally
with the architecture of nodes or harmonies,
those building blocks in classical music.
You're dealing in energy.
At the dawn of the 20th century,
the world was no longer silent.
The spirit of modern life was a banshee
screeching into the future.
Futurists wanted to make art out of
the new energy, speed, and noise.
How would we begin to do such a thing,
to capture the sound of
this electrified world?
I do very much what a diver would do.
I just have to take a chance.
And here I am.
See? A hair breadth off and
I'm already on a different note.
Dr. Ray, now we'll have fun.
Now we'll have fun.
Now, here, hold your hand over this.
It is a fallacy to think that
the instrument is easy to play.
It is much more difficult than the violin.
I was a concert violinist
before I played this.
As young girls, both my sister and I
gave joint concerts
playing the violin and the
piano all over Russia
then all over Europe.
We played our way to America.
I met Professor Theremin
when he came to America
to demonstrate the instrument.
I was fascinated by
the aesthetic part of the instrument,
the beauty,
and the idea of playing completely
without touching anything.
I also loved the sound of it.
Professor Theremin became
a great friend and admirer,
and we really worked on
this particular instrument together.
I making my musical pushes known to him,
and he being the genius that he was
made it work.
And we played the Nardini Concerto.
We played the whole Csar Franck Sonata,
which was at that time
a rather great surprise
because the Theremin was associated with
just little melodies.
Suddenly you get someone
who's a total virtuoso
and able to make it sound in a way
that it had never sounded before.
You cannot play air with hammers,
Clara would say.
You have to play with butterfly wings.
I was a freak at the time.
The public had to be won
over into thinking of it
as a real artistic medium
played by an artist,
and I won them over.
A young composer said to me,
"It's listening to this singing of a soul."
Now isn't that a lovely thought,
singing of a soul?
The first stage in the
realisation of a piece of music
is to construct the individual sounds
that we're going to use.
To do this, we go to these
sound generators here,
electronic generators,
and we listen to three of the
basic electronic sounds.
First, is the simplest sound of all,
which is a sine wave.
You can see on the oscilloscope, it has a
very simple form and has a very pure sound.
Now listen to the same note but with a
different quality. This is a square wave.
It's very square on the picture
and perhaps rather harsh to listen to.
This is because it has a lot
of high harmonics
and that's what gives the
corners on the picture.
Now a more complex
sound still is white noise.
We don't always go to
electronic sound generators
for our basic sources of sound.
If the sound we want exists
already in real life, say,
we can go and record it.
But those basic sounds aren't really
interesting in their raw state like this.
To make them of value for a musical piece,
we have to shape them and mold them.
We can get the lower sounds we need
from the rhythm by slowing down the tape.
And the higher sounds by
speeding up the tape.
And then all we have to do is cut the notes
to the right length.
We can join them together on
a loop and listen to them.
And then with the higher
notes of the rhythm, again,
we join them together in a loop
and play it in synchronisation
with the first tape.
And over this we can play.
Using all of these we can build up
any sound we can possibly imagine.
We spend quite a lot of time trying to invent
new sound, sounds that don't exist already,
sounds that can't be produced
by musical instruments.
The radio, the radio, the radio was
the most important thing in my life.
You know, there weren't books.
The radio was my education.
I was accepted by the Oxford
and the Cambridge
to read mathematics,
which is quite something
for a working-class girl in the '50s,
where only one in 10 were female.
Delia was a brilliant mathematician.
She was fascinated by the
inner composition of a sound.
Then she could reach into it and decide
what part of that sound she wanted to use.
I was in Coventry during the Blitz.
That was such an influence on me.
It's come to me
that my love for abstract sounds were
sounds of the air raid siren.
Because that's the sound you
hear and you don't know
the source of it as a young child.
It's an abstract sound and it's meaningful
and then the all clear.
World War II emptied cities of men.
And in the absence of men, women worked.
Freedom was more than a feeling.
There isn't much glamour
about this independence.
Women at work are getting to
look and behave more like men.
It's not very attractive.
Welcome to Tower Folly,
this lonely host house
on the North Downs of Kent.
Well, as far as I know
this house isn't haunted and there isn't
a mad scientist in sight.
This is in fact a music factory
where they can literally
make music out of electronic sounds,
and the woman who makes it
has just been awarded a grant
by the Gulbenkian Foundation
to help her research.
She's here at her control box,
Miss Daphne Oram.
How did you get involved
in this kind of work?
It dates back really to 1944, I think,
when I read a book which
prophesied that composers in the future
would compose directly into sound instead
of using orchestral instruments, you see.
And well, since then I've been working
in BBC Studios,
and so I've got some little grasp
of this sort of equipment.
I was trained as a musician,
and the two sort of
click together, you see.
Daphne was a very gifted pianist
and she had secured a place for herself
at the Royal Academy of Music,
which she turned down
because she was also very
interested in technology
and wanted to work at the BBC.
I was asked to do some incidental music
for a television play,
and I did this by getting together,
in the middle of the night,
all the tape recorders that
I could find in studios,
collecting them together in one studio,
and working until they had to
be put back the next morning,
sleeping a little bit and
then coming back in
to do my normal chamber music work.
Then it grew from that.
I was asked to help start
the radiophonic workshop.
Without Daphne, it would never
have started because BBC did not want
an electronic music studio.
We were just using anything
we could grab hold of.
We had basic laboratory equipment
and a pair of tape machines that had
been liberated at the end of the war.
Playwrights were writing in a surreal
kind of style,
which was a legacy of the war.
The style required a
different kind of sound.
Bird or angel?
This program is an experiment.
We think it's worth broadcasting
as a perfectly serious first attempt
to find out whether
we can convey a new kind of
emotional and intellectual experience
by means of what we call
radiophonic effects.
Round and round
like a wind from the ground.
It's a sort of modern magic.
Some musicians believe that it can
become an art form complete in itself.
Others are skeptical.
In fact, we've decided not to use
the word "music" at all.
What began as a research trip
to the Brussels World Fair
became a fateful pilgrimage.
There, Daphne hears
an electronic composition
fed through 350 speakers
with synchronised projections.
Electronic music was more
than just incidental.
It was the sound of the future.
The radiophonic workshop was concentrating
somewhat on the drama side,
and I wanted to concentrate
on the music side.
So I set up my own studio.
She was a woman,
in the 1950s, set up her own
independent electronic music studio.
It's extraordinarily brave.
Now Miss Oram, how do you go
about manufacturing this sort of sound?
Well, let me introduce
this little electronic generator here,
which produces a sound like this.
Now I made a little loop of tape here
with varying pure tones on it.
Now if I then put a little
artificial reverberation
on that, I think you'll see we're just
beginning to get somewhere with the music.
What are you going with this
3.500 pounds that you've got?
Well, this is very exciting to me
because I have ideas for a piece of
electronic equipment, not quite like this.
In this case, the composer, we're
going to be able to feed in drawn symbols
straight into the equipment
and out will come the sounds.
I have a new technique completely,
one that I've evolved over the years,
which I call oramics.
Now that is using graphic
representation of sound.
There seems to be no real notation system
in electronic music.
I wanted a system where I
could graphically represent
what I wanted and give that representation,
that musical score, in fact, to a machine
and have from it the sound.
This idea of drawn sound
is a sound that comes from nowhere.
It's a sound that is
synthesised from nothing,
but she's not the ghost in the machine
her hands are all over it.
The composer wants to
project something of himself.
The great works of art are a
projection of a human mind.
And unless this machine can
accept and produce exactly
this projection of the composer's thought,
then I think it's just a
machine and I can quite see
why people can get
frightened at the thought.
Pierre Schaeffer said,
"In between noise and music,
there is the hand of the musician."
Eliane dreamt of an unreal,
impalpable music
appearing and fading away like clouds
in the blue summer sky.
Greenwich Village is
mostly a state of mind.
The Village in the 50s had to be
the most exciting, wonderful
place in the world.
It was unbelievable, like Paris in the 20s.
We were married in '48
and Louis's cousin brought us
a tape recorder for a wedding present.
I think we were the only ones
in the country with that machine.
We had all the artists in The Village
coming to us for recording work.
I remember my first birth in water.
I sway and float, stand on boneless toes,
listening for distant sounds,
sounds beyond the reach of human ears.
We started a recording studio.
We built almost all the equipment ourselves
because there wasn't any to buy.
The great American boy is hard at work
inventing, creating, building something.
And the desire to build
and create new things
is the energy that develops
industrious, dependable
citizens of tomorrow.
It was exciting because you were
building these things and you're
experimenting with the electronic media.
Louis made sounds
by overloading circuit boards,
which Bebe then processed and
manipulated to create music.
To the writer, Anas Nin,
it sounded like a molecule
had stubbed its toe.
And we started
working on avant-garde films.
That's what this was all about,
was the avant-garde.
The sense of wonder and awe,
the beauty coming from the circuits.
I mean we would just sit back
and let them take over.
These circuits are not instruments.
They are performance.
We would record
everything that came out of the circuits.
I spent hours and hours and hours
listening to all that stuff.
- Oh yeah.
Well, later you went through-
- Miles of tape.
Incredible, and she could
hold it in her memory.
She could remember where to
go for a certain feeling in the sound.
Bebe had a formal musical education.
She made most of the
compositional decisions
while Louis dealt more with
the technical side of things.
The Barrons' greatest achievement
was with the music for Forbidden Planet.
It was the first movie with
an all-electronic score.
The pride and joy of
that period was in coming up
with the music for the monster.
We were just beside ourselves.
Suddenly, this circuit started generating
the most complex sounds.
The dying of Morbius
was the actual dying of the circuit.
We would have a credit that said,
"Electronic music by Louis and Bebe Barron."
But a memo was circulated
among the executives.
How would the American
Federation of Musicians
respond to a credit that
says electronic music?
The Musicians' Union would not
allow the soundtrack
to be considered music.
They were afraid that someday
their jobs would be replaced
by machines and so they
would have none of it.
That's why it's credited
as "electronic tonalities."
It was so awful.
We were barely acknowledged as composers.
Prior to Dr. Who, there's a lot of
distaste of electronic music.
Delia's music is absolutely crucial
in changing that perception.
It's like a lighthouse, isn't it?
I wonder what it's like up
there in a thunderstorm.
Think of being up there on a starry night,
with all the world at your feet.
You get people who are writing in saying,
"What is this?"
"How is it made?"
Imagine what life must have been like
before samplers, before synthesizers,
before sequencers?
It took her 40 days to make
the Doctor Who theme.
40 days.
She would sample a green lamp shade,
speed it up, reverse it,
and just completely changed
the nature of the sound.
This was a documentary program
about the Tuareg tribe,
the Tuareg tribe of nomads
in the Sahara desert.
In the piece, I tried to convey
the distance of the horizon
and the heat haze,
the strand of camels
wandering across the desert.
That, in fact, was made from square waves
put through every filter
I could possibly find.
There must be a god.
Oh, yes.
Delia Derbyshire created
some very, very beautiful things
and some things that had
a very strange and unearthly quality
that couldn't quite be got, I think,
by normal musical means
and yet didn't sound as if
they were electronically manufactured.
Some of it was worked out mathematically.
I've tried to get into it a feeling of
simplicity and loneliness,
of a man on a moon.
That's one small step for man,
one giant leap for mankind.
She created a kind of pathway
for electronic music.
I did all sorts of things
I was told I couldn't do.
I think I've always been a
very independent thinker.
While the work of women
like Delia and Daphne
came from the deafening sounds of wartime,
it was the chilling silence of the Cold War
that took others to
the limits of listening.
The bomb scare psychology
that was inculcated,
that had a big effect on the artists
that were emerging at that time.
Everybody was pushing
for opening things up,
a kind of way through all the terrible stuff
that was going on in the world at the time.
So there was a lot of political
motivation behind what we were doing.
Peace now!
Peace now! Peace now!
The effect was to say,
okay, we've got to break through
anything that was rigid,
anything that was limiting,
and try to move things forward.
The music scene was evolving into an area
that was very fresh and exciting.
The first time I heard live electronic music
was early '60s.
Pauline was on stage with an accordion.
The room was exploding with a
sound that was ear-splitting.
I had never experienced
that kind of volume before.
I can't remember
when I wasn't interested in sounds.
I remember particularly
things like riding in the car
with my parents for instance,
maybe in the backseat,
listening to the sound of the motor
and listening to the sound
of my parents' voices
being modulated by the motor.
Listening to my father
turn his shortwave radio,
listening to the whistles
and pops and static.
I mean, I was always fascinated with
the in-between sounds in the stations,
just tuning in between.
I loved that.
I credit my mother.
For my birthday, she
sent me a tape recorder,
and that was a very significant event
because nobody had
tape recorders, you know.
It was in the 50s.
I began to do field recording
from my apartment window.
And then in 1959 got started
making a tape piece called Time Perspectives.
The tape recorder that I had,
it was possible to record
by hand winding the tape in record mode.
That gave me a variable speed so I could do
some interesting things with that.
And I used the bathtub for reverberation
and cardboard tubes as filters.
I'd put microphones in the
tube and then record sounds
through the tube.
Eventually, I met up with a group of people
who were interested in new music,
which led to the founding of
the San Francisco Tape Music Center.
The San Francisco Tape Music Center
was not associated with an institution.
So it was friends brought together
what equipment they had to share.
Our sense of what we were doing
at that point was opening
a place where poets,
painters, film, and
electronic or tape music,
where all this stuff could be done.
It was a sense of individuality.
Nobody wanted to be like anyone else
and everybody was very supportive
of what everybody else was doing.
My interest was always in live performance
and I started to find out
ways to use tape recorders
and perform live with them,
and that was making
a tape delay system, which allows me
to maintain that physical
contact with the sound.
How do you exercise the canon of
classical music of misogyny
with two oscillators,
a turntable, and tape delay?
Feminism was at the center
of what she was doing,
and it's strange because it
seems like if the boys' club
is going to pick a token
woman, you would not pick
a woman who is that outspoken.
Pauline was conscious of the fact that
she was different.
She had a streak of a revolutionary in her.
Pauline, it was hard, you know,
she had come out in the 50s
and here she was a woman, gay,
avant-garde music,
each thing by itself would be hard,
but she had three things that were hard
and women composers
were not being performed, you know.
You wrote an editorial
to the New York Times once called
"Don't Call Them 'Lady' Composers"
Tell us about when you wrote that and why.
I just want to be introduced as a composer.
That has caused me to use that title
and to start to point out
how hard it was for women
to be taken seriously
as creators of music.
Go out walking at night.
Tread so quietly the bottoms
of your feet become ears.
Working with an all-women ensemble,
instructions like these were
intended to encourage deep listening.
I was alarmed
as many were, of course,
with the Vietnam War,
and I began to seek some ways
of working with sound
that I could discover more
of a kind of inner peace.
I found myself listening to long sounds
and becoming more interested in
what the sounds did themselves
than what I would do with them.
And as this work proceeded,
I began to become interested in what
the kind of listening I was doing did to me
and my own internal processes.
Does it have
social and political implications to you,
the kind of music that you write?
- Oh, yes.
Well, I feel that one's interactions,
the way one relates in an
organization of any kind,
is political and social and very important.
The path that I hope to be on
is one where the energy
that comes out of the work
that I do is beneficial
to others as well as myself.
I want my work to be mutually beneficial.
I'm not interested in
making an object of art and entertainment.
I'm interested in making
something that helps me
to grow and expand and
change as an individual
and in relation to others.
Pauline's preoccupation with
how we hear and feel
the sounds within and around us
were shared by Maryanne Amacher at MIT,
who was sounding out the city.
I had installed a microphone
in eight locations at the Boston Harbour
in the New England Fish Exchange
connected to telephone links.
It was very nice to come in late at night
at 1:00 in the morning
and just turn on the
mixer and have the sound
coming from the distant
night when I liked it best
because I could hear
patterns in various shapes.
I realized, my, there's
a tone of this place.
There's a whole undercurrent
that exists here
that makes this recognisable in some way.
It wasn't hard to analyse it in Boston.
It was like a low F sharp.
Then other places, for example, New York,
it was like a low E.
It wasn't that I wanted
the sounds of the birds
or the sounds of the harbour
or any of these sounds,
I really wanted to experience
and learn about hearing.
When people say to you,
"Yeah, but is it music?"
After you say, "Yes it is,"
how do you expand on that?
Well, I think that's sort of
an old question.
Much of our music, classical
pop, has this beat,
has this gallop, has this trot.
I'm interested in music that
communicates some ideas,
finding places where there is
space and dimension to the sound,
sounds very very far away
and very close up.
Maryanne was really interested in
contemporary science.
She had been very interested
in muon research,
these particles that speed
through the universe.
She was constantly thinking about
intersections of science, life, and sound.
Her house was incredible.
It was in breathtakingly bad condition.
There was this whole rack
full of these sine wave oscillators
straight out of a physics lab.
And there's this woman sitting there
with this really intense, buzzy energy.
She'd have a rock-and-roll attitude towards,
"I'm going to make this whole house
vibrate and come alive."
She wanted to develop an extremely
rigorous approach to listening,
to activating sights,
to thinking outside of
composition as it's known.
She didn't want to push around
dead white men's notes.
I wanted to create music
where the listener actually
had vivid experiences of contributing.
In composing, I am conscious of the tones
that you make in response to the tones
that a musician plays.
One of the phenomenon she was most
interested in was otoacoustic emission.
She referred to them as ear tones.
If you have two frequencies
and they sound together,
the ear and the mind try
to sort of resolve them.
There is an emergent third pitch.
She can compose these outer
things that will produce this inner thing.
She would refer to it as
ghost writing the listener's music.
The first time one encounters her music
and the way that it dances inside your ear
is this light bulb moment.
You can actually play with
the physicality of the listener.
Merce Cunningham commissioned
a piece from her.
You'd hear this very high pitch.
And then there would be thunder,
beautiful thunder recorded
in stereoscopic sound
that would shift across the room.
And when it hit, there would be this array
of other frequencies that would happen.
It was very very beautiful.
The idea of a slowly-evolving composition
that alters the listener
also fired the imagination of Eliane Radigue.
When I met Eliane, she had been
working with the Buchla synthesizer,
yet this piece that she wrote, Chry-ptus,
sounded nothing like a Buchla.
We're talking with Eliane Radigue
who's here from Paris.
Are you working with both synthesisers
and tape recording processes?
Yes, the ARP synthesiser
and the tape recorder.
My main involvement with
music is to work on
slow changing of the sounds.
So in a way, you're working with time?
Yes, my last work, Adnos II,
is 75 minutes long,
and it couldn't be shorter.
It just goes like a stream.
I should say that this music I make
is not so much welcome,
except by a few people, of course.
There is nothing in between.
People likes it, or not at all.
For the music establishment,
they think that I don't make music.
That's not music.
Oh, still arguing about that, are we?
Our music was meant to be listened to
in a different way than how
you'd listen to, like, a pop song.
In a pop song you're listening for
melodies, harmonies, lyrics.
In her music, you're listening
not just for the things that are
changing in the sound,
but for the way that the experience
is changing your disposition.
I'll make it start very dull
and then get very bright like that.
It sounds more like a trumpet sound.
And I'll add a little echo.
The transgressive act of
recontextualizing these classic
Western art music tropes,
that takes a lot of strength,
humour, and vision.
Up until that moment,
electronic music had this promise
of a different vocabulary,
a different language,
a new paradigm, a new way of working.
Switched-On Bach, the way it impacted
the public's consciousness
of what a synthesiser was,
was completely retroactive.
Everybody thought that
these things were about
replicating sounds.
To me, electronic music wasn't about
making baroque music with new timbres.
It was a different kind of music.
You just had the Summer of Love.
Everything we knew was being thrown out,
and it was a whole new world.
Electronics were part of that world.
What are they?
- Oh, these are patch cords.
These are the things that route the signal
from one little module to
another to get the sound.
You can patch it a lot of
different ways and the way
you patch it will determine what you get.
It's like creating an instrument.
Do you know before you put them in
what it's going to sound like?
Well, you're always going towards an idea.
That's what makes you put the
patch cords in certain places.
Part of an instrument is what it can do
and part of it is what you do to it.
The other part of music of
course is the motion
and the personal involvement that
a musician gives to his instrument,
and that's something that I happen to feel
and have with synthesisers.
So I play the synthesiser the same way
somebody else would play cello or violin.
For a classically trained pianist
to turn her back on a keyboard,
she's crazy.
It was like learning a new language
via the means of cutting
out your own tongue.
Yeah, I can sing out of tune
and it'll still be in tune
because it depends on what I'm playing.
This is all the pitch so you
don't have to really be able
to sing to do this.
So, it's great.
It's great.
Hello, hello, hello.
- I couldn't get a record deal
because the record companies were
not interested in a woman who did not sing.
Advertising wanted to be on the edge.
They were looking for something different.
I had total freedom.
Nobody could tell me what to do.
They didn't know what I did.
The new Clairol custom care coon brush.
Atari is going to turn your head around.
Big news from Covergirl.
There's a whole new thick lash mascara.
The landscape that she must have walked into
must have been like something from Mad Men.
I remember Suzanne telling me stories like
she'd turn up early
to set up all the modular gear in studios
and a young engineer would come in and go,
"Which mic are you going to sing on?"
or, "What are you going to sing for us?"
Because those stereotypes were
so commonplace in studios in those days.
Welcome to Xenon.
More than anybody else,
she built a career out of
making weird music,
which is something I think
everybody aspires to.
She had her own company.
She was able to turn her art into something
she can live on.
Don't be afraid.
This is my almost male voice.
Make the thing make noises for us.
- Okay, let's-
Now first of all, why do you have this stuff?
What do you do with this?
Well, this is how I make a living.
But I mean, you don't
go door-to-door saying,
I'll make you sound goofy.
Yeah, they call me.
- They call you.
Should I stop?
No, let it go for about half an hour.
That's wonderful.
It was 1980.
I was hired to do a Hollywood feature.
It was a Lily Tomlin movie.
Lily was a woman,
the head of the production
at Universal was a woman.
So I had two women in positions of power.
And guess what?
I got hired.
Is that package for me?
- Mike, it's for me.
I didn't know I was the first woman
to be hired to score a
major Hollywood feature,
and I didn't know that it would be 14 years
until another woman was hired.
We are casualties
of a day-to-day system
that operates without awareness
that we're even there.
There weren't any women composers
that I knew of. I had never heard of one.
Composers were old white dead men.
It was just not something I ever thought of
as something I could do.
When they asked me in high school,
"What would you like to do with your life?"
I said,
"I would love to do music."
They said, "Totally out of the question."
"You would have needed to have music lessons
all during your childhood."
So I did a degree in social sciences,
but secretly I really always
wanted to do music.
After I got my bachelor's and
moved to New York,
I thought, I'm going to regret it for the
rest of my life if I don't give it a real try.
I was taking ear training
and music at Juilliard
and happened to be in
Mike Czajkowski's class.
And he was working with Mort Subotnick.
Mike dragged me down to
Mort's studio and it was like
music went from black and white to color.
I fell in love with electronic music.
It completely changed the
way I heard everything.
The sounds of the traffic in the street
no longer sounded the same.
I always wanted to do something in the arts
that had to do with the real,
authentic experience
of being alive, in contrast to
the 1950s hypocritical
reality in which I lived,
in which everything was glossed over
with cotton candy.
A perfect dinner Judy.
And you said she couldn't boil water
without burning it.
I got involved in the downtown art scene,
which is like "try anything," you know?
I tackled learning the Buchla
modular analogue system.
While I could do all kinds of
wonderful things with sounds,
what I really wanted was the
precision of the computer.
I got involved with computers in music
out of frustration
at other ways of doing music, in part,
and also because of the incredible potential
that they had for combining the best of
all other worlds, let's say.
The memory, the logic,
the ability to actually interact with sound
in real time began to be possible.
The complete freedom to define
any kind of world you wanted.
Computers back then were the
enemy of the counterculture.
Computers belonged to the
banks and the military
and the insurance companies.
Computer music was the utter
dehumanisation of music
rather than, to some few of us,
the liberation of it.
Do you mean to tell me
that you haven't heard it?
No, I haven't heard it.
- Here, play it.
It's really terrific, Suzie.
- Wait 'til you hear it.
Excuse me, ladies.
I have a special request.
Laurie Spiegel was a ukulele player
among other things.
She had a sense of music
that is based in folk idioms,
and Appalachian Grove is one of
the earliest computer music pieces
that anyone would want to listen to
more than once.
But to think that it was all done
by punching holes in cards and running them
through the Bell Labs computer
is quite astonishing.
Technology is just,
it's a natural extension of man.
Man has always played with tools.
Man has always developed tools,
and it is a tool.
The machine doesn't write the music.
You tell the machine what to do,
and the machine is an extension of you.
Bell Labs was a great, great institution.
Everything changed after the
AT&T divestiture happened.
Bell Labs became product-oriented
instead of pure research.
After I left there,
I was absolutely desolate.
I had lost my main creative medium.
Laurie Spiegel,
you have a very fascinating new product,
a software program, which you created.
Called Music Mouse.
Can you tell us a little bit about that?
This is actually a program
which turns the Macintosh
into an instrument which you play, and
unlike traditional instruments,
on the other hand, it uses the logic
of the computer supportively
to musical expression.
I needed an instrument.
I wanted something which was
entirely under my own control
that didn't have to be marketable
or it didn't involve funding.
It was just something entirely mine.
It's the first time I've done something
essentially for myself
that I'm just really making available
to anybody who wants it,
and I hope a lot of people really get
a lot of good music out of it.
Everybody who's using it seems to be doing
something slightly different.
So I'll be interested, you know,
keeping my ears open for whatever you do.
Mouse ears.
She wasn't satisfied with the given
constraints of what she was working with.
So she decided to make her own software.
She just embodies this idea of agency.
Her work was very much in the lineage
with the work of Daphne Oram
because of her engineering
of a new language for producing sounds,
and the support system for other people
to invent new soundscapes.
What's the most exciting thing
about the field for you?
Well, this is a time at
which many people feel
that there are a lot of dead ends in music,
that there isn't a lot more to do.
This is actually...
I see this and through the technology,
I experience this as quite the opposite.
This is a period in which we
realise we've only just begun
to scratch the surface of
what's possible musically.
Through technology,
voices are amplified, silence is broken,
spaces are shared.
The music in our head
can finally be heard by others.
We were, in a way,
trying to make a bit of a revolution,
but I don't think we would have put it
in such grandiose terms.
We were trying to put music
back in touch with itself.
There were really no role
models for female composers
when I studied music.
Overall, we are incrementally
getting more visibility,
but it's two steps forward
and one step back.
And to this day it kind of irks me
that when I turn on
my favorite radio station,
it's just the male parade.
It is odd that electronic music,
it's generally considered a man's field.
Women have been so formative in it.
There has to be
a complete change of consciousness
throughout the musical field,
where they could begin
to teach music that's written
by women, as well as men,
as well as of all colours,
and it would effect a great change.
Listening is the basis
of creativity and culture.
How you're listening is and
how you develop a culture.
And how a community of people listen
is what creates their culture.
It's quite reassuring to realise
that I wasn't the only woman making
strange electronic music.
What relates all of these women
is this DIY thing.
And DIY is interesting
because it doesn't mean that you've
explicitly, voluntarily
chosen to do it yourself.
It's that there are
certain barriers in place
that don't allow you to do anything.
If you don't have the visual
or the knowledge
of there being any people
in the area of work
that you're interested in
that are similar to you,
then you don't think
that it's possible for you.
There is something psychological
that happens when you can
see yourself in the people
who are being celebrated.