Metrograph Pictures released the official trailer for Sisters with Transistors, a new feature documentary portraying the iconic women who pioneered electronic music, opening nationwide Friday, April 23 exclusively at Metrograph.com, starting with a live screening and panel discussion at 8pm ET on April 23, followed by a limited on-demand window and a series of special events. A national virtual cinema rollout will follow. The film had its world premiere at the 2020 SXSW Film Festival, won the Next Wave Award at CPH:DOX, and screened at AFI Fest and Sheffield Doc Fest, among many others.
Lisa Rovner’s superb Sisters with Transistors, narrated by legendary multimedia artist Laurie Anderson, showcases the music of and rare interviews with electronic heroes: theremin virtuoso Clara Rockmore; “Dr. Who” theme composer and master of tape manipulation, Delia Derbyshire; Daphne Oram, one of the founders of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop; Éliane Radigue, known for her work in musique concrète, tape feedback techniques and meditative compositions; sound artist Maryanne Amacher, known for using psychoacoustic phenomena in which the ears themselves produce audible sound; co-creator of the world’s first electronic film score for forbidden Planet, Bebe Barron; five-time Grammy award-nominated composer, recording artist, performer and master of the Buchla synthesizer, Suzanne Ciani; San Francisco Tape Music Center founding member and director, Pauline Oliveros,who formulated the concepts of “deep listening” and “sonic awareness”; andLaurie Spiegel, developer of the groundbreaking computer program Magic Mouse, one of the first in-demand commercial music applications available to consumers.
Opening Weekend Programming *more TBA
Friday, April 23
Following the 8 PM EST Live Screening:
“Electronic Music: The Sound of Liberation” Panel
With Sisters with Transistors subjects Laurie Spiegel and Suzanne Ciani, as well as composers Modular Princess, Moor Mother, Gavilán Rayna Russom and Madame Gandhi. Moderated by Geeta Dayal.
As Rovner’s documentary demonstrates, these women—many of whom were classically trained musicians, brilliant mathematicians, or a combination of both—relished the freedom of electronic music, even as they were discriminated against because of their gender and because of their chosen medium. (More often than not, these biases intersected: Ciani, who was asked to score 1981’s The Incredible Shrinking Woman—a vehicle for Lily Tomlin, written by Jane Wagner—by a female executive, had to wait nearly 20 years until another woman was in charge of a studio to get another such offer.) Through their inventiveness and rebellion, these trailblazers’ music went on to influence musicians working in a variety of genres, and proved the worthiness of going electric.
Although the democratizing potential of technology has often been overstated as leading to a more utopian future, the advent of electronic music in the 20th century was a radical break from all musical traditions that came before it. This new mode allowed artists to create compositions that were completely divorced from the Western canon, fantasias that were built out of tones that could only be realized through electrical impulses, intricate tape loops, punch cards, or modified samples plucked from the natural world.
Sisters with Transistors is an essential primer for those interested in discovering this vital, oft-overlooked history but also offers plenty of pleasures for crate-digging experimental music obsessives who know the BBC Radiophonic Workshop’s output like the back of their hand. Contemporary musicians, such as Holly Herndon and Kim Gordon, also offer insights into their forebears’ indelible music and their personal significance.