IDOW Gear 1 (Buchla)

The modular synthesizer, that wild animal covered in wires, has seen its once-endangered populations flourish and its revival in full swing. And now, it has its own movie.

Some years now in anticipation, and with limited screenings here and there at film festivals, I Dream of Wires gets a wide release.

The film is surely a landmark, but the launch is likely to be, too, bringing one of the modular synth’s greatest composers (Morton Subotnick) back to Berlin, Germany for a gala release performance, joined by video artist Lillevan. Mr. Subotnick is a rare figure, having made an impact not just one generation of electronic music, but several – he’s as vital to our understanding of the computer and alternative instruments and interactive software as to the modular. CDM will of course talk to the artists and to director Robert Fantinatto when they’re here in town.

So what can you expect from the movie, and how can you see it from wherever you are in the world?

These two will bring live performance to celebrate the opening. Lillevan and Morton Subotnick at Lincoln Center, New York 2011 © Lillevan.

These two will bring live performance to celebrate the opening. Lillevan and Morton Subotnick at Lincoln Center, New York 2011 © Lillevan.

What artists are in the film? Highlights include Subotnick, of course as well as a mix of pioneers and modern dance artists – Trent Reznor, Gary Numan, Vince Clarke, Carl Craig, James Holden, Legowelt, Herb Deutsch, Ramon Sender, Bernie Krause, Chris Carter (Throbbing Gristle), Daniel Miller, Flood, Jimmy Edgar, Richard Devine, Clark, and more.

I Dream Of Wires 2014 documentary Trailer – Official from I Dream Of Wires on Vimeo.

What synth makers get the nod? Expect Doepfer (the company that termed “Eurorack” and triggered the boutique modular revival), Modcan, Make Noise, Intellijel, The Harvestman, Metasonix, and Verbos Electronics. And of course Moog and Buchla, natch.

What’s the premiere? Earlier versions have been screened before but the final release documentary gets its first go in Berlin, Germany, at a premiere at the landmark Babylon Kino in Mitte hosted by Monoduo Films and Mobile Kino, Tuesday, 28 July. Tickets are 20€ with the performance presale, via Yapsody or Babylon Kino, if you want to go. (10€ with DVD, 25€ at the door.)

What’s happening in Berlin with Morton Subotnick? Morton Subotnick will play that opening live – his first live show in Germany since 2011 – alongside video artist Lillevan. And that’s a big deal. On some level, Subotnick is as involved as much as any other composer with our modern notion of what electronic music even is – this idea of composing for something people will listen to on a stereo system, both in the recorded sense and later in the interactive computer sense. His Silver Apples of the Moon from 1967, commissioned as a large composition for a record by Nonesuch, is jumping off point for the live show here. Get ready for the title; it’s a mouthful: “FROM SILVER APPLES OF THE MOON TO A SKY OF CLOUDLESS SULFUR REVISITED: VI.” Um… FSAFTMASOCSR6, for short? Fuhsaftmasochristsix? Never mind.

Beyond that, though, I think that modern technological pioneers are significant not so much for inventing things as what blossoms around them, and that’s why Subotnick matters today as much as ever, for the San Francisco Tape Center and Cal Arts programs he helped build and all the thoughts that came out of them.

IDOW Gear 6 (Eurorack)

IDOW Gear 3 (Moog)

IDOW EMS Synth 100 MeatBeatManifesto 1

How can I see the movie? In contrast to a lot of indie film releases, this one is going global – Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America, not just at some random film festivals you can’t afford. So if you can’t make it to Berlin, DVDs are available from July 31 through Cargo Distribution / Amazon, and from August 10 through iTunes and Vimeo on Demand. Outside of the US, Canada, and Japan, you can even preorder on Vimeo right now. Vive le VOD!

Anything likely to raise some questions? Well, I do notice a decided anti-laptop bent – but then, I’m hugely excited to talk to Morton Subotnick, as he’s one of the reasons I personally got into computer music. (A lot of those modules are digital, as well – without taking sides, I think it’s remarkable how much Eurorack has brought back both interest in analog and digital solutions.) I also notice an absence in the press release of female artists, in contrast to legends like Suzanne Ciani, who thrilled crowds here in Berlin on the Buchla and also tops a lot of our list of “people who made it impossible not to become a synth player.” What I don’t notice, though, is any groan-inducing artists who seem added just to appeal to young fans. Every one of these names I see has had some impact on the scene.

I’ll be honest, though, I’m so keen to experience the film with an audience – which is a different experience to watching solo – that I’m holding off to watch the screening with everyone else later this month. So I reserve judgment until then.

IDOW Keith Fullerton Whitman

IDOW Vince Clarke 2

These two will bring live performance to celebrate the opening. Lillevan and Morton Subotnick at Lincoln Center, New York 2011 © Lillevan.

These two will bring live performance to celebrate the opening. Lillevan and Morton Subotnick at Lincoln Center, New York 2011 © Lillevan.

IDOW Gear 10 (misc)

West Coast or East Coast? Oh, that should be less controversial: expect a heaping dose of both “West Coast” Buchla and San Francisco Tape Center and “East Coast” Moog and Columbia/Princeton/etc. scenes. And that’s good, as some of the books and so on have tended to favor the Moog part of the history and missed out on the rich culture that emerged out of California. No documentary can ever cover everything, though, so I’ll repeat my call for those interested in doing a better job of connecting to the former-Soviet and Eastern Bloc and Latin American and other scenes that US and BBC documentaries might miss.

Expect more detailed answers from the director and a full review, plus the insights from these artists later this summer. I can’t wait.

Spoil the ending for us? The producers promise the following thesis in the press packet: “Today, the modular synthesizer is no longer an esoteric curiosity or even a mere music instrument – it is an essential tool for radical new sounds and a bona fide subculture.”

Indeed.

Official Website I Dream of Wires: http://www.idreamofwires.org
Official Website Morton Subotnick: http://www.mortonsubotnick.com
Website Monoduo Films: http://www.monoduofilms.com
Facebook I Dream of Wires: https://www.facebook.com/idreamofwiresdocumentary?fref=ts
Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1443539872636073

  • Justin Reed

    i loved this movie when it screened in chicago! interestingly some of my friends found it a little technical to get into… It’s a like a love letter to synths from us nerds 🙂

  • Justin Reed

    i loved this movie when it screened in chicago! interestingly some of my friends found it a little technical to get into… It’s a like a love letter to synths from us nerds 🙂

  • Justin Reed

    i loved this movie when it screened in chicago! interestingly some of my friends found it a little technical to get into… It’s a like a love letter to synths from us nerds 🙂

  • Utopia

    Has this not been available for a few years?? Ive had the bluray with theatrical and 4 hour extended version for ages.

    • It is the “release” version.

    • Yes, the 4-hour “Hardcore Edition” cut was released in 2013 on DVD/BluRay. The disc has been out of print for about 6 months now. As much as I love the “Hardcore Edition” it was never meant to be the version that most people would appreciate or see – too long as nerdy for most people (though it did sell surprisingly well – a lot more hardcore synth nerds out there in the world then you may thing!). Without dumbing things down, this 96-min cut (simply “I Dream Of Wires”) being released in August is geared to a more general electronic music / tech audience. This is also the 1st time any version has been released for VOD purchase. (I’m the film’s producer BTW).

  • Utopia

    Has this not been available for a few years?? Ive had the bluray with theatrical and 4 hour extended version for ages.

    • It is the “release” version.

    • Yes, the 4-hour “Hardcore Edition” cut was released in 2013 on DVD/BluRay. The disc has been out of print for about 6 months now. As much as I love the “Hardcore Edition” it was never meant to be the version that most people would appreciate or see – too long & nerdy for most people (though it did sell surprisingly well – a lot more hardcore synth nerds out there in the world than you may think!). Without dumbing things down, this 96-min cut (simply “I Dream Of Wires”) being released in August is geared to a more general electronic music / tech audience. This is also the 1st time any version has been released for VOD purchase. (I’m the film’s producer BTW).

  • Utopia

    Has this not been available for a few years?? Ive had the bluray with theatrical and 4 hour extended version for ages.

    • It is the “release” version.

    • Yes, the 4-hour “Hardcore Edition” cut was released in 2013 on DVD/BluRay. The disc has been out of print for about 6 months now. As much as I love the “Hardcore Edition” it was never meant to be the version that most people would appreciate or see – too long & nerdy for most people (though it did sell surprisingly well – a lot more hardcore synth nerds out there in the world than you may think!). Without dumbing things down, this 96-min cut (simply “I Dream Of Wires”) being released in August is geared to a more general electronic music / tech audience. This is also the 1st time any version has been released for VOD purchase. (I’m the film’s producer BTW).

  • neurogami

    This is quite a good movie. I’m amazed that it had not yet gotten a proper theatrical release.

    What’s puzzling is that I can no longer find where on the film’s web sites one can order the DVD. It’s listed as “Available for Pre-order.” on Amazon. And Amazon lists the 4-hour hardcore version on bluray for $200.

    Has that first version from 2014 gone out of print?

    • Yeah, it seems that’s supplanted by the new version.

    • Yes the 4-hour “Hardcore Edition” is now out of print, and will likely remain out of print for a long time. We’re concentrating on this theatrical cut now.

  • neurogami

    This is quite a good movie. I’m amazed that it had not yet gotten a proper theatrical release.

    What’s puzzling is that I can no longer find where on the film’s web sites one can order the DVD. It’s listed as “Available for Pre-order.” on Amazon. And Amazon lists the 4-hour hardcore version on bluray for $200.

    Has that first version from 2014 gone out of print?

    • Yeah, it seems that’s supplanted by the new version.

    • Yes the 4-hour “Hardcore Edition” is now out of print, and will likely remain out of print for a long time. We’re concentrating on this theatrical cut now.

  • neurogami

    This is quite a good movie. I’m amazed that it had not yet gotten a proper theatrical release.

    What’s puzzling is that I can no longer find where on the film’s web sites one can order the DVD. It’s listed as “Available for Pre-order.” on Amazon. And Amazon lists the 4-hour hardcore version on bluray for $200.

    Has that first version from 2014 gone out of print?

    • Yeah, it seems that’s supplanted by the new version.

    • Yes the 4-hour “Hardcore Edition” is now out of print, and will likely remain out of print for a long time. We’re concentrating on this theatrical cut now.

  • Jaybeeg

    I can hardly wait for the orchestral version of this film, “I dream of cat gut.”

    • vroom lao phen

      hah, gotta tell you… as a lute player… i mean nylgut strings are OK but… 😉

  • Jaybeeg

    I can hardly wait for the orchestral version of this film, “I dream of cat gut.”

    • vroom lao phen

      hah, gotta tell you… as a lute player… i mean nylgut strings are OK but… 😉

  • Jaybeeg

    I can hardly wait for the orchestral version of this film, “I dream of cat gut.”

    • vroom lao phen

      hah, gotta tell you… as a lute player… i mean nylgut strings are OK but… 😉

  • brian tester

    There’s plenty of women involved in the history of the modular as a modern instrument. How hard could it have been to feature at least some of them?

    • There are some women in the film

    • Evan Bridges

      Eliane Radigue? Incredible, unmissable figure in modular history. Hope she made the cut.

      • We didn’t interview Eliane Radigue. The list of “umissable figures” is a mile long – we told the story of modular synthesizers through the people that we were able to interview. Would’ve been great to interview Eliane Radigue, for sure, as it would’ve been to interview others we’d have loved to: Brian Eno, Kraftwerk, Malcolm Cecil, Suzanne Ciani, Keith Emerson, Don Buchla, Serge Tcherepnin, Richard D James, etc etc…

  • brian tester

    There’s plenty of women involved in the history of the modular as a modern instrument. How hard could it have been to feature at least some of them?

    • There are some women in the film

    • Evan Bridges

      Eliane Radigue? Incredible, unmissable figure in modular history. Hope she made the cut.

      • We didn’t interview Eliane Radigue. The list of “umissable figures” is a mile long – we told the story of modular synthesizers through the people that we were able to interview. Would’ve been great to interview Eliane Radigue, for sure, as it would’ve been to interview others we’d have loved to but couldn’t manage to arrange: Brian Eno, Kraftwerk, Malcolm Cecil, Suzanne Ciani, Keith Emerson, Don Buchla, Serge Tcherepnin, Richard D James, etc etc…

  • oblong sound

    There’s plenty of women involved in the history of the modular as a modern instrument. How hard could it have been to feature at least some of them?

    • There are some women in the film

    • Evan Bridges

      Eliane Radigue? Incredible, unmissable figure in modular history. Hope she made the cut.

      • We didn’t interview Eliane Radigue. The list of “umissable figures” is a mile long – we told the story of modular synthesizers through the people that we were able to interview. Would’ve been great to interview Eliane Radigue, for sure, as it would’ve been to interview others we’d have loved to but couldn’t manage to arrange: Brian Eno, Kraftwerk, Malcolm Cecil, Suzanne Ciani, Keith Emerson, Don Buchla, Serge Tcherepnin, Richard D James, etc etc…

  • Will

    “Fuhsaftmasochristsix”

    Think maybe you’ve been in Berlin too long, Freund.

  • Will

    “Fuhsaftmasochristsix”

    Think maybe you’ve been in Berlin too long, Freund.

  • Will

    “Fuhsaftmasochristsix”

    Think maybe you’ve been in Berlin too long, Freund.

  • itchy

    great film but yeah this has been out for like 3 years.

    • Well, no, apparently this is a final cut … those were in-progress showings / releases. Iterative process.

    • I answered more thoroughly above, but it’s only the 4-hour “Hardcore Edition” cut that’s been out for 3 years (on DVD/BluRay only). This 96min theatrical cut is more streamlined and would appeal more to a more general audience. And by general I mean, non-synth-nerd! This is also the first cut to be released as a VOD purchase.

  • itchy

    great film but yeah this has been out for like 3 years.

    • Well, no, apparently this is a final cut … those were in-progress showings / releases. Iterative process.

    • I answered more thoroughly above, but it’s only the 4-hour “Hardcore Edition” cut that’s been out for 3 years (on DVD/BluRay only). This 96min theatrical cut is more streamlined and would appeal more to a more general audience. And by general I mean: non-synth-nerd! This is also the first cut to be released as a VOD purchase.

  • itchy

    great film but yeah this has been out for like 3 years.

    • Well, no, apparently this is a final cut … those were in-progress showings / releases. Iterative process.

    • I answered more thoroughly above, but it’s only the 4-hour “Hardcore Edition” cut that’s been out for 3 years (on DVD/BluRay only). This 96min theatrical cut is more streamlined and would appeal more to a more general audience. And by general I mean: non-synth-nerd! This is also the first cut to be released as a VOD purchase.

  • James Husted

    I am curious as to how much re-editing of the “Hard Core” DVD release was made for the film version. It is purely for vanity reasons, I’m in the Hard Core DD release 2 or three times and wonder if I made the final cut. Probably not, as there were many recognizable names in it and I’m not one of them.

  • James Husted

    I am curious as to how much re-editing of the “Hard Core” DVD release was made for the film version. I wonder purely for vanity reasons, I’m in the Hard Core DVD release 2 or three times and wonder if I made the final cut. Probably not, as there were many recognizable names in it and I’m not one of them.

  • James Husted

    I am curious as to how much re-editing of the “Hard Core” DVD release was made for the film version. I wonder purely for vanity reasons, I’m in the Hard Core DVD release 2 or three times and wonder if I made the final cut. Probably not, as there were many recognizable names in it and I’m not one of them.

  • Evan Bridges

    looking forward to seeing this. somehow missed the extended cut

  • Evan Bridges

    looking forward to seeing this. somehow missed the extended cut

  • Evan Bridges

    looking forward to seeing this. somehow missed the extended cut

  • Loowfizzz

    I really like the IDOWHE a lot and I am really curious about the cut – what´s missing and maybe there are things that are new!?

  • Loowfizzz

    I really like the IDOWHE a lot and I am really curious about the cut – what´s missing and maybe there are things that are new!?

  • Loowfizzz

    I really like the IDOWHE a lot and I am really curious about the cut – what´s missing and maybe there are things that are new!?

  • Elder

    I own the Hardcore Edition and love the sound and general concept of modular synths…that said, stating the obvious it’s not the tool but how you use it! My general complaint about this film, at least the Hardcore version since i’ve never seen the theatrical cut, is that after the first part (with the history, which is amazing) the 2nd part feels more like a informercial where the gist is “computers are stupid, modular synths rule”, where a vast majority express their inability to go beyond the screen or utilize programs that could make more interesting music. Self-imposed limitation often breeds the most interesting results. Trust me, as someone who uses a computer for music making, i fully understand this all too well but there are programs like Max, PD, Reaktor, and a handful of apps all based off the modular idea and have the ability to create just as interesting music as well (again, it’s all on the individual, not the machine). i like to touch things too, i use many midi controllers but like many, i don’t have $10,000 for a modular and the bulk of the people in the film who express the “modulars rule” type of sentiment make pretty much the same type of techno music they would make with a computer which would appear one of the biggest capitalist flips on music in my opinion. All in all some real innovators are captured on the film and there are a growing number of people making amazing music on both (including Subotnick who does the hybrid, Keith Fullerton Whitman who doesn’t combine but innovates on both, and Ben Vida who is not mentioned in the film). i’m happy that the film will get wider distribution and look forward to more interesting music in the future.
    My last 2cents on this, i would like to see/hear more modulars in bands and/or a band of modulars since i’m a bit bored of the solo electronic musician approach.

    • Cheers for the feedback. The theatrical cut does focus more on the Hardcore Edition’s history section.

    • I do agree with you that it does go slightly into brainless “analogue good, digital bad” bleating but aside from this, it’s a great documentary and whether you are into modular synths or not, all musicians ought to get some kind of enjoyment out of it.

  • Elder

    I own the Hardcore Edition and love the sound and general concept of modular synths…that said, stating the obvious it’s not the tool but how you use it! My general complaint about this film, at least the Hardcore version since i’ve never seen the theatrical cut, is that after the first part (with the history, which is amazing) the 2nd part feels more like a informercial where the gist is “computers are stupid, modular synths rule”, where a vast majority express their inability to go beyond the screen or utilize programs that could make more interesting music. Self-imposed limitation often breeds the most interesting results. Trust me, as someone who uses a computer for music making, i fully understand this all too well but there are programs like Max, PD, Reaktor, and a handful of apps all based off the modular idea and have the ability to create just as interesting music as well (again, it’s all on the individual, not the machine). i like to touch things too, i use many midi controllers but like many, i don’t have $10,000 for a modular and the bulk of the people in the film who express the “modulars rule” type of sentiment make pretty much the same type of techno music they would make with a computer which would appear one of the biggest capitalist flips on music in my opinion. All in all some real innovators are captured on the film and there are a growing number of people making amazing music on both (including Subotnick who does the hybrid, Keith Fullerton Whitman who doesn’t combine but innovates on both, and Ben Vida who is not mentioned in the film). i’m happy that the film will get wider distribution and look forward to more interesting music in the future.
    My last 2cents on this, i would like to see/hear more modulars in bands and/or a band of modulars since i’m a bit bored of the solo electronic musician approach.

    • Cheers for the feedback. The theatrical cut does focus more on the Hardcore Edition’s history section.

    • I do agree with you that it does go slightly into brainless “analogue good, digital bad” bleating but aside from this, it’s a great documentary and whether you are into modular synths or not, all musicians ought to get some kind of enjoyment out of it.

  • Elder

    I own the Hardcore Edition and love the sound and general concept of modular synths…that said, stating the obvious it’s not the tool but how you use it! My general complaint about this film, at least the Hardcore version since i’ve never seen the theatrical cut, is that after the first part (with the history, which is amazing) the 2nd part feels more like a informercial where the gist is “computers are stupid, modular synths rule”, where a vast majority express their inability to go beyond the screen or utilize programs that could make more interesting music. Self-imposed limitation often breeds the most interesting results. Trust me, as someone who uses a computer for music making, i fully understand this all too well but there are programs like Max, PD, Reaktor, and a handful of apps all based off the modular idea and have the ability to create just as interesting music as well (again, it’s all on the individual, not the machine). i like to touch things too, i use many midi controllers but like many, i don’t have $10,000 for a modular and the bulk of the people in the film who express the “modulars rule” type of sentiment make pretty much the same type of techno music they would make with a computer which would appear one of the biggest capitalist flips on music in my opinion. All in all some real innovators are captured on the film and there are a growing number of people making amazing music on both (including Subotnick who does the hybrid, Keith Fullerton Whitman who doesn’t combine but innovates on both, and Ben Vida who is not mentioned in the film). i’m happy that the film will get wider distribution and look forward to more interesting music in the future.
    My last 2cents on this, i would like to see/hear more modulars in bands and/or a band of modulars since i’m a bit bored of the solo electronic musician approach.

    • Cheers for the feedback. The theatrical cut does focus more on the Hardcore Edition’s history section.

    • I do agree with you that it does go slightly into brainless “analogue good, digital bad” bleating but aside from this, it’s a great documentary and whether you are into modular synths or not, all musicians ought to get some kind of enjoyment out of it.

  • Michelle Bee

    The iTunes pre-order for US and Canada is live already http://apple.co/1dejQlj

  • Michelle Bee

    The iTunes pre-order for US and Canada is live already http://apple.co/1dejQlj

  • Michelle Bee

    The iTunes pre-order for US and Canada is live already http://apple.co/1dejQlj

  • Andre Casagrande

    explosion of ideas blah blah blah, where are these ideas ? i haven’t heard anything produced on modulars that rivals or more creative then whats been done with a DAW and a synth digital or analog..totally dig the idea of the experience but the sheer amount of process involved for making a patch makes it unfeasible except for the very well off. Sounds to me like merchants again lining up a new market

  • Andre Casagrande

    explosion of ideas blah blah blah, where are these ideas ? i haven’t heard anything produced on modulars that rivals or more creative then whats been done with a DAW and a synth digital or analog..totally dig the idea of the experience but the sheer amount of process involved for making a patch makes it unfeasible except for the very well off. Sounds to me like merchants again lining up a new market

  • Andre Casagrande

    explosion of ideas blah blah blah, where are these ideas ? i haven’t heard anything produced on modulars that rivals or more creative then whats been done with a DAW and a synth digital or analog..totally dig the idea of the experience but the sheer amount of process involved for making a patch makes it unfeasible except for the very well off. Sounds to me like merchants again lining up a new market

  • a real ass dude

    subotnik hating on bob moog is cool, but fuck all hardware period, no exceptions

  • a real ass dude

    subotnik hating on bob moog is cool, but fuck all hardware period, no exceptions

  • a real ass dude

    subotnik hating on bob moog is cool, but fuck all hardware period, no exceptions

  • fgvyti

    a lot of fucking about to make R2-D2 farts

  • Cooptrol

    Someone should make a documentary about the Nord Modular.

  • Cooptrol

    Someone should make a documentary about the Nord Modular.

  • Cooptrol

    Someone should make a documentary about the Nord Modular.