With film festivals online, many parts of the world get a unique chance to peek into a new feature documentary on women pioneers in electronic music history, Sisters with Transistors.
At top: still from the film, by Peggy Weil.
Gender equality and inclusion of womxn in electronic music history is a project with no particular beginning or end. What’s striking here is the awareness of how much of the progress of electronic music’s radical frontiers depends on those very pioneers. Just read some of the names the filmmakers drop – Clara Rockmore, Daphne Oram, Bebe Barron, Pauline Oliveros, Delia Derbyshire, Maryanne Amacher, Eliane Radigue, Suzanne Ciani, and Laurie Spiegel.
This film may not make the kind of explicit intersection it might on race or other systems of marginalization. But there are echoes of the awareness of electronic music as being a medium with radical potential. Laurie Spiegel says in an interview:
“We women were especially drawn to electronic music when the possibility of a woman composing was in itself controversial. Electronics let us make music that could be heard by others without having to be taken seriously by the male-dominated Establishment.”
Speaking of hierarchies of privilege, there is some inversion of those systems in the matter of where this film is currently watchable. Because the producers are looking for film festival distribution, you can see it here in Germany where it’s being shown virtually at CTM Festival, but also a lot of places that won’t get that distribution. By definition, that means the usual order of things is turned upside down.
So, Azerbaijan, Burundi, Djibouti, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Palestine, Sri Lanka, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, you’re next in the queue, among others – as are our recent event partners’ countries, Philippines and Indonesia. (The list is up on CTM’s site; I just skipped around but do have some friends here and there in the list I know will be into this.) Of course, some but not all those countries have easy access to payment platforms to make 4EUR entry fee as easily. (What they have now is a credit card.) But it is still a glimpse of the potential for different distribution models in the future, even speculatively.
CTM is offering that stream directly:
You can catch a conversation from the fall with the filmmaker:
More on the film:
CTM hosted a talk with both Lisa Rovner and, in a panel, with Frances Scott and Tom Richards. They also engage with Wendy Carlos and Daphne Oram, though from their own (unauthorized and personal) perspectives.
This talk and integrated performance are available to anyone with access to YouTube:
More of the CTM program online:
And here’s to more technological liberation, in place of technology in support of some of those power structures. Let us know what you think of the film, those of you who can watch it.