Laurie Anderson, Synthesizer

Laurie Anderson, Synthesizer

'Sisters With Transistors': A Brief History of Electronic Music's Unsung Pioneers

The new documentary 'Sisters With Transistors' offers a much-needed spotlight on some of electronic music's unsung pioneers. Read our review

4/30/2021 1:14:00 PM

The new documentary 'Sisters With Transistors' offers a much-needed spotlight on some of electronic music's unsung pioneers. Read our review

80-minute documentary is a much-needed spotlight on women like Pauline Oliveros and Suzanne Ciani, despite significant gaps in the story it tells

Later, during the counterculture revolution, Pauline Oliveros is shown codifying the concepts of “deep listening” and “sonic awareness” through her psychedelia-influenced performances and theoretical writings. The film also features several eras of Suzanne Ciani, who created music for desktop software and television commercials in the Eighties but was unable to secure a record deal due to the preconceptions that followed her as a female musician. At one point, Ciani describes walking into the studio and a male engineer asking her, “Where do you want the mic?” — he had assumed she was a singer, and not a keyboardist who worked with a complex electronic

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.Sisters With Transistorstreats both its subjects and audience with care and intelligence, and its form takes cues from the very genre that it centers on. For the majority of the documentary, we see only archival footage and no talking heads; we hear Anderson’s smooth narrating timbre together with the voices of the musicians themselves, speaking either in voiceover or in archival audio, over a musical score that is often lifted directly from their mid-century discographies. Like the music itself, the tone is thought-provoking and occasionally eerie, an immersive experience that never tips over into pretension.

Still, don’t expect a sweeping history of electronic music, or even a comprehensive accounting of women’s contributions within it, from this 80-minute doc.Sisters With Transistorslacks interviews with musicians of color, not to mention any reference to the black and queer-driven electronic dance scenes that emerged as contemporaries to some of its subjects. It also contains a bafflingly short section on Wendy Carlos, the only trans woman featured and probably the most recognizable musician in the film, both for her landmark 1968 album headtopics.com

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Facts smrtgrls change the face of music. Worth the watch.

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