Tod Dockstader

By: Gary Panter
March 20, 2013


Throughout the mid-to-late 1950s, TOD DOCKSTADER (born 1932) worked as a sound man at Hollywood’s TerryToons Animation — this was during the “New Terrytoons” era, e.g., the Tom Terrific segments for Captain Kangaroo, Sidney, Deputy Dawg, Hector Heathcoat, and so forth. By night, he taught himself to compose musique concrète using manipulated recordings and primitive sound generators. He relocated to New York, and his 1960 record Eight Electronic Pieces garnered attention: it was later used for the soundtrack of Fellini’s Satyricon. In 1966, three of his admirable and transportive albums were released by Owl Records, but because Dockstader lacked formal musical training, he couldn’t even get access to the recording departments of academe. So for over a decade he worked as an audio-visual engineer, making school filmstrips. Then in the Eighties his music was reissued to great acclaim. In 2004–05 he collaborated with David Lee Myers on what is probably my favorite Dockstader album, Bijou, which is comprised of movie sound library fragments cut in dramatically tense ratios. Warning messages, screeching brakes, the squealing tires of airliners not quite making it to onto the tarmac, gunning engines, screams, inchoate mutterings, draining water, hysterical laughter, the cawing of crows and buzzards, howitzer reports, pinging alarms — these sounds push the listener’s hardwired fight-or-flight buttons. Today, Dockstader is considered the successor to “Father of Electronic Music” Edgard Varèse, which is fitting — because Varèse’s 1958 Poème électronique was one of the influences that had put Dockstader on his long and rewinding road.


HILO HERO ITEMS by GARY PANTER: Tadanori Yokoo | Peter Saul | Yasuji Tanioka | H.C. Westermann | Öyvind Fahlström | Cal Schenkel | Eduardo Paolozzi | Tod Dockstader | Yayoi Kusama | Walter Lantz | Richard Lindner | Shigeru Sugiura | Todd Rundgren | Yoshikazu Ebisu | Jim Nutt | Judy Henske | Tod Dockstader | Jesse Marsh | Tetsumi Kudo | Larry Poons | Ed Sanders | Dick Briefer | Dick Briefer

On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Spike Lee, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Maud Menten.

READ MORE about members of the Postmodernist Generation (1924-33).


HiLo Heroes, Music