‘Sisters With Transistors’ Review: How Women Pioneered Electronic Music

Must read


This documentary from Lisa Rovner, about women and electronic music, is hardly as goofy as its title makes it sound. Many of the innovating individuals profiled here contend that women have an affinity for digital technology. And that technology had, and still has, the potential to “blow up the power structure.”

Then again, discussing her theremin — an electronic instrument that creates sound via hand movements through what looks like empty space — the performer Clara Rockmore says: “You cannot play air with hammers. You have to play with butterfly wings.” By the same token, Daphne Oram and Delia Derbyshire, 1950s and ’60s pioneers of synthesizers and tape loops who both worked for the BBC, are conventionally proper and polite as they explain their innovations in archival interviews.

Narrated by the avant-garde musician Laurie Anderson in a vocal timbre that blends her performance mode with a more conversational one, this film is informative and often fascinating. It is invigorating to hear the great performer-composer Pauline Oliveros ask, “How do you eliminate the misogyny of the classical canon?” — pointing to a tape recorder as a potential tool. (Oliveros, who died in 2016, also discusses her 1970 New York Times Op-Ed titled “And Don’t Call Them ‘Lady’ Composers.”

The short shrift the movie gives to Wendy Carlos is puzzling. The very brief segment allotted to her begins with a French television clip about “Switched-On Bach” and its high sales. This segues into the composer-performer Suzanne Ciani’s dismissal of Carlos’s work: “The way it impacted the public’s consciousness of what a synthesizer was, was completely retroactive.” Rovner sees no irony in then chronicling Ciani’s work in television advertising.

Sisters with Transistors
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 26 minutes. Watch through Metrograph’s virtual cinema.


- Advertisement -

Amir Khan says he was escorted from US flight ‘for no reason’ | UK...

British boxer Amir Khan has said he was escorted from a flight in the US by police “for no reason”.The 34-year-old, who has...

Arts, music featured at Franklin Park event

Yaw Asamoah of Dublin was born in the West African nation of Ghana but has lived in central Ohio for 20 years.He retains a...

Amber list scrapped in England travel shake-up | News

Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, has announced a simplified system for international travel from the UK. He argued the move was possible in light of...

Peter Williams, Who Painted the Black Experience, Dies at 69

Peter Williams, whose colorful paintings — sometimes humorous, sometimes disturbing, often both — reflected his own history, Black history and contemporary issues like...

More articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisement -

Latest article

Covid - 19

Covid Update