Modulations: Cinema For The Ear

  • 1998
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Documentary, Musical

Iara Lee's stylish and informative survey of the ever-evolving world of contemporary electronic music -- "electronica" -- is so up-to-the-minute it will soon be outdated. But it's a handy primer to a complex scene with a complicated history. Like many of the artists profiled, Lee celebrates electronica's cut-and-paste, press 'n' play approach to composition...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Iara Lee's stylish and informative survey of the ever-evolving world of contemporary electronic music -- "electronica" -- is so up-to-the-minute it will soon be outdated. But it's a handy primer to a complex scene with a complicated history. Like many of the artists

profiled, Lee celebrates electronica's cut-and-paste, press 'n' play approach to composition (which uses the technology of sound reproduction -- samplers, sequencers, tape-decks and turntables -- as instruments) as the perfect soundtrack for our postmodern condition. Lee dates electronica's

history back to Luigi Russolo, the early 20th-century, Italian Futurist who theorized an "art of noises," in which industrial and other everyday sounds would become components of a new kind of music, then touches upon the work of avant garde composer John Cage, the tape experiments of Pierre Henry

and the full-on electronic onslaught of Karlheinz Stockhausen. It's a light gloss on some heavy concepts, but sets the stage for the heart of Lee's film: the emergence of a popular form of electronic music during the 1970s, and the innovations and artists that took theory to the dance floor. Lee

leaves it to the artists themselves (with some input from such notable electronica musos as David Toop and Simon Reynolds) to trace the circuitry connecting Kraftwerk's '70s icy man-machine music to the anonymous '90s sound collages of Future Sound of London; Girogio Moroder's Eurodisco to New

York City hip-hop, and from there to Chicago house, Detroit techno, London jungle and beyond. There are some regrettable exclusions: crucial '70s synth-terrorists Suicide deserve at least a passing mention, and the gap that lies after Afrika Bambaata's "Planet Rock" should have been filled by New

Order's post-punk/electro hybrids. But no matter. Lee's documentary serves up a lot exciting music, some trippy visuals and even puts a few faces to what's often regarded as anti-human music.

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  • Released: 1998
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Iara Lee's stylish and informative survey of the ever-evolving world of contemporary electronic music -- "electronica" -- is so up-to-the-minute it will soon be outdated. But it's a handy primer to a complex scene with a complicated history. Like many of t… (more)

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