Just half a year or so ago I reviewed another disc of Dockstader’s electronic music (Fanfare 16:5)- and wished for this present disc. Here is Luna Park again, and it’s even better than I remembered. The eerie altered laughing sounds are only a small part of the music, which is highly evocative throughout. (Luna Park was an amusement park in Coney Island.) I think this is one of the finest works of electronic music I’ve ever heard. The rest of the disc is not a let-down. Traveling Music, with its shelf-rattling bass, is quite compelling. I can understand why the Two Fragments from Apocalypse; were eliminated (because, Dockstader says, they didn’t fit in), but I can also understand why he chose to keep them. Still, they are not as effective as Apocalypse itself, a four-movement piece with strong drama. Drone, fortunately, fails to live up to its title, although it has a bit less variety than the other music. All of these pieces date from 1960-62 and were previously issued on LP by Owl Records. Four Telemetry Tapes was completed in 1965 and has never been issued before. There seems to be less fat in this set, more sureness of purpose than in the previous works. Hearing this music makes me even sadder that Dockstader gave up creating music at this point.
I strongly recommend that you do not listen to this disc in one hearing. After a while, it will start to sound all the same. So do Beethoven’s quartets, but we are more experienced at hearing the differences between them than we are with this music. But if you have adventurous ears, and particularly if you are attracted to electronic music, I recommend this disc very highly. Some aspects of Dockstader’s music may seem primitive to our 1990s ears - what fun it would be to hear what he could do with contemporary digital equipment! - but there is always a strong musical intelligence making its presence felt throughout. You can’t evaluate the sound quality of a disc like this, which doesn’t reproduce anything, except to say that it’s impressive and free from interference. Starkland’s documentation is gratifyingly thorough, including the composer’s illuminating comments on his music. Look out for a confusing typographical error on the back paper, which gives the disc’s number as ST-201, the same as Starkland’s previous Dockstader release.