This week we had the pleasure of being invited to St George’s Church in Brighton for a Wonderland/Sensoria screening of I Dream Of Wires as part of the Brighton Digital Festival. For those that still haven’t heard of it, I Dream Of Wires is a documentary that chronicles the rise of the modular synthesizer, its fall, and then its rise again.
In the rather unique setting of a sacred building, the evening was expertly introduced by Stephen Mallinder, most familiar from Caberet Voltaire, who gave us an insight into his involvement with the film (parts of the film were shot in his studio) and shared a couple of anecdotes before directing our attention to the screen.
For a documentary I Dream Of Wires has very high production values, the editing is top notch and deftly weaves the narrative through the entertaining and varied interviews that make up the bulk of the screen time. The film starts with a general history of synthesizers from the spread of electricity then through to the huge academic sound design labs of the 1950s but it doesn’t really pick up speed until we start to hear the tales of Bob Moog and Don Buchla in the early to mid 1960s. Although I Dream Of Wires continues with quite a heavy US bias (we only get glimpses of other modular systems made outside the states) the remainder of the film is a real tour de force of big name interviewees and both historical and current knowledge. The dip in fortunes of the modular system in the 80s and 90s is, rather predictably (but wholly understandably given the subject nature), given a bit of a “digital synths were crap and sound awful” twist which jars slightly against the “all electronic synthesis is the best thing ever” tone of the film up until that point but full celebratory service is restored when we get to the modular revival in the late 90s and mid 00s.
From the first few minutes it’s clear that I Dream Of Wires was a real labour of love for the creators, Robert Fantinatto and Jason Amm, and the quality in depth of the interviewee list shows that they knew exactly where the personalities and stories were. As documentaries go it was a hugely entertaining and informative ride and comes highly recommended. Although I Dream Of Wires is currently touring the world if you can’t make it to a screening the “Hardcore” edition is available to buy. Rolling in at 4 hours long and featuring extended sections, interviews and interludes. you can either buy from the official site or check your local Amazon store. The embedded video at the top of the page is the full length trailer for the Hardcore edition… even the trailer is 12 minutes long!
Top marks, too, to the teams at Brighton Digital Festival, Wonderland, Sensoria, Melting Vinyl, and Scalarama, for putting on such a good evening.
Brighton Digital Festival runs until September 30th and features a comprehensive catalogue of events, both free and paid, that celebrate digital culture in and around Brighton. For full listings head to the Brighton Digital homepage. The next Wonderland/Melting Vinyl/Sensoria event is on September 28th and is the world premier of Kafka Chic, the radio play written for coffee houses. Simulcast in Brighton and Sheffield, it features narration from Graham Fellowes and contributions from Martyn Ware, Phil Oakey, Stephen Mallinder, Stephen Singleton and Glenn Gregory.