Synthesizer Documentaries That Are Worth A Watch

Post date:

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 16:04

Author:

Naomi Bolton

The best part of synthesizers is obviously tinkering with them or, if you don't own them yourself, listening to them in action. However, fans of synthesizers also love learning more about these fascinating instruments. There are a lot of resources for expanding your synthesizer knowledge, but if you just want to kick back and relax, you'll find that there are some nice synthesizer documentaries floating around as well. Here are just a couple of documentaries on the subject that are worth making the time to watch.

The Rise of The Synths

Official Website: http://theriseofthesynths.com/

There is no denying that 80s nostalgia is at a peak thanks to television shows such as Stranger Things and the popularity of Synthwave soundtracks. The Rise of The Synths is an upcoming documentary that explores the universe of sounds created by pioneers of synths, such as John Carpenter, Vangelis, Tangerine Dream as well as the artists that they influenced. Check out the official teaser below and keep an eye on the release date for The Rise of The Synths. Those who are impatient can also check out the companion record that features artists such as Carpenter Brut, Lazerhawk, Mega Drive, Voyag3r and others.

Synth Britannia (2009)

Official Website: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00n93c4

Synth pop fans should definitely check out the BBC4 documentary, Synth Britannia, that was released in 2009. It features a couple of very informative interviews with some of the biggest names in the genre, which is something that fans will really appreciate. Hearing from Vince Clarke, Martin Gore, Annie Lennox, Gary Numan and other artists is a blast and it is fascinating to see how synth pop grew in the eighties. The documentary is more about the artists than their equipment, but it still offers plenty of great insights.

I Dream of Wires (2014)

Official Website: http://idreamofwires.org/

For a closer look at the rise, demise and ultimate resurgence of the modular synthesizer take a look at the 2014 documentary, I Dream of Wires. It features interviews with everyone from inventors and enthusiasts to musicians including the likes of Trent Reznor, Chris Carter, Cevin Key, John Foxx, Bernie Krause, Vince Clarke and Gary Numan. I Dream of Wires can be purchased on iTunes (https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/i-dream-of-wires/id996316256) and you can also rent or buy it from Vimeo (https://vimeo.com/ondemand/idreamofwires). Fans who can't get enough should also seek out I Dream of Wires: Hardcore Edition, a 4-hour cut of the film that is out on Blu-Ray.

Bright Sparks... The Documentary

Official Website: http://brightsparks.movie/

For a more laid back documentary experience, we recommend the 2015 title, Bright Sparks. It features a nice mixture of insights from synthesizer makers such as Herb Deutsch, John Bradley, Alan Robert Pearlman and Ken Freeman as well as players like Alessandro Cortini, Will Gregory and Adrian Utley. The two hour documentary is available for purchase from the official Bright Sparks webshop (http://brightsparks.movie/shop/) or you can rent it via Vimeo (https://vimeo.com/ondemand/brightsparks). The documentary was created by two vintage synth aficionados, Dave Spiers and Chris Macleod, who also happen to be the owners of GForce Software, a company that is known for their classic synth software plugins.

The Alchemists of Sound (2003)

Official Website: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b007hsr6

Synthesizer fans will know what an important role these instruments played in the scores and special effects of numerous cult classic BBC shows.  These new sounds for shows such as Doctor Who and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy were the result of the BBC's Radiophonic Workshop. In this 2003 documentary, The Alchemists of Sound, viewers get a glimpse of the inception of the workshop back in 1958, right through its golden years and the eventual closure in 1995 due to budget cuts. It is crammed with interviews, archive footage, as well as closure, looks at the synths that were used.

Discovering Electronic Music (1983)

The oldest documentary on this list by far is Discovering Electronic Music, which was released way back in 1983. It was written and directed by Bernard Wilets and aimed at people who were interested in the analog synthesizers of the eighties. What makes this documentary so unique is that synthesizers were still very modern when it was released, which is an interesting contrast to modern documentaries that look back at these instruments. It also features music from Rory Kaplan, Douglas Leedy, Jean-Claude Risset and other early pioneers who don't always get the recognition that they deserve.

The Rest

The five documentaries mentioned above are not the only ones that are available about the subject either. What The Future Sounded Like (2007) is also an interesting watch and fans of Suzanne Ciani should definitely not miss out on A Life in Waves (2017.) Analogue Heaven, the documentary about the Museum of Synthesizer Technology, is also worth tracking down and while Moog, the 2004 documentary about the legendary Bob Moog, fell short of expectations, it is still an interesting effort.