We have been honored to receive feedback and comments from audience members who have viewed MODULATIONS. If you have watched the film, we invite you to send us your thoughts and keep the discussion going! We can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ben J., United States — I was a fresh out of high school when I saw Modulations. It dovetailed with my personal discovery of rave culture around 1995. I decided buy my first synthesizer and proceeded to play weekends for years after. It’s given me a lifelong love affair with sound, dance, and music production. This week I released my first piece of commercial synthesizer gear. This film took a directionless kid and showed him another way. I can’t possible repay the impact it had on me, but I’m trying to be worthy of its lessons. So thank you, iara lee, from the bottom of the kick drum I call a heart.
Matt — I just watched Modulations at the Filmhouse in Edinburgh, Scotland. I enjoyed it more than a little bit! I had to consult your website, which I found also quite interesting.Thank you so much. I believe what you are doing is a really good thing, especially bringing together first-wave artists, like John Cage and Stockhausen, with third-wave artists, starting with Kraftwerks. Really cool, exciting ideas flowing through Modulations!
DJ Keleba — I think that the film made a good connection between the public and the performers. It allowed people to see that performers do have thoughts and feelings and not everything is Hollywood. I also liked the photographic interviews that displayed each artist’s face and body. I always like to see the source of a sound.
Cape Town Film Festival, South Africa — The screening of Modulations went very well. Once again, congrats on a rad film!
Mariano A., Argentina — I saw Modulations at the Buenos Aires International Independent Film Festival and I have to say that its the best movie I’ve seen in my entire life! It is the perfect combination between a documentary, with all the theoretical point of view, and a movie for an electronic music fan. Congratulations!
Deborah — I enjoyed this film very much as it opened up a whole new area of music for me. I feel something important was missed though: a whole genre of music that appears to more or less have died, which I will call “representational” electronic music. “Switched on Bach” comes to mind, as well as friends and neighbors who were composing music with electronic instruments along similar lines—a lot of original compositions. I feel that this music a branch of electronic music that is a real part of the genre’s history.
Jan — I finally saw Modulations and I liked it a lot! Nice documentary, nice montage, and, of course, nice content. One thing that really caught my eye was that everyone who was interviewed looked really unhealthy.
Val, Canada — My mom and dad went to see modulations! They said the theatre was packed. They liked it and compared it to cubism in paintings—they’re both visual artists. Their favorite quote is the same as mine, about our society being really good at taking things apart and not so hot at putting it back together.
Joe — I just saw this film myself yesterday at the Nuart. Pretty good film! The best parts were comparing the different kinds of techno you’d hear depending on where you were in the world and hearing the different opinions on raving. I thought some of the ideas were a little bit more intellectualized than need be, in my opinion, and for some parts, I couldn’t quite grasp what the film was really about. seemed like Stockhausen’s ideas regarding sound and music and the evolution of rave music from disco to house to acid to jungle were like two different things—two different aesthetics at work and I didn’t really see much of a connection. Another thing that bothered me is that they talked about the 80s as if it was some large vacuum regarding any sort of experimentation with electronic music. Hearing some of the German guys discuss their theories, I expected them to go into some industrial stuff, which I was reminded of. But it’s still a good film that I really liked!
Gibson H. — I thought the film brought up many interesting comments and was a real influence for me. I am training to become a DJ and your movie moved me a lot. It was one of the most deep and meaningful works of art I have ever seen and I am looking forward to your next production! If more modern-day cinema were be influenced by today’s youth culture in the way you were, it would be a better world to live in. Thank you for your time and I am truly grateful for the time and effort you put into your film!
Cillian M. — Modulations was the single most inspirational piece of art I have ever had the privilege of experiencing! I am an aspiring DJ/producer and you really helped to open my mind. THANK YOU.
Bekka — I saw “Modulations” as part of the UK Birmingham Film and Television Festival and found it really inspiring. I’m in my final year at University of Birmingham doing Cultural Studies, for which I’m doing a dissertation about youth culture/dance culture. The documentary stood out to me as important because it emphasizes how it is technology and the advances and movements within music that really shape youth culture, which is a strong force in society. It is an area that deserves a lot more attention and recognition (mainly why I’m currently researching it) I think it’s great that films like yours can be screened and appreciated. There was huge applause at the showing I went to. The documentary is fascinating in it’ diversity—you must have had a good time making it. I’ll look out for further productions.
Desmond H. — I have enthused about “Modulations” ever since first learning of the project from Iara. As someone involved in researching previous documentaries for television, I understand what’s involved in the process, and am delighted to assist in whatever way I can. “Modulations” is a remarkable film documenting a revolutionary period. As a 19-year-old, I left my (temporary) home on a reservation in Washington State in August 1987 and travelled throughout America. I eventually arrived in Detroit, hearing incredibly emotive music escape from an economically devastated city. These alien sounds of motion and machines were everywhere: broadcast from hi-fi speakers on window-ledges, coming from car radios, gathering an audience on street corners. I returned to northern England armed with two 12″ records and a secret I longed to share. It was not until years later when that impact finally hit. Having since travelled the world in pursuit of this music, I find that “Modulations” reflects many of my experiences of the last 11 years.
Carlos G. — I am a composer and researcher of electronic/electroacoustic music currently doing a doctoral dissertation at NYU. I recently saw the movie “Modulations,” which I loved. It was about time to produce a document on the history of electronic music! I personally think that the role of Pierre Schaeffer in the whole thing was largely underestimated since his concepts of sound object/musical object seem to be more and more pertinent in electronic music’s production and analysis. Anyway, take this as constructive criticism because I really appreciated the effort in putting out such a documentary.
Spider Z. — I loved the movie, especially the MixMaster Morris pieces! I know Morris quite well and I am always entertained by his mental projections when he is asked good questions. I was also was amazed by the RANGE of artists you interviewed. It was one of the best collections of quotes about the subject and it was edited in a very interesting way. It kept me going throughout the movie. My only criticism is that it is very “underground.” I would say that it’s perfect for people that are interested in that kind of music, but if I was a stranger to the scene, I would probably get lost. But hey, who cares about people who like Spice Girls!
Garfield — The movie was a techno trip. I really enjoyed watching it. The timeline layout & DJ interviews were really good, but the whole movie was the shiznit. I hope you continue to make good movies like this one—movies that communicate to people what the not-so-underground-anymore is like, but especially how techno and house or jungle came about.
Thomas, Canada — I just got home from watching “Modulations” here in Vancouver, BC, Canada, and was very excited to see such great exposure for the electronic “scene.” Hopefully we will begin to see a new generation of similar movies!
Olivier — The movie was really, really honestly impressive—way better than i thought it would be! It provided a clear, interesting, and well-informed view of the history of electronic music with great visuals, music spanning everything from the underground to the mega-stars, and interviews with the who’s who of the scene now and then. It was so neat to see all sorts of people at the screening and to hear them comment on the bands they knew, had heard of, wanted to know now, etc. Too few heads nodded to the beats but hey, that’s just me! I liked the editing—not too split-second MTV but still flowing very nicely with the tight beats. Honestly, the only drawback was due to its topic. I guess people must have complained that you talked too much about such and such genre and not enough about another. I’ve suggested it to all my friends and they all loved it too!
Shannon — Thank you for an excellent historical treatment of such a huge and varied musical movement/genre. I’ve come at it all from the trajectory of an appreciation for early Industrial (Throbbing Gristle, Einsturzende Neubauten), free jazz, early sound experimentalists (Cage, Stockhausen), later sound experimentalists (Nurse with Wound, Coil, Zoviet France), Japanese Noise (from Keiji Haino[more dark psychedelic] to Merzbow), and lately I’ve been getting more and more interested in the harder, darker side of techno, as well as trance and ambient. Thank you for filling in the many gaps in my understanding of contemporary electronica. Very enjoyable, thought-provoking movie!
Michael C. — Very good work! You did well to capture the feel and ethos of the electronic scene without leaning too much towards one genre or another. I also liked the way you referenced John Cage et. al. Good to see the originators acknowledged without being overly sentimental.
Dominik, Germany — I saw the film at ZKM/Karlsruhe in Germany and what can I say? It was an experience nobody should miss! A wonderful combination of mostly classic tunes, perfectly cut pictures and scenes and nice interviews (okay, except embarrassing Panacea). I think everybody who’s seriously interested in music, no matter if she or he is experienced in today’s electronic music or not, should try and see this film, probably best viewed in a cinema with a brilliant PA. When I first saw the press invitation I thought: “How can they be that crazy and make the effort to summarize the whole history of electronic music in that time?” And they managed it, congratulations!
Bob M. — I enjoyed “Modulations.” I sure did! For one thing, it’s a great, in-depth overview of the evolution of the cutting edge of today’s pop music scene, especially for tired old motherfuckers like me, who may not be in touch with techno, rave, and the like.
Jeff — I thought “Modulations” was excellent. It does a great job of connecting the lines between the various influences/progressions of the different genres. I was glad to see the inclusion of pre-80s electronic musicians like Stockhausen, Cage, Can, etc. Hopefully the kids will be inspired to search some stuff out!
Alejandro — In terms of images associated with electronic music, I have only been excited and deeply moved two times: with the concept behind the work of HEX and now with your documentary “Modulations.” HEX create images with the mind of a musician and made electronic music narrative, which is one of the big definciencies of techno. With “Modulations,” you have not only made a documentary about electronic culture but you have made techno with the TV language. For me, “Modulations” is an example of the future of TV. Even a documentary about the “growing market of carrots in Australia” can be made in the style of “Modulations.” My most sincere congratulations! Your work is made with an incredible love to the subject of the program.
Twan — I went to a screening of the premiere of “MODULATION.” It was very impressive indeed! It managed to convey the excitement of the world of electronic music and had many a quality tune. Some of the more obscure aspects of electronic music where fascinating. It’s not often that one sees the THEREMIN in action on the big screen.
Chelsea, Australia — Can I just say that “Modulations” is the best documentary I have ever seen? I saw it at the film festival recently in Melbourne and thought it was amazing. It captured the excitement and euphoria of the techno scene as I never thought possible. The images were so fast and vibrant. I want to watch it and drink it up another 100 times!
Tom, United States — I enjoyed your film very much! I appreciated that you included so many current artists (giving a helpful overview of the scene) and also put their work in historical context. I’ve been saying since the ’80s that hip-hop was contemporary musique concrete, and I’ve been fascinated to watch my favorite musical genre from the ’70s—the electronic stylings of Can, Kraftwerk, et al—continue to grow and evolve. You did a great job showing the density and complexity of recent electronica, and it’s a shame that ex-rock critics like NY Times film reviewer Stephen Holden still have to get in their digs about the music being “so much noise.” His parents doubtless said the same thing about the rock and roll he now considers classic. Also, thanks for the timeline on your website!
Seppo — I just saw “Modulations” @ the NuArt. How cool, highly recommended. The German scene seems a bit odd, neo-fascists and all. Go see it—you won’t be disappointed!
Uri S. — Wonderful film! However, one of the great (and recently rediscovered) contributions to the medium of synth was made by a team of musicians, Beaver & Krause. For all practical purposes, they took one of Moog’s early instruments and literally introduced it to the pop music and film scene in Hollywood, NYC, London, and Paris. They also had much to do with the avant garde meanderings of the mid-60s to 70s. I wondered if you knew about these folks and, if so, why they weren’t referenced in your otherwise marvelous ouvre?
Ryan, United States — Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for making this movie. It’s about time someone recognized electronic music as a viable art form, and not just a Rolling Stone trend. Hopefully some of the little raver, industrial kids and hip-hop heads will learn a little history now! I haven’t gotten to see “Modulations” yet, but after seeing “Synthetic Pleasures,” I’m sure it will be unbelievable. I was lucky enough to have you send me an autographed promo flyer for “Synthetic Pleasures.” Honestly, I didn’t think I’d ever get to see it, but thank god the one independent theater in Cincinnati ran it for a month or so. Congratulations on the success of “Synthetic Pleasures” and I hope “Modulations” brings you as much praise!
Justic L. and Daniel L., United States — We saw the film “Modulations” today at the NuArt Theatre in Los Angeles. It was exciting to see that other filmmakers are interested in this branch of music and culture. The intense emotions caused by electronic impulses, which some people might not even consider music, are far beyond those experienced by previous generations. To capture this side of planetary evolution at a time when anxiety runs rampant due to the upcoming new millennium is admirable.
Pamela Z. — iara lee profiles dozens of artists in this film, and one after another we see them say that they are influenced by Stockhausen and Cage, and yet they can do nothing that doesn’t have a rave/jungle/drum & bass/disco/whatever/dance-trend-of-the-moment drum machine rhythm enslaving it. They say they are interested in ambience but they don’t seem to know what that is. They give a small nod to early experimental music pioneers, but their music seems to more clearly reflect that their roots are in the 70s with disco music producers. It’s too bad because some of these artists are discovering some interesting things about layers, timbres, textures, and noise. But I, for one, cannot hear or appreciate what’s subtle or different about any one of their sounds because I find the constant disco beat too dominating to get around. Moreover, with all the musicians and DJs profiled in this movie, there was not a single woman in evidence (except on the dance floor). Not even Wendy Carlos was mentioned, and I would think she would have been a fitting addition on the historical side. Interestingly enough, there was one female artist mentioned, but that unfortunately was Donna Summer. And the context in which she came up was in a feature on her producer. It did get up my ire to be a woman sound artist sitting at the cinema watching a film about a bunch of beat-making boys bandying about terms like “electronic music” and “ambient music” and being surrounded by people who didn’t know the difference. I did learn one thing, though. Lately I’ve noticed looks of recognition on the faces of people who used to stare blankly when I’d tell them what I do. Now I know what they’re thinking.
David B. — May I congratulate you on the recent film “Modulations,” which I saw last Wednesday at the Tampere Film Festival! I myself am an ardent techno fan and was pleased to see that you seem to have found some of the fundamental roots of electronic music and broadcast it around the world. For me, this is the most important part of the process you fulfilled—the communication of the information you collected, as that is what this music is about. I was also really pleased to see that included in the film were interviews with Derrick May, Juan Atkins, and LTJ Bukem, as they are responsible in some ways for the continuous progression of modern electronic music. I was amazed to see that you managed to get the Surgeon playing live on video tape at an illegal party. It seemed as the film was about to reach its peak at that point. It’s such a shame that the police intervened, but it did show that the government and law enforcement are very unappreciative of young people having fun in this way, which I feel is appalling. The sounds that were included in the film were also quite impressive. It was nice to hear the classic Energy Flash by Beltram, as it was and still is a very important work in the history of techno music, together with the String of Life by Derrick May. Overall, an excellent production.
Brian B. — I sat down last night and watched the film. It was fantastic! I really love the way people described the music in “street speak” instead of over-intellectualizing everything. The music in the film was genius, and I can’t believe how many people I’ve publicized in that movie. When I heard Joey Beltram’s track (I think it was “Energy Flash”), I said it aloud and then his name came up on the screen.
Arthur — After seeing this movie last night, I realized how far off the mark Janelle Brown’s review was. The film isn’t about the rave movement at all, although there are certainly plenty of raves shown in the film. It’s about the social history, technical development, and stylistic variety of electronic music. The title “Modulations” is very clever and apt. Just as, within a piece of music, the harmonic basis can modulate from B flat to C minor to A major etc. and yet still be part of the same piece, so the filmmaker attempts to show—successfully, in my mind—how synthetic music “modulated” from Cage and Stockhausen through Disco and Kraftwerk to Juan Atkins to Future Sound of London, gabba, etc. And yet, it belongs genetically to the same musical organism. It’s a shame that Brown seized on that statement by a disaffected German techno dropout who said, essentially, its roots are boredom and in the end, it’s just a stupid party. I suppose that you could say that Carnaval in Rio is just a stupid party, or that the Superbowl is just a dumb game; but the words only serve to mark you out as a killjoy grouch. Music and dance are age-old affirmations and maybe even (as Suzanne Langer says) attempts to give local habitation to cosmic forces by synching our rhythms and gestures to the Rhythms and Gestures that guide the planets, winds, and forces of life. And if that’s too heavy: music and dance make people happy. If it seems stupid, then go read a book or make love until you feel better.