Lisa Rovner's 'Sisters with Transistors' Unveils the Unsung Heroines of Electronic Music

"Sisters with Transistors," directed by Lisa Rovner, is a compelling exploration into the often overlooked female pioneers of early electronic music. The documentary is an unapologetic dive into the experimental end of the knob-twiddling spectrum, narrated by the iconic Laurie Anderson.

The film is a rich tapestry of archival footage and audio, introducing us to ten remarkable women: Clara Rockmore, Delia Derbyshire, Daphne Oram, Eliane Radigue, Bebe Barron, Pauline Oliveros, Maryanne Amacher, Wendy Carlos, Suzanne Ciani, and Laurie Spiegel. These women, many from classical backgrounds, rebelled against the status quo, establishing new cultures and languages in a world with strict rules, especially for women.

Rovner's documentary is not just a chronicle of these women's lives but also a celebration of their contributions to music and technology. The film is a fascinating account of how they influenced what is today one of the most popular mediums of music. It's a story about f
reedom, rebellion, and the creation of new avenues without needing the approval of others.

The narrative is wonderfully told through a kind of archival collage that, along with the futuristic soundtrack of the profiled composers, makes it feel like an avant-garde art film. The film is filled with glorious moments, such as the sound installation artist Maryanne Amacher blasting Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore with pure volume, and the great Delia Derbyshire, with the mathematical precision of her diction and her demure slingback tapping to a throbbing loop of noise.

"Sisters with Transistors" is a joyous documentary that neither talks down to its audience nor diminishes its subject. It's a must-watch for anyone interested in the history of electronic music and the women who helped shape it.


Previous Post Next Post