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The Metrograph Introduces Us To “Sisters With Transistors” (Review)

The Metrograph is one of the country’s finest art house theaters. Their physical NYC location is still closed through at least September, they have been delivering fascinating programming through their website.

Last week, they launched an app that easily allows for television viewing and is available for Apple TV, FireTV, and Roku devices. Films are available within the United States for streaming, some are scheduled live events and others can be viewed on-demand for a specific period of time.

Such the case with Lisa Rovner’s “Sisters With Transitors.” It premiered on the Metrograph website back in April and they brought it back for an encore booking this week.

Narrated by Laurie Anderson, this documentary tells the story of the pioneering female artists who experimented with early electronic music. Some of these women were classically trained musicians, but they all became fascinated by new ways of exploring how songs could be created by using tape loops, reel to reel machines, and computer devices.

Utilizing incredibly preserved archival footage, we are introduced to women like Delia Derbyshire, a pioneer at the BBC whose work in the 1960s at their Radiophonic Workshop program to create sound effects turned into working on the iconic theme to the “Doctor Who” series.

Also featured in the film are Clara Rockmore, who started off as a classical violinist and went on to master the theremin – the world’s first electronic instrument that could be played without touching it, and Bebe Barron, who along with her husband Louis created the first ever electronic music score used in the 1956 feature film “Forbidden Planet” (much to the dismay of the musician’s union).

One of my favorite clips in the film is watching experimental sound collage artist Maryanne Amacher creating a cacophony of sound in her living room while Thurston Moore sits nearby covering his ears and watching with endless fascination.

Daphne Oram, Suzanne Ciani, and Wendy Carlos are a few more of the innovative women featured in the film’s brief 86-minute running time who defied the norms of popular culture and gender stereotypes because of their passion to create something new and unheard.

If you enjoy this one, consider making it a double feature with “A Life In Waves,” an excellent 2017 documentary about Suzanne Ciani that can be rented or purchased from all digital providers.

“Sisters With Transitors” was brought back by popular demand and can be streamed now for Metrograph members through the end of the day on Wednesday, June 9th. Don’t miss it!