This project began because of a mistake. The liner notes to the Aerial box set claimed that Tod was living in Westport, MA, a mere 30 minutes from where I live in Newport, RI. Turns out that he was living in Westport, CT, but that mistake gave me the idea of trying to contact him in order to interview him for my radio show. On a whim I wrote to Tom Steenland who runs Starkland records to see if he could put me in contact with Tod. Tom forwarded my request to Tod's daughter Tina, who then informed me that Tod was suffering from dementia. She and I talked on the phone one day and decided that Tod was lucid enough that I could try to do some interviews with him. Last summer ('11) I went up to her house and conducted some formal, sit down, professional cameraman and lighting and all style interviews. These went well enough, although trying to learn specific life details from a dementing person can be a bit like fishing in a large lake that only has one fish in it. Chances are you're not going to get what you're after.
The most important thing that happened that summer, however, was that I earned Tina's trust. By the final interview of that round, she handed me Tod's old computer, literally saying "Merry Christmas!" And this is when everything changed. It was here that I discovered the hours and hours of as-yet-unreleased material. This lined up neatly with my own interest in "late style" in music, and in particular with Joseph Straus's idea of "late style" being associated with some form of disability.
In January of 2012 I started paying weekly visits to Tod. During our sessions we will do a number of things. Sometimes we listen to his music, sometimes we listen to the music of others. Other times we'll look at old pictures or even just sit and chat.
This website is the beginning of a large body of work that will explore the life and artistry of Tod Dockstader. The film seen here is the first of several short films that will tell Tod's story. Additionally there will also be photos, cartoon clippings, interviews with other people, writings, podcasts (Todcasts!), music, and more. Check back often as the site develops. I hope you enjoy the journey of Unlocking Dockstader along with me.
Justin H Brierley