Experimental Music Films

Watch these full-length documentaries on experimental music, composers and musicians for free. Included are films about Harry Partch, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, the Moog synthesizer, Can, and the punk and ‘Krautrock’ scenes.

Harry Partch: The Outsider  In his 1949 book Genesis of a Music this iconoclastic American composer claimed to be influenced by “Christian hymns, Chinese lullabies, Yaqui Indian ritual, Congo puberty ritual, Cantonese music hall, and Okies in California vineyards, among others.” In addition, he was influenced by the Indonesian gamelan and his years on the road as a part-time hobo. This documentary provides a solid introduction to one of America’s most original, yet least known, experimental musicians.

 Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts This 2007 film documents the life of this most famous composer of the latter half of the twentieth century. Not only has Glass become well known, but his work is both recognizable and often passes unnoticed in soundtracks, commercials, and other ambient roles. Directed by Scott Hicks, screenwriter and director of Shine

Reich on Reich  Like Glass, Steve Reich is often described as a minimalist composer, but the differences between the two composers’ work are monumental. Reich’s early use of found sounds and spoken word sources suggest sampling and manipulation techniques later utilized in hip hop and electronic pop music. 

Moog (Documentary)  Interviews and conversations between Dr. Robert Moog and musicians who view the development of the original Moog synthesizer as well as subsequent developments by the company as nothing short of a complete revolution in the sound and recording of popular and experimental music. It’s not a history at all, so if you’re looking for that it isn’t probably for you. But there is a lot to be gleaned from this tribute to the man and the instrument that became the biggest thing since the guitar.

Punk: Attitude  Don Letts’ 2005 film is the film they’d show you in school if they showed films about modern musical movements in school. It covers the idea of punk rock and its practitioners, from godfathers like the MC5 to the revivals and new artists that have been influenced by the classic mid-70s practitioners of punk rock. It’s not perfect, but it gives people an idea of the much broader range of ‘punk’ sounds than one might expect. 

Krautrock: The Rebirth of Germany  This really great documentary was made for BBC 4 and covers the Post WWII conscious attempt by young German musicians to create pop music that was less influenced by Anglo-American pop, creating a sound that defined the new, modern Germany. Features interviews and performance clips from all the major bands and figures in the movement. 

 Can: The Documentary  Can is generally categorized as a Krautrock band, but their influence spread far and wide between the group’s inception in the late ’60s straight through the 1970s and ’80s. The group played everything from hippy-chant trance stuff to funk-locked bass and drums that recalls On the Corner-era Miles Davis. 

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