November 09, 2021
This follows the rediscovery of Beverly Glenn-Copeland in his 70s – an electronic musician who radiates life and happiness
Keyboard Fantasies review – glorious doc about pioneering trans composer
Here’s a spirit-lifting documentary about black transgender electronic music pioneer Glenn Copeland. It begins with the story of how he was “discovered” a few years ago, aged 72. At home in Canada, Copeland reads the email he got in 2015 from a record shop owner in Japan: the guy offered to buy any spare copies of Keyboard Fantasies, an album Copeland self-released in 1986 on cassette. At the time he was known as Beverly Glenn-Copeland, and the album is a trippy mix of electronica, folk and new age, overlaid with Copeland’s sumptuous contralto tenor; it’s now seen as his masterpiece. He had pressed 200 tapes and sold around 50.
I could watch Copeland talking for hours. With his smiling eyes he radiates life and happiness, basking in autumnal success – the world has finally caught up with him. He was born Beverly Glenn-Copeland into a middle-class family in Philadelphia. At 17 in the early 60s, he was one of the first black students at a prestigious Canadian university, studying classical music. Homosexuality was still illegal in Canada, but Copeland was open about his relationship with another woman. His parents carted him off to a psychiatric hospital for electroshock “therapy” but he escaped. After dropping out of college, Copeland recorded a couple of albums, both commercial disasters. Then in the early 80s he discovered computers – “and I was off to the races”.
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