Raised in a conservative black family, Copeland struggled with family pressures around his sexuality and around the style of music he wanted to pursue. Despite pushing back on his conservative roots, Copeland found great comfort in the spirituals his mother taught him and, in fact, returned to this music later in life with reverence and respect. His early music was folk-pop, in keeping with the times, and these are quality songs, but no one bought the records, so no one heard the music.
Glenn-Copeland talks about his confusion, his solitude, and his obsession with early computers. He was unable to get the sounds he wanted from the earliest machines he had access to, but in the mid 80’s he discovered an Atari computer with enough power and flexibility to wring from it the music he heard in his head.
Sci-fi obsessed, still living as a woman, alone, Beverly Glenn-Copeland wrote and self-released an album of electronic music called Keyboard Fantasies on cassette tape in 1986. The album croons and soars with beautiful harmonies, accompanied by soft vocals. The music is reminiscent of rain in a forest, or the sound of ocean waves. The album, like the artist, is seeing the light of day again now, 34 years later, when the artist is nearing his mid 70’s. Japan, not unsurprisingly, found him first, and now we in the west are getting around to hearing Glenn-Copeland. He is touring, bringing Keyboard Fantasies, and other works with a group he assembled.
“…never seems angry, never rushed, never less than amused and composed. He is the living image of the peaceful music he creates…”
I’ve long had a fascination with electronic music. In 1982 I was in the computer lab at a community college when a classmate dropped a cassette tape on the table in front of me. He said nothing, just walked away. The tape contained music he’d programmed on the lab’s Apple IIe computer. Side one was called Frog Trauma. Side two was Active Enzyme Clone. I was skeptical but played it on the drive home, and you know what? It wasn’t half bad. Experiences like that one became early influences. I live at the intersection of nerdy tech digital toys, electronic music, audiophile stereo, and film. Dixon’s doc direct-hits me in all of those passions. Before I had finished watching Keyboard Fantasies: The Beverly Glenn-Copeland Story, I had tried and failed to locate a high-quality vinyl pressing of Keyboard Fantasies, but succeeded in purchasing it as a high-resolution music file, downloaded it, and published it to my two home music servers…I am listening to it gently rise and fall as I write this.
Glenn-Copeland speaking in the film never seems angry, never rushed, never less than amused, and composed. He is the living image of the peaceful music he creates. This film, this artist, this music, this story: all rare gems…see this film.
"…wrote and self-released an album of electronic music called Keyboard Fantasies on cassette tape in 1986"