"We prefer doing special memorable events rather than just a series of concerts. ..."
OCTOBER TOUR 1975
4TH COVENTRY CATHEDRAL (with kind permission of the Cathedral authorities)
5TH BRISTOL COLSTON HALL
7TH NORWICH, ST. ANDREWS HALL
9TH SHEFFIELD CITY HALL
12TH BIRMINGHAM TOWN HALL
13TH OXFORD POLYTECHNIC
14TH AYLESBURY, FRIARS-VALE HALL
16TH LIVERPOOL CATHEDRAL (by invitation of the Dean and Canon Precenter)
17TH GLASGOW CITY HALL
19TH MANCHESTER HARDROCK
20TH YORK MINSTER (with kind permission of the Dean and Chapter)
23RD CROYDON FAIRFIELD HALL
It is emphasised, that with reference to the concerts on 4th, 16th and 20th October, there must be no smoking at any time in the Cathedrals.
Road Crew: Chris Blake, Des Seal, Roland Paulick.
Special thanks to the tour promoters: Darrol Edwards.
Tour Manager and personal assistant to Tangerine Dream: Andrew Graham Stewart, c/o Virgin Records, 2-4 Vernon Yard, 119 Portobello Road, London W11. (Tel: 01-727 8070).
Programme written and produced on behalf of the Rock Writers' Co-operative Society Ltd., 283 Grays Inn Road, London WC1X 8OF (Tel: 01-278 2633).
© The authors and the Rock Writers' Co-operative Society Ltd.
Art Direction: George Snow.
Cover lllustration: Geoff McCloud.
Programme Design: Kevin Sparrow.
Typesetting: Flaschtype, 48a Goodge St., W1.
Printed by: Chelsea Printing Services, 186 Campden Hill Road, W8.
TANGERINE DREAM IN CONCERT, OCTOBER 1975
The concerts are Tangerine Dream's first in Britain, since their very successful tour in November 1974 - except for the group's sellout appearance at the Royal Albert Hall in April.
One unique feature of the tour is the concerts in the cathedrals. Tangerine Dream have already played in major European cathedrals - in Rheims last December and in Munich in April. Asked why Tangerine Dream had planned the cathedral dates, leader Edgar Froese said: “The most important reason is that we prefer doing special memorable events rather than a series of concerts. Cathedrals have incredible accoustic possibilities, particularly because most of them were built when amplification did not exist. In no way are we attempting to create religious events, however, in these buildings the atmosphere is more condusive to concentration than elsewhere - and our music demands concentration. The intrinsic beauty of cathedrals goes without saying, and it is sad these buildings are under utilised.” Tangerine Dream consider it something of an honour to be given permission to perform in cathedrals. Representatives of the group have been liaising closely with the cathedral authorities, and will continue to do so.
The concerts outside the cathedrals will likewise be special events. Where space allows, the group will employ a contemporary dancer, who will improvise to the music. The amazing potential of blending Tangerine Dream's music with contemporary dancing was proved last November, when the Baf let Rambert used "Phaedra" for a performance on BBC 2's Second House.
Tangerine Dream will be bringing over a wealth of new equipment, far more than they employed at the recent Albert Hall concert. As usual, full quadraphonic sound will be used whenever the facilities of the halls allow.
Tangerine Dream are generally considered to be at their best in a concert setting: as Steve Lake of Melody Maker has commented - "Live, the sophistication of their approach invariably convinces,"
Immediately following their U.K. tour, Tangerine Dream leave for Los Angeles where they will see William Friedkin (Director of 'The French Connection' and 'The Exorcist') and discuss the recording of the soundtrack for his next film. Concert dates in the States are then planned, followed by visits to Japan and Australia.
The instrumentation of Tangerine Dream is:-
Mellotron 400, Mellotron Mark 5 (new model with double tape set and double keyboard), Farfisa 400 double keyboard organ, Farfisa electric piano, VCS3 synthesizer with EMS sequenzer and EMS keyboard, Moog sequenzer.
Peter Baumann: Farfisa double keyboard organ (first model) Farfisa organ (professional model, Fender Rhodes electric piano, Mellotron 400, Elka electric string organ, two AKS synthesizers with touch keyboards (EMS), ARP synthesizer 2600 with keyboard, Moog sequenzer.
Modified AKS synthesizer (EMS), Elka electronic string organ, two Moog 300 P synthesizers (big models with two 4-Moog synthesizers (modified), ARP 3600, Farfisa organ Professional model, Mellotron 400, special-built computer-operated rhythm controller.
"Tell me, my fine fellow, where can I purchase PHAEDRA and RUBYCON two fine albums by...."
"You don't have to tell me who they're by!"
"Who are they by?"
"You don't know?"
"Of course I know!"
"Fine! Just fine! But do you know where you can buy them?"
"You can buy them anywhere!"
"Anywhere! Have you heard of Edgar Froese?"
"Do you know where I might buy Edgar Froese's two magnificent waxings....?"
"You don't have to tell me what they're called!"
"AQUA and EPSILON lN MALAYSIAN PALE! And I'll tell you more!"
"You can buy them anywhere."
"Hey, I feel a song coming on!"
"So l'll just set this synthesiser on'mush'and ....Hey Presto! The Sound of Music!"
"MMMMM! Now that's what I call real pretty!"
TANGERINE DREAM. PHAEDRA and RUBYCON.
EDGAR FROESE. AQUA and EPSILON IN MALAYSIAN PALE.
You can buy them anywhere for £2.99.
But take this page to any Virgin shop and you can buy them for £2.39.
This offer closes at the end of November.
Virgin Records. We have never sold a full price Tangerine Dream or Edgar Froese album.
THE ECSTASY WITHOUT THE AGONY
Tangerine Dream under the microscope. Karl Dallas discusses their contribution to modern music.
The vibration of the wire over the pick-up createsa changing electrical potential according to the length of the wire and the speed of its vibration.This potential is carried along conductors to a complex assemblage of semi-conductors, potentiometers and other electronic circuitry, whence it is conducted to a transducer, from which is emitted a sound, the frequency of which is directly related to the speed and length of the vibrating string - which may be varied at will.
It is possible, by the use of variable filters, to so modify the sound that almost vocal impressions may be aroused in the hearer: the crying of a baby, for instance, or the wailing of a banshee. If it is connected with a revolving tape loop, the person who lengthens or shortens the wire and causes it to vibrate, may have what he has just played repeated so that he is, in effect, playing with himself. He may therefore, within limits laid down by the intrinsic noise generated by the control, usually foot-operated, he may cut off the 'attack' at the beginning of a sound as he strikes the wire, so that the characteristic nature of this particular sound source is disguised by changing the apparent 'envelope' of the sound.
Is this a description of a new and particularly inaccessible piece of multi-million dollar electronic equipment?
No, it's called an electric guitar.
Or try this.
Air is blown through a column across which are stretched cords of elasticated material which, like the wire ('string') of the guitar, sound 'high' or 'low' according to whether they are tightened or slackened. The resultant sound is fed into an acoustic filter of a virtually infinitely variable shape, so that the fibrating column of air may be directed against hard or soft surfaces, flat, rounded, or polymorphous. The resulting filtered sounds may be used to induce pleasure or to communicate information.
Easy, isn't it. The answer is the human voice. The point is that the human voice, and even the circuitry that has grown up around the electric guitar since T-Bone Walker first electrified the blues, are regarded as simple because they are familiar. Conversely, the electronic hardware of synthesizers upon which a band like Tangerine Dream play is regarded as complicated because it is unfamiliar.
And yet all of it, from the simplest to the most complex - and who is to say which is the more complex, the small human brain or the electronic computer which stores a fraction of the information in several times the space? - is designed to produce a sound, and it is the sound we should be considering, not the hardware that produces it.
1. They've just deleted Karlheinz Stockhausen's Greatest Hits
At the beginning of Jonathan Cott's book, "Stockhausen - Conversations with the composer", the subject quotes a conversation he had with Suzuki, the Japanese zen philosopher, about what is natural and what is artificial, and he records the zenman's rejection of the distinction he was trying to make between older, 'natural' music and this modern 'artificial' stuff with tape recorders and gadgets. "You see," says Stockhausen, "he took artificial to be something that is more than merely artful. If something conflicts with our natural feelings and prevents our being at one with ourselves, only then would that be artificial. So a machine, a computer, is a quite natural extension of the brain. It's like producing a baby." As we all know from our biology and physics lessons, everything comes down to electricity in the end. It was interesting to see that Wilhelm Reich, in his "The Function of the Orgasm", uses a diagram to illustrate what he called the sex-economy energy process, an equilateral triangle with the left hand side an arrow pointing to the apex, marked "tension" and the right-hand side an arrow coming down to the corner of the base, marked "relaxation", and that in a book by Daphne Oram, first director of the BBC's radiophonic workshop, she used a similar diagram to illustrate the similarity between the electrical discharge from a capacitor, the creation of a musical note, and a musical work of art.
"The time taken for a capacitor to discharge its tension may be a fraction of a second, for a trumpet to play its crochet, a fraction of an hour," she wrote. "As phenomena they strike me as being surprisingly alike. Each one an interplay of potential, resistance and time resulting in the release of power. Each is achieving its effect on the outside world by disciplining the potential, by creating varying resistance so that the power is modulated in perceptible, finite time."
And in describing the pattern of the first side of “Phaedra”, Christoph Franke of Tangerine Dream used a similar analogy, which could in itself be symbolised by the shape displayed on an oscilloscope by a so-called square-wave tone. Indeed, the word "ramp" he uses, comes from waveform terminology: "The envelope of the whole piece is that you have a very slow ramp, having sound coming from nowhere, at first very abstract and amorphous and then slowly picking up melodies and rhythms, getting stronger to a climax, there is a very quick stop at the end of the ramp and then it goes very slowly up to the end, coming from very noisy sounds, from very abstract sound to a very harmonic sound."
There is a problem of terminology, of notation. In an age when we are coming to the end of musical (and all?) literacy, when each modern composer creates his own private language to demonstrate what he is up to, we have to resort to visual images to describe what we mean. Notes are described as getting 'higher and lower’, when what we mean is that they vibrate faster or slower. Electronic sounds are described as ,white noise, (the sort of random sounds you get if you tune an FM radio off the station without operating the squelch or mute button) and 'pink noise', which means that some of the frequencies have been filtered out to 'colour' the sound. What this actually is is the end of the visual symbolism which has dominated music (eg harmony is the creation of clusters of notes observed to be in a vertical relationship on a printed stave) since it became separated out into an art form.
And it is the attempt to elevate electronic music above other more popular forms which makes the innovations of Stockhausen and his associates less relevant to the needs of today than the playing of any rock guitarist. Cornelius Cardew, an old associate, has taken up a Maoist position on Stockhausen's work which relates his mysticism (a charge which was once made by Marxists against Einstein) to support for imperialism, but it is really the stance of the classical composer which makes his music anti-popular, not the medium within which he works.Electronic music can only work if it becomes a popular form, which means that it needs to fit into a rock context, to my mind.
2. I Like It Because I Can't Understand It
Few new bands have received such a bad press as Tangerine Dream when they began to be heard in Britain. Steve Lake, apotheosis of the avant garde. wrote them off as Muzak. The same critics who had saved their most vitriolic epithets till then for slagging off Mike Oldfield turned on the Dreamers with the same adjectival aggro: somnolence, cures for insomnia, amorphousness, perm any one of three charges. Up until then, electronic music, in either the popular or classical field, had lived up to Lillian Roxon's description of the United States of America, who in 1967 had been one of the first rock groups in the world to use predominantly synthesized sound: " ... their music was too contrived, too mechanical, too cerebral." A sort of negative Stalinist position was adopted by those critics who might have been expected to be most sympathetic to anyone blazing new technological trails: if it was accessible, then it couldn't be much cop. To be fair, this was a justifiable position to adopt. Walter Carlos's brilliant (but musically insignificant) Switched-On Bach had sparked off an incredible range of inferior imitations which lacked his wit and used the massive resources of Robert A. Moog's invention to produce poor mimicry of the sounds of 'real' instruments.
We were approaching a situation where there was a direct ratio between the level of musical boredom and the amount of electronic hardware employed. After all, in Stockhausen's Mikrophonie he had managed with a tam-tam, a mike, and an amplifier to produce his effects. Perhaps we were suffering from technological overkill.The "difficulty" or otherwise of any piece of music is no gauge of its value, either way; Leadbelly's Lousiana accent was well-night indecipherable to a whole generation of British blues fans, but that didn't stop his music from awakening a kindred spark in their hearts which lay at the root of the entire British blues boom and hence of rock and roll in this country. The musical vocabulary of one genre, even one as simple as rock, may make the music a completely foreign tongue to one raised in a different tradition, where it is the entertainment of babes in arms' And a music whose vocabulary eludes even those who profess to like it may in fact have nothing to communicate.
3. The synthetic and the concrete
There was (and is) another reason why Tangerine Dream's music sometimes sounds excessively bland, on the surface at least, to those who have not bothered to get further into it, and that is the use they make of the Mellotron, which makes them an uneasy hybrid between the two kinds of electronic music, the Parisian and the Kolnisch. Although composers have been experimenting with the mechanical and electronic generation and manipulation of sounds since as early as 1899, when William Duddell produced a musical note by placing a coil and capacitor in parallel with an electric arc, the first real break-through into electronic music as a genre in its own right came from the studios of Radio-Television Francaise in Paris and the musique concrete of Pierre Schaeffer, who used tape recorders, filters etc to modify previously recorded "real" sounds like street noises and even actual musical instruments, resulting in music that could only be performed by running the tape.
Although Stockhausen produced his first electronic etude in the RTF studio, he switched pretty fast to the WDR studio in Cologne where it was believed, in his own words, "one can recognise a first criterion for the quality of an electronic composition by hearing the degree to which it is free from all instrumental or other auditive associations. Such associations divert the listener's comprehension from the self-evidence of the sound-world presented to him because he thinks of bells, organs, birds or faucets ... From this we should conclude that it is best for electronic music just to sound like electronic music, that is, it should as far as possible contain only sounds and sound-connections which are unique and free of association and which make us feel we have never heard of them before" (Die Reihe, 1961).
Of course, like that other enfant terrible of the avant garde, John Cage, Stockhausen didn't always feel himself bound by these rulei, and in fact the whole history of electronic music has been a record of the conflict between the two attitudes. But it has to admit that when Stockhausen allows concrete sounds to intrude into an electronic passage, as with the voice which intones "les leux sont faites" during the fourth region of his otherwise brilliant Hymnen, it destroys the sublimity of what has gone below and reduces it to the banal.
This is what Mellotrons tend to do. The Mellotron is a keyboard instrument which is loaded with tapes playing each of the keyboard's notes: a tape may be of strings or voices or trumpets or what you will, and with his ten fingers the musician can create a ten-piece brass or string section or whatever. For this reason, the Mellotron ran into understandable trouble with the Musicians' Union at a very early stage in its career.
Now though Christoph Franke plays a Moog synthesizer, and the other two members of Tangerine Dream play smaller synthesizers from the British EMS company, if this was all they did they would be reduced to playing single melody lines all the time, since at the present stage of development it is impossible to play chords on a synthesizer keyboard. This is why they rely on organs and electric pianos and the Mellotron to create the full wash of sound against which the single notes of the synthesizers can stand out like pinpoints of crystal.
They use complex arrangements of electronics to modify the resulting sounds electronically, phase shifters to make the sounds appear to move spatially and up and down as well as across the stereo image, filters, and so on. but they are still faced at times with what sound to me like uneasy compromises and I am reduced to imagining what their sound might be like if it were totally synthesized.
This is especially so in the case of the Mellotron, for reasons which I have found it hard to analyse. Perhaps it is the lack of attack at the beginning of the notes, or the fact that some of the commercially available tapes are not really of very high quality musically or electronically (Tangerine Dream are working on recording their own special tapes), but there is something in the Mellotron in the hands of Edgar Froese which brings out all his innate romanticism and almost spills over into sentimentality.
At times, like the noble theme he plays on Mellotron strings on the ludicrously titled 'Mysterious Semblance at the Strand of Nightmares' (perhaps it loses something in the translation from the German) at the beginning of side two of "Phaedra", his lyrical gift triumphs over the shortcomings of the instrument, and the visions conjured up, as Peter Baumann's synthesized wind noise sweeps across the speakers, is epic. And again, at the beginning of his newest solo album, he directs the resources of a vertable symphony orchestra of Mellotron overdubs to produce a stunning effect. And yet, live, they do sometimes lose their way into modal doodles which are cloying rather than sweet, sickly rather than stimulating.
This is one of the penalties of a music that is completely free. While their albums are for the most part performed live, with as few overdubs as possible, they do of course have the opportunity to reject tapes which start promisingly and peter out into meanderings, something which is likely to happen to the most creative free musician, let's be honest.
There is also the melodic fact that unless you are going to strive all the time for the note of anguish that so many associate with avant garde music, which is not Tangerine Dream's aim at all, you do run the risk of playing safe games on the black notes. Any kid who lives in a house with a piano must have produced 'Chinese' or 'Scottish' music on the black notes without any musical knowledge at all. What he is playing is a pentatonic gapped scale, which used to be regarded as discordant but now, thanks to the work of Debussy and Ravel, is merely attractively exotic.
What is fun in the front parlour (if he doesn't keep it up for too long) can be a sweeter kind of hell in the concert hall, and while Tangerine Dream's creativity is of a higher order than that, it's got to be admitted that while they wait for inspiration to come, or to return, their playing does lack bite.
It is this uncertainty as to whether they are going to pull it off - and they usually do – that makes each Dream concert an exciting experience in its own right. But it is risky.
4. The personalities of an impersonal group
So far, Tangerine Dream have usually played in semi-darkness. Not, I assure you, to create any mystical aura about them, but because they wanted to focus attention upon the collective sound of the music as a whole, rather than what any one member was playing.
They are beginning to recognise, however, that though to have the lights go DOWN rather than up when a band comes on stage must have been a refreshing change when they first began playing, it has now become a restrictive image, and they are actively seeking ways of smashing through the particular wall that it has become between their music and their audience. Impersonality can, after all, become the worst kind of ego trip.
Actually, if it weren't for the semidarkness, the musical personalities of the three members might be more easily recognisable and, in my personal opinion, their music much less mysterious to their fans who enjoy what they do without quite knowing what is going on.
Edgar Froese, as I've said, is the great romantic of the group. A big, slow-speaking man with sandy hair, married to the lady who has designed most of the band's record sleeves, he plays the Mellotron. He tends to be the spokesman for the band, though on technical matters he defers happily to Christoph Franke.
Franke is the man who sits in the middle, in front of the space terminal bank of the Moog. An ex-drummer whose rhythmic base shows in the way he uses the Moog's sequencers to lay down complex polyrhythms for the rest to improvise upon. When Peter Baumann left the group briefly earlier this year to be replaced by Michael Hoenig, the new man's rhythmic interests produced some of the funkiest music I have heard the band play, but possibly tended to over-balance the band at the expense of melody. For whatever reason, he left and Baumann returned.
Peter is the only member of the band who started on keyboards, and it does tend to show in his playing. He is also very much into the electronic modification of natural sounds and utilises the whole vocabulary of electronic yelps and twitters and hows which the VCS3 synthesizer puts at his disposal.
Of course, all three play several instruments, and the electronic hardware they deploy to modify their sound is the equivalent of several more, but this may give some sort of starting point to who is playing what.
What needs to be stressed, however, as well as the individual musical personalities of its three members, is the collective identity of Tangerine Dream as a BAND, inter-acting and intercommunicating on stage and in the studio. Edgar Froese's analogy of their music with a good conversation is a true one, for each of the other two will respond to what the others is doing - and, in the process, react again upon the first musician.
In so doing, they build up a musical empathy which is, perhaps, the most remarkable thing about them.
Ever since Louis Armstrong invented the cornet solo, and led jazz away from the strict traditional confines of New Orleans, musicians have been striving for absolute freedom, often discovering merely a new kind of tyranny, the abhorrence of concordant sounds, even as an accident, the neglect of the underlying pulse which is at the base of all music, stemming from the heart-beat and the labour process.
Freedom is seen as an ego-expanding situation, which must necessarily be at the expense of the rest: collective responsibility is disregarded in the sacred name of doing your own thing, so the soloist becomes absolute dictator, if only for the extent of his solo, and the other musicians his subjects, bound to do his bidding.
This extreme individualism, which has its roots in the 19th century romanticism of Byron and Tchaikovsky, which itself was the expression of an age when individualistic entrepreneurs were opening up the world for exploitation, will not be found in the freedom of the playing of Tangerine Dream. They work together, not against each other.
I was interested to find that, to the Dreamers, the supreme test of their empathy is when they come to the end of a piece spontaneously, without any overt message between them,
"We are now at the point," says Froese, "that we can find the end of a piece without connection between us. It sometimes surprises us too that we come to the end after 40 or 50 minutes and we all begin to feel it must end, so we are going down and then we stop without any signals from one to the other."
Lovers of Indian music will not unfamiliar with this situation, having seen the look of joy that will pass between a master sitarist like Ravi Shankar and his tabla-player as they finish a piece precisely on the same beat. As in so many things, the true avant gardists are reinventing the past.
It was this sense of timelessness, of a connection, through electronics, with a period when music was literally closer to the heart of every man, and everything he did was a kind of sacrament, ,that led Keith Michell to use Tangerine Dream to record background music for his Chichester production of Oedipus Tyrannus. And though the collaboration was a failure, this probably tells us more about the irrelevance of proscenium theatre, even when self-consciously brought out into the auditorium, to the cultural needs of the present day,
Tangerine Dream have not yet reached the pinnacle of the peak they have been attempting to scale since 1965, and it may be that, without some fundamental changes in attitudes within the music industry, the ultimate Everest is inaccessible for everyone. Because they are developing a new musical vocabulary, it sometimes becomes difficult to indicate verbally their more successful excursions, compared with times when they just spend time seeking for a direction.
They, themselves, are highly critical of their earlier work, not merely their formative recordings for Ohr of Germany which are so untypical of what they are playing now that they have tried to stop their distribution in the rest of the world, but even parts of their much more significant later British recordings.
But I feel that in their attempt to find a new way of making music that is accessible to every man and woman prepared to surrender to the flow of the music, they are probably showing us that there is nothing unusual, nothing artificial, certainly nothing impersonal in electricity.
After all, that's what holds us all together.
"Music is the electric soil in which the spirit lives, thinks and invents." Ludwig van Beethoven said that.
LIGHT ON A DARK GROUP – Talking to Tangerine Dream
Peter Baumann: In the shops where they played their records they had to renew the ceiling because it dropped down. This is when we heard the first time of Tangerine Dream. It wasn't just the volume...
Edgar Froese: It was a free rock form with normal instruments - drums, bass, guitar, flute and violin. In some of our earliest experiments we had arranged songs by the Doors and people like this and so when the group started in 1968 there were a lot of aggressive points inside it. It was not the kind of musical discussion like we have it now. It was another feel.
I started on guitar with the group, but I stopped because I found I was getting so much of my inspiration from the old ways, aggressive things, power things. Until then, we had known only one thing and that was the loudness. Then it was too loud, nobody could listen to the drums, the drummer couldn't listen to the guitar, things like that.
After a couple of years, it's over. You can't find out the very different things. The little things, the little sounds are whispering you know. Christoph sold his drums and we all sold our normal instruments. We were quitting the business, it was all dead. We had been a rock group and we had a good background for that but we couldn’t listen to it.
Christoph Franke: We went through a long period of experiment. We used other instruments, special guitars and so on, to try for other feelings. I tried to change the style of my drumming from beat drumming to other colours and structures. But it was very hard, because instruments have clearly defined borders, which you cannot cross. I tried other drums, not only European drums, and then I tried to make myself electric drums with special mikes.
Then I got rid of my drums and got a synthesizer which was a better way, because there are far more possibilities. On a synthesizer are very many instruments and each of us can choose the instruments he likes.
Peter: I was playing organ in another group, and I was always looking for something that I had never done before. I just wanted to play and keeping playing and I did that for two years without finding it. Then suddenly I heard a glass smash in a kitchen and I sensed the electricity in the moment when the glass fell down. When the glass fell in 2001, it was a bit like this.
I realised there were different ways of expressing yourself, and all that day I really started trying all sorts of different sounds, twanging the blade of a knife on the edge of the table, to find something to express what I wanted. Then, later, we found that the best way to find those sounds was electronically.
Edgar: The biggest shock I ever got as a guitarist was to listen to Jimi Hendrix. I saw what could be done with the guitar. On the other hand, I wasn't a very good guitarist. I was not a bad one but I was not really a good one. I put it through a fuzz box, put other things between the instrument and the amplifier, then I put it into a synthesizer to change the sound. But we were still trying to transform the music and so I changed back to keyboards, which l'd played for about four years, ten or 12 years before.
I wasn't actually very, very interested four or five years ago in pure technical things. So I had to teach myself very hard, because I hadn't very much sympathy for that field. But after a couple of years, it's very open for me now. I think everyone could learn it.Peter: We started at a point where nobody was interested in the music we were doing. There was such a small number of people interested that there wasn't a name for it. lt wasn't pop and it wasn't avant garde, we just did it. It grew and the people who liked to listen to it grew too and so it has just grown by itself, with no one giving it a name.
Edgar: Our first idea after we got all the electronics was to find out the sounds that have normally not been heard before. We listened to a lot of electronic stuff on record and it's very well known to a lot of people. If they went to an electronic concert they would know maybe 80 or 90 per cent of the sounds. But the problem for us is that we've tried to go further, to find out sounds that are very unknown. We are now at the point where there a lot of possibilities to mix all the things we have, but to find out really new sounds, we can't do that at the moment.
Christoph: Specially in America, there is a special image for synthesizer groups. There are a lot of such groups but they make very different music from us. We like to make our image with our music, not with our instruments. If we use, next time, other instruments, maybe computers or wood instruments, then we are not a wood instrument group or computer group, We like to make our names only for music.
Peter: Why does somebody learn to play bass? Why doesn't he choose a guitar? Why does somebody learn to play organ and not Celtic harp? I mean, it's personal feeling towards instruments and there are some people who take a saw on the stage and saw a table apart and that's part of their musical expression. And there are others who take a glass and throw that against the wall.
We've found that we use those instruments as personal expression. They suit us best.
Edgar: ... we try to find the togetherness of all possibilities of sounds. There's a normal way of producing music, you can listen to the special sound: it's a guitar, or it's drums. You have so much association to all things you've heard before, that what's behind, it's impossible to listen to. So we've tried to change all that. We play the guitar, not like a guitar. We play an organ not like an organ. We change the instruments to change the experience of listening.
Peter: We have tried to f ind the sounds we want by conventional means. But we found in the end that the most direct method to get the sounds we wanted was electronically. And so if the audience finds it simpler to think about the electronics, then we won't mind. But the real point is to find exactly the right sound for the mood we are trying to create.
Edgar: Electronic music isn't our theme, it's a little help of ours. We can find every tone, much more for instance than a flute or guitar. You know, you hear it's a guitar. You hear the guitar lines. We shook it free of that.
Peter: I think you shouldn't talk too much about electronic music because it sounds like lots of patterns, just sitting there, and some kind of mathematic. We just use electronics to do what we want to.
There is a relationship between every kind of music because music exists from certain factors - tempo, dynamic, height of the tones. This is basically what music is and there is a relationship between every kind of music. But if you ask if there is a special emotion or a special touch to our music, I don't think we consider our music as any new kind of rock music. We don't consider it at all. I think maybe there's no need.
Edgar: We like to be thought of as a group working out good ideas, new ways of music and possibilities for the future, but we are definitely not a "synthesizer group". We like to integrate all sorts of music, but I think a lot of readers of the papers may begin to think of us as just human potentiometers. We are still musicians.
The musical conversation
Edgar: On one hand we are always talking about the togetherness, how we must play together, we must do our things together, we must feel together the same things at the same time, and on the other hand we are very different persons, we have really different thoughts about music. And maybe it's that point why we have come together on stage with our music, that each member of the group can give from their different backgrounds. Maybe one member of the group sitting down won't get any ideas about the things he wants to do now. Then he gets a message from left or right. And then the talk between us stops because one will give a question to another and someone gives an answer. It is just like conversation.
But what you can't do when you are talking is for one man to say the same thing as another, only louder. He has to wait for a space and then when he has spoken he has to fade out his voice so that the others can give their comments. It's the same in music.
Peter: It's silly to say that we play at every concert something that we haven't played before. We can't do every day two hours of completely new music. Of course, we could play for ten hours just demonstrating what we've got on our instruments. This is no problem and you won't hear us repeat anything for ten hours. But this is not the togetherness of the music which happens if it is a good concert.
Edgar: Some of the spirit on the first one or two albums, perhaps, may have been mine. And even today in the recording studio, perhaps, where you can stop the tape or emphasise one thing at the expense of another and make overdubbing, but on stage it is impossible for us to have a leader.
If I were the leader I would have to give signs about what's happening now or to play louder now or what should be done on the instruments but it's not possible. Each member of the group has to respect the others. Another way is not possible.
Peter: We are different persons, of course, and we have different backgrounds, so we play differently on the same instruments. He uses the same synthesizer as I do, but he will never play the same as I do, nor will I play the same as he does.
Everyone looks at the instrument in a different way. So you can't possibly say that Christoph is playing Moog, that's why he's making the most synthetic sound and Edgar is playing Mellotron, so he's doing the most classical sound. It's very hard to define by the instruments.
Edgar: Our way of playing music is the togetherness of all the people in it, and it's not only the way of playing, of working with an instrument, but the feeling behind the instrument.
Peter: It's all improvisation, but since we know each other there's some kind of harmony between us that you cannot explain. We have some basic feelings and emotions that will appear all the time, but there are special ways, special scenes, it depends very much upon the scenery where we're playing, they influence the music so that every concert is different.
The tendency of the music of course is the same, but we never have two concerts the same.
Edgar: I think we know exactly what the other one feels and the way of playing is when one of us starts with a special thing, the other two help him to work it out. And so, when he has done that, another one of us starts to work his thing out, and the other two help him. It's not a thing of solo parts, and to fight it out how I want to be the biggest now. It's not our way.
Of course, in Berlin we are not always together. We meet, one or two times a week, for rehearsal or for talking about it, and so we don't see each other in the meantime. Each person has his own way, his own thing, his own private atmosphere. So when you start to play again each person can bring in new feelings, new experiences.
If we sat around each night and talking and talking and talking, it will always be the same.
Christoph: Liquid, that's a very important word for our music, each part flowing from one point to another, very smooth, very liquid. You don't have very big cuts or breaks. It's like water.
Sometimes there's a waterfall, maybe, but nostop.
Edgar: On the Mellotron I have about ten sets of tapes, each with three different possibilities. There is one tape with a lot of different noises, you know from steps on the floor or bells ringing or drums, traffic noises, all sorts of strange sounds. What we want to do now is to record our own tapes.
You can also use the Mellotron with something like a wah-wah pedal or a fuzz box. I did it one time, but I wasn't very satisfied with it. The only thing I did is to change the sound with a phase shifter or put the Mellotron into the synthesizer. By that I could filter the sound or have a special attack on a single key or I could change the wave form a bit, things like that.
Peter: Hearing music at any time will never be the same as any other time because the situation is very important and the time you hear the music is very important. Every time you're going to hear different aspects and you wander around in the music. The music is there somewhere in the room and you walk and look at the music and feel the music and see different aspects.
Edgar: The time, it's moving, and so for the music, for the feeling, it's the same. In one moment like this, we are just sitting around, but this situation will never be again. It's only in this time, only in this connection. It's the same with a concert, it's a situation of maybe eight o'clock in the evening and only then. It will never be again.
Communication from the darkened stage
Edgar: We like to go on stage in a dark situation, without any lights and things like that. Going on stage and sitting behind the instruments and starting to play and then going off again, and not saying anything, you know, that's the image that we have. But now I think it's not enough and I don't know how we could work it out, but I think we must do some other things to get a better communication.
Peter: When we first went on stage in darkness it was such a new situation for the audience that they really got into what we mean. But now, maybe it's become, "Oh yeah, Tangerine Dream, they play in the dark." They know when they go there what to expect. I's much too predictable'
Edgar: The audience at the Royal Albert Hall was really marvellous. It doesn't matter if the audience is a bit noisy because we start mostly with synthetic sounds from the synthesizer so we can always integrate what they are doing. After a couple of minutes they come down, they will be very quiet.
At the start of our second piece we used a tape loop from the Rainbow concert of people handclapping and whistling. We tried to show the people that they are a part of the music and there is a feedback from them to us.
Christoph: Sometimes I get very angry if we finish a piece and one second later a big noise is in the audience. Maybe we could find out a system to keep the audience to one minute's silence. Maybe with a very low tone, and the people understand "Wait a minute", to keep that impression of that piece.
Edgar: What we had at the Albert Hall was what you could call a satisfied situation where the audience was saying, you know. "Come on again, play again, we want more". So, I ask myself why is it that they want more? 'Cause it's not a rock concert, you know, and we really want to know why they want more. We can't ask them, we can't go with a tape recorder and a mike to everybody and ask them what they felt. That's not possible, so we have to test them with another form of communication.
We've thought that the first step could be to change the whole environment of a concert. OK, that was the first step, and it was working about thirty to forty per cent. But now we have to think about a new form of communication.
Peter: Maybe we won't play together on the stage any more. Maybe one on the stage and one in this corner and one in that corner. I'm just suggesting, maybe something where we can get to the point of what Tangerine Dream is about, again to the people. When we started to do music it was a smaller audience. When we started having bigger audiences, we realised that the bigger the audience, the more the distance was to the audience. Now we try to get back to the audience, very, very close together,
Edgar: Everybody who wants to be creative, who wants to put out a lot of things from himself, he tries to find his special way to explain it, first to himself, what he wants. Because only to think about it is not enough. I must work it out and see what happens, and then I have the possibility to have feedback.
The future lies ahead
Edgar: I believe that the next time we have a concert in England it will be a completely new experience, because to repeat old things is one part we don't like.
Christoph: Maybe we find out some new systems for rehearsal, especially to rehearse our personal interaction. Then maybe that will mean we have to play with the lights on to see everything we do, so that our music is maybe just a thing for the ears.
Edgar: I want to work more on the way to change sounds. You know, it can be boring for me to play one and a half hours of only Mellotron and organ, so I have to learn a lot of things about how to change sounds, especially on the Mellotron, to work out new technical possibilities with the Mellotron. It's one of my main instruments ...
Christoph: I'm working with traditional instruments like the harpsichord for my solo album. Then a new thing, an instrument called a speech synthesizer which can produce vocals and consonants in a way that you can synthesize your own speech. I'm not interested to make sentences in a semantic way. I want to use speech only as an instrument. On my next album I have a rhythm programmer because I use pulses from one sequencer to another at the same time, so that I have several different rhythms in it. I can programme it up to maybe fifty bars but I can make it return when I want, maybe after one bar, after three, or after fifty bars. I can make a notation for it and then I play it from the notation, with pins and notes and switches, how many notes. For example, I have a scale, C, D. E, and so on, and I take C, D and another C and in the next bar I switch off the second C and take A on it, and in this way I can get together any melodic line I want.
Edgar: The main change for the future will be that we have to work much, much harder. With the group it means working harder on a new project and working much harder for ourselves. I don't know if it happens all the time in other groups, but I think that success could make you very lazy.
When you've used two hands for half a year, then after a couple of success situations you are only using one hand and maybe one year later you would be using only two fingers. You know what I mean? And so we found out that we must work harder than we did in the past.
Peter: We weren't lazy two years ago. It was just a part of the music. We are not the group to go into a rehearsal and start to do some sounds and tunes. What we did and intended to do was to go on stage and play what we felt.
You know, if you have done that for 3%, no four years, up to now, then it starts to get a little dishonest because you know each other very much and you get in that way, lazy, because you repeat what you know. It sounds quite good, and the people like it because they have heard it not so often. But you lose the feeling of the tension that you played the first time.
Edgar: We have been working on the new things for the tour that we have to make of America, not that it's an important gig or an important tour, each concert for us is important, whether it's the deepest countryside of England or Germany or France or Carnegie Hall in New York, it's all the same for us, there's no difference.
For us it's a great feeling we need before each concert that we join the stage and really don't know which way we have to go. We only know the three persons, one by one, and that's all we know.
It's really good to have an open field, without any barriers. It's inspiration, just inspiration.
Based on extracts from conversations in London and Berlin between April 1974 and July 1975. Transcript @ Copyright, 1975, Karl Dallas.
DREAMING FOR THE RECORD
An analysis of 'Phaedra' and 'Rubycon' by Karl Dallas, with comments by Christoph Franke.
Tangerine Dream have mixed feelings about recording. On the one hand they feel that the necessity of selecting material which can survive repeated listenings goes against the spontaneity which they feel is so important. But the very fact of selection offers them an opportunity of presenting a distillation of the best that they can do.
They compromise by performing most of their recorded music live, keeping the use of techniques that would only be possible in the studio, such as overdubs, to a bare minimum, though Christoph Franke is already dreaming of using the voltage controlled, computer directed mixing desk at the new Manor Studio as a programmable rhythm machine, its faders rising and falling to a previously predetermined pattern - something that I'll bet Helios didn't have in mind when they designed it.
In the following analyses, the judgements are mine, and the quoted comments are from Christoph Franke, but I would like to acknowledge Christoph's help in sorting out who is playing what.
Side one: Phaedra
In classical Greek literature, Phaedra was a lady who fell in love with her stepson. The story was translated into a French classic by Racine and has recently been rewritten in an Indian colonial setting for the London stage.
No attempt is made on the record to follow the story with any kind of musical programme, though Edgar Froese once told me that he had the poetic atmosphere of the play very much in mind when they were composing the music.
The very slow beginning is in fact a very rapid sequence of notes from Franke on the Moog'
"It is a very soft, slow, cloudy beginning, starting very outside of the room, made with echo plates, and then it comes into the room a little bit, going drier and drier, and the electric piano from Peter makes some slow counterpoints to it."
As the sequence is slowed down a rhythm-pattern becomes evident and the exact notes are perceptible. Baumann's piano notes and chords become more and more bell-like. As the pitch and speed of the rhythm rises and goes more into echo, Froese enters on voice-tape Mellotron playing very high chords and the rhythm goes into tape delay, doubling the apparent speed of the rhythm as every note is repeated. The rhythmic pattern is taken over by Froese, on guitar' "Over this I made some glass noises with the Moog."
The Moog takes back the rhythm sequence and simplifies it down to three tones, to which Franke adds notes one by one, while Froese plays phased long chords on Mellotron strings-tapes. Franke adds a second rhythm sequence, three times as quick as the main rhythm, while he overdubs a similar sequence on organ. This is the first overdub to be heard so far.
The basic rhythm reasserts itself once again, with washes of phased string chords from the Mellotron, and then a high, crying note from Baumann's flute, jumping octaves, up and down, while the intensity of the Revox echo delay on the sequence is changed constantly, as well as the exact sequence of the notes.
Very low bass chords on the Moog underpin the sequence which changes pitch and rises to a climax, while Baumann's flute notes sail in and out of the mix, together with bottleneck guitar sounds from Froese.
Baumann's synthi has added a percussive pattern of white noise sounds in a similar rhythm to the sequence on the Moog, which rises higher and higher as the colour of Baumann's pattern is altered. The rhythm rises to a climax and Froese comes in again with very high voice-tapes on the Mellotron, while the rhythm hits its highest point and repeats over and over. Froese resolves the climax with final Mellotron chords and a long beat on the tam-tam from Franke.
"That's not a gong, it's a tam-tam like Stockhausen used in 'Kontakte'. It has an unvoiced sound. A gong has a little hill in the middle and that gives it a voice. Then I try to make the same sound like the tam-tam with generators and filters which is lying now under everything. A tam-tam has a decay but I want to hold the sound so I made it on the Moog. And I change the colour of the noise sound with a filter bank, which I can do by pressing a key. Otherwise I would need a whole bank of different natural instruments to produce these sounds."
Baumann's phased piano interiects over these basic gong sounds, and then he produces a new sound on the synthi which Franke describes as "a very spacey sound, like a dog in the desert, which I like very much".
Froese's voice tapes sing out over more Moog gong sounds, changing in pitch as Baumann's dog noises return, followed by his organ and heavy string chords from Froese replace the voice, with electric piano chords. The piece moves to a slow, almost heavy conclusion.
"The first piece is mainly a Mellotron piece from Edgar, with some added wind noise from Peter's synthesizer. I don't play anything on that piece. The second piece we made all together and the third piece was made by Peter with very long and different tape delays, played with this little wood flute, a recorder, like the young people are learning at school"
Mysterious Semblance at the Strand of Nightmares
"This first thing from Edgar is a very harmonic piece, starting with wind noise. They are mainly minor chords and I get the impression of going walking into a very empty countryside, in the
The sound of the Mellotron and the wind noise are both phased, moving their presence about the stereo image. Later this phasing is controlled by a generator which creates a flutter on the Mellotron sound.
After a few Fender Rhodes piano chords from Baumann, the Mellotron rises to its climax and subsides into silence, the wind noise rises in power to be joined by twittering voltagecontrolled oscillator sounds on a VCS3 synthesizer.
Movements of a Visionary
Baumann begins by feeding his voice into a synthesizer, to which high-pitched noises are added, joined after a while by a fast sequence of notes on Franke's Moog. "It is several generators given into a ring modulator which multiples the frequencies and you get anharmonic overtones such as you have in all percussive instruments like a glockenspiel or xylophone or a vibraphone or gongs or drums. It means that the steps from one overtone and the next are not in a proportion like one to two to three to four. If you hit a glass you get anharmonic sound. It is the difference between a violin and a church bell. It sounds here a little like a marimba."
The sequence is echoed by Baumann's synthi and organ, and Froese plays very high notes on Lowry organ. Baumann interjects echoed chords on a Davoli piano. The whole thing seems to carry on much longer than the amount of creativity merits, even though it is actually quite short.
"In fact I don't like this side very much because it's not as well done as it could be. It was our first recording in England and we couldn't take as much time as we liked. The next record was much better because we took more time.
"The thing is that we use the complete studio as an instrument, so it is not possible for us to go into the studio and play only pieces we have rehearsed before. We make the concept and composings there in the studio. For instance, the mixing for us is a real creative thing and the mixing board is an instrument with which you control the dynamics, which are an important part of music.”
"That is just Peter playing. It's like a fugue made with a very long delay so after maybe 20 seconds he can play a new melody line over the-old line. It goes a little in the Terry Riley way of producing music which I like, in fact, very much. I like this piece very much. I think it's a very beautiful end for this record."
The beginning is Baumann on Fender Rhodes piano, "playing very lonely notes", with bell-like Moog tones from Franke, joined by an oboe sound from Froese's Mellotron. All three lines come closer and closer together, but there are quiet spaces between the notes.
"It’s the first time we have put breaks between the notes, but it's very important, so you can get your brain clear for what's coming."
A very high melody line on Franke's Moog comes over the long, slow notes, is joined by tapes of mixed voices on the Mellotron with glissandi from Baumann. The Moog melody returns and Froese changes to strings tapes for a brief section of trumpet-like tune and strings.
"Peter has some very nice voltage-controlled bits with the synthi. Sometimes he comes very near with his glissandi, through the well-tempered melody line. I like it very much if there are two scales of notes together - a well-tempered scale and a not-tempered scale producing, like birds, quarter notes, like Schoenberg.
"This part gives me the impression of a very big river, at the end of the river coming into a big sea, the ocean. It's very liquid."
Wind noise is followed by a cymbal-like tone created by a cluster of 20 or 30 notes very close together and a very low bass, with feelings of fuzz in it. "It's a little meditation tone."
After a rhythm sequence, Froese plays the main theme on the strings followed by a remarkable duet between Baumann's Fender Rhodes and Froese's oboe-tapes, in which they swap phrases and half phrases. The rhythm continues, very ostinato, "a repetitive rhythm like the Negroes make it, very often", Baumann switches to organ and the duet continues.
The rhythm doubles and Franke adds an overdubbed piano tape loop: a backwards tape is joined to a forwards tape so that the sound comes to its attack and then dies away.
The rhythm becomes very complex, with Moog tones and snare-drum sounds, plus overdubbed piano, "prepared" with pieces of wood stuck between the strings to give a more percussive effect. Over this Froese plays chords and Baumann plays a very high melody line on organ.
A change in the rhythm is overlaid by clashing sounds from Baumann's voltage controlled oscillator, played over a very fast-running Leslie speaker and very long echo delay. Froese plays a reprise of the original oboe melody while the decay of the snaredrum sound becomes longer and longer so that the beat disappears. Later Baumann plays grand piano over a Leslie.
"In this piece I think all the melodies, rhythms and all the sounds are much, much more complex and much better than on Phaedra. I think it is a step forward, this record."
The piece ends with a long sitar-like sound created by scraping the strings of a grand piano with a piece of metal, recording it, cutting off the attack at the beginning of the note, and playing it back on multi-track at different speeds, giving several different pitches.
The rhythm becomes simpler and simpler, moving from three to two to one single tone, and the piano loops are faded across to each other, making chords, slowly shifting.
"The second side is beginning with the sound of contemporary music, a mixture of a gong sound and very complex glissandi sounds made with several synthis, about seven different glissandi, three synchronised on the Moog which is very easy to do, and other made with other generators going up and down at different speeds and between different intervals. So it is like the pile of a carpet, a carpet of glissandi.
"I like this beginning because it is very different from everything we've made before. It is really a piece of timbre music with lines so close together that you cannot separate them."
The glissandi section is followed by Moog sounds recorded on Mellotron tapes and played by Froese. Baumann's Leslie organ goes to a fundamental major C chord which is picked up by a very fast, almost subsonic bass rhythm.
The very percussive rhythm is in fact two sequencers, and Franke is switching from one to the other, changing notes in each sequencer as he changes. "I make accents on several notes by playing the filter which makes the timbre higher."
Over "clouds of chords" on the Mellotron and Leslie organ and synthi and Moog rhythm, Froese overdubs a backwards tape of guitar played with echo.
The rhythm has changed to a deep heartbeat tempo, which fades and then returns at a higher pitch, more prominently, under Baumann's fast, staccato organ. A twittering sound is created by oscillators controlling other oscillators.
"It is frequency modulation, controlling one tone with the wave of another. That's what the birds can do with their voice, changing the tone so quickly that you get a noise sound from it'"
The side moves towards its end with concrete sounds of sea recorded on the South coast of England, played on two tape machines with varying speeds so there is phasing, changing the location of the sound.
"This technique is important for the work t hat Edgar did with the artificial head on his solo album, 'Aqua', because with phasing you can change where the sound comes from, not only from side to side, like ordinary stereo, but also from front to back.
"You have only two channels for hearing, so with stereo you can hear everything. Quadraphonics is only a game. It's not really good, only pseudo-space."
The piece ends with a relaxed sequence for three organs and f lute Mellotron, long, gentle chords with the f lute flying at almost stratospheric level, fading like the flute in Debussy's "Afternoon of a Faun".
"This is music that we would like to perform in churches, all evening, without rhythms. Maybe each one of us is playing in a different place in the church, and the natural reverb makes it a very smooth sound.
"We bought a generator to make power so that we can make that music outside, in total silence, in forests maybe."
Issued in Germany by Ohr-Musik, Berlin:
Electronic Meditation (1970)
Alpha Centauri (1971) - released in UK as Polydor Super 2383314
Zeit - double album (1972)
Atem (1973) - released in UK as Polydor Super 2383297
Released in UK by Virgin Records
Phaedra (1974) V2010
Aqua - Edgar Froese solo album (1974) V2016
Rubycon (1975) V2025
Epsilon In Malaysian Pale - Edgar Froese solo album (1975) TCV 2040
THE NATIONAL SOUND OF GERMAN ROCK
"Kraut Rock" is a meaningless genre invented by xenophobe critics claim Gerald O'Connell. In fact, Germany is the most important centre of musical experimentation in the seventies. If you have prejudices to shed, prepare to shed them now...
For the past five years or so there has been a gradually increasing awareness of German rock in
Britain and America, but the process has been a slow, and in some rather unfortunate cases, painful one. The generally accepted idea is that German rock is at best brilliant but rather cold and uninvolved, and at worst gloomily derivative of the superior Anglo-American product. Both of these views ignore the most important point of all: German musicians have grown up in a social and cultural environment which is unique, and which has shaped their ideas in such a way as to create a large body of highly original and worthwhile music. What I want to do here is to examine that environment and perhaps establish some of its main connections with the music.
The most startling aspect of the native German scene is the extent to which it is fragmented. There are no established musical centres like London, New York or LA where musicians congregate around recording facilities and large audiences. Any list of major bands reveals an equally long catalogue of place-names with which they have remained in association over their whole life-span. The result has been an almost total absence of cross-fertilisation of styles or any prevailing musical orthodoxy. Bands like Amon Duul II in Munich, Can in Cologne and Tangerine Dream in West Berlin have developed more or less in isolation, and their music has taken a course directed more by the logical development of certain individuals' artistic ideals than anything else. This lack of elitism is a barrier in some ways – nobody is likely to get into a series of German bands because x reminds him of y and so on. However, it does cultivate originality and avoid the mindless bandwagoning endemic to Britain and America: psychedelic rock, country-robk, glam-rock. What's next, Kraut-rock? No chance.
Of course, the other great impetus for this particularly insidious characteristic of rock music is a commercial one - it simply pays well to follow the market leaders. This force too is mostly missing in German rock. Those who copy British or American bands tend to be ignored completely, and nobody of any originality is making enough money to attract a spate of imitators. The mass audiences of German youth are still largely wary of their own culture - the shattering psychological aftermath of World War II in West Germany is still felt in areas like music, where it is considered more wholesome to import Anglo-American developments lock, stock and barrel. A number of members of Amon Duul II have admitted to me that they see little hope of financial success in Germany, no matter what they do. The result is that they have played the music they enjoy and feel to be most valuable, and then attempted to sell it outside Germany.
This situation has also meant an absence of any large-scale live audience for German bands. Consequently they have not been under the kind of pressure to 'entertain' that we take for granted in
Britain and America - nobody has ever had to stop to bother about whether anyone can dance to their music (Germans are too reserved for that sort of thing anyway), and records rather than live appearances are the accepted medium. It is fairly easy to see, therefore, why so many bands seem to be operating on the technological frontiers of rock. The Kraftwerk/Neu/Cluster/Harmonia family of groups - the two members of Neu had been in Kraftwerk previously, and when they splitup, Michael Rother joined the two members of Cluster and the band became known as Harmonia - have consistently created music rooted in electronics and based on machine rhythms, and are a good example of this tendency! In fact, this type of approach often appears to be the sole common thread running through German rock – a fascination for pure sound and its electronic manipulation in music is still an important factor. To see why this should still be the case in Germany, while it has been considered passe elsewhere, it is necessary to go back to the contrasting situations of the late sixties.
West Germany in 1967 saw no 'Summer of Love'. The bland consumer culture created by the post war economic miracle was an absorbing preoccupation in a nation anxious to forget its recent past, and far too many young people were caught up in its delights for such wild notions as 'flower power' and 'alternative lifestyles' to gain much grip on their imagination. The system had its critics, but they were few and isolated. Typically based in universities and art schools, they regarded the majority of rock uncritically imported by their contemporaries with justifiable suspicion: it all looked like more garbage from the capitalist conveyor belt. When, in 1968, Europe was swept by student unrest, these strange little outposts found themselves in the vanguard of a widespread change in attitudes. More significantly, in their midst there appeared a series of musicians determined to carry their political commitment into the musical sphere. This movement was never discredited in the way that the Anglo-American hippie phenomenon was: it even had its successes - the downfall of the de Gaulle government in France was attributed in large part to the initial student disturbances of 1968.
By contrast, in England and America, the forward-looking musical developments of the late sixties have largely been cast aside in favour of a gradually imploding artistic form. We have fled back to the 'roots' of country music and fifties rock in order to find firm ground again, whereas in West Germany there has been a continuing emphasis on futurism, and the political dimension has been transformed into a parallel commitment to artistic ideals based more on imagination and criticism than security and appeasement.
Without lapsing into naive polemicism, bands like Faust, Can and Tangerine Dream have shown that there are still largely unchartered areas of experimentation beyond the frontiers of rock accepted outside Germany. Each of these bands had its origins in the late sixties, and this is still true of the most interesting German bands.
As I have already pointed out, all of this has taken place against the background of a fairly hostile environment in the commercial sense. The two German record labels who have released the majority of worthwhile rock in Germany (Brain-Metronome, and Rolf Kaiser's now greatly depleted Ohr Musik) have never had their catalogues released abroad. One or two bands and musicians have signed deals with British or American companies, but these are definite exceptions. There have been records by Jane, Ash Ra Tempel, Agitation Free, Peter Hamel and numerous others which have never been widely heard outside Germany, and yet which are of far more genuine musical interest than most things being done in Britain and America at the moment.
Some people have observed the lack of identification and communication between audience and musician in German rock and come to the conclusion that it is essentially elitist - a direct contradiction with its political origins. This is, I believe, a grossly unfair estimation of the situation. What has really happened is that musicians have refused to arrive at any spurious compromises in order to gain superficial acceptance. At this moment in time they seem to have been justified; in America at the moment there is a growing feeling that German rock is about to find a large audience. Tangerine Dream will be touring there this Spring, and Amon Duul II have just been signed to American Atlantic. Can are also finding a fairly wide audience in the States. At the same time, Ash Ra Tempel have encouragingly re-emerged from obscurity with Lutz Ulbrich (formerly of Agitation Free) on second guitar and have been selling out a series of gigs in France. So have Timewind, the group recently started by Hans Schulze. [Hans?!]
It is significant that Ash Ra Tempel and Timewind are coming to prominence. Both are from Berlin and include members of the now defunct Agitation Free, who were a seminal force in the development of rock music in Berlin in the late sixties. Perhaps because West Berlin is so totally isolated, it provides an extreme illustration of everything I have said about German rock. Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze (originally their drummer) have pioneered the most individual musical styles - a kind of bare, dry Gothicism - to emerge in recent years, and they have done this without any audience at all for most of the time. Despite problems which have seemed all but insurmountable (including a protracted legal struggle with Ohr Musik) they have shown an enormous resilience and sense of musical purpose which is finally beginning to pay dividends.
There is such an enormous variety of music now coming out of West Germany that none of the characterisations of 'Krautrock' which have been made in Britain and America are at all adequate. On the one hand there are a number of jazz-rock groups of varying degrees of originality, the most prominent being Embryo led by Christian Burchard. They have made a series of albums (two featuring veteran jazzman Mal Waltron) of an extremely high standard, which, had they been made by an English or American group, would have attracted a good deal of attention. As it is, they are still unknown. In another direction there are bands like Jane and Grobschnitt (both on Brain-Metronome) who sound very much like British hard-rock bands, but with a higher level of composition and musicianship. Jane in particular show a sense of dynamics and swing not usually associated with continental bands, and their first album remains an all-time classic.
Disproving the cliche that German rock is humourless and over-intellectual, Guru-Guru's albums have been consciously ingeuous in their own meandering sort of way. Enormous brassband riffs degenerate rapidly into acid-distorted Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley interpretations; but behind everything there is always a great sense of fun in their music.
Both Jane and Guru-Guru have worked with producer/engineer Conny Plank at some time, and his influence on German rock has been tremendous. Plank's ability to get a crisp, immediate sound on disc is unequalled anywhere - but he does not make this his sole objective. Working with groups of various styles and aims he has rarely failed to use advanced studio techniques in order to enhance the musical end product. His views on his own role in the recording process are highly instructive:
"It is my conviction that every music has its own sound landscape and its own sound weather, and it is the task and duty of the producer to feel and consider this very special climate."
It is this willingness to adjust his approach to the needs and requirements of the bands he is working with that makes Plank's work so important in Germany. There is no such thing as the 'Conny Plank sound' and this is deliberate. He is scathing in his criticisms of developments in recording outside Germany - the progress made in the sixties impressed him, but then, "this development degenerated into an empty mannerism which turned the sound of even good bands into insensitive music."
And here perhaps he has encapsulated the difference between what is happening in Germany and events elsewhere: there is still a belief in individuality and experimentation for its own sake, coupled with a healthy attitude to the future of rock, rather than a necrophiliac obsession with its past. For my own part I believe that this attitude is sufficiently ingrained to survive the vagaries of financial success. Hopefully, the musicians I have mentioned (and many others besides) will get the chance to prove me right.
TECHNOLOGY WITHOUT TEARS
The instruments that make the music, discussed by Chris Simmonds.
Future generations of music students will surely regard the synthesizer as the instrument of the seventies. Although electronic keyboard prototypes had been designed years earlier, it was only in the seventies that the boundaries and conceptions of rock music were greatly expanded by the widespread acceptance and use of the new keyboards. Of the many exponents of electronic music currently advancing the conceptions of sound, Tangerine Dream are one of the most prominent. Their own success story is dealt with elsewhere: here we concern ourselves with the workings of their chosen instruments, and, with the three members handling some four keyboards each, the total array is a formidable one.
Technically, the proficient keyboard player can learn to play the synthesizer without difficulty, but along with its advantages it brings several drawbacks. While the sound of the electronic keyboard is quite innovative, its capabilities remove all the old conceptions of music making. The player and audience must both learn to accept totally new modes of expression. With such new sounds, then, it is gratifying to find the internal workings of the synthesizer suitably complex. Fronting the T. Dream line-up are the Moog, the VCS3 and the Mellotron, a potent combination more than capable of providing their unique sound.
The original idea behind the design of the Moog, so named after American founder Dr. Robert Moog, came from the workings of the already established electric instruments. The guitar, for instance, functions by taking an acoustically produced note, and changing it via the pick-up into electrical energy and then back into a different sound, perhaps louder and with different tonal qualities through a speaker. The idea for the synthesizer was to dispense with the acoustic origin of the sound, and use in its place an electrical component capable of transmitting the same characteristics in an electrical current as the magnetic pick-up. This component was the oscillator, and forms the basis of the Moog. Varying amounts of electrical energy can be passed through the oscillator, determining the intensity of the current, and thus the final note. So, almost by itself, the little oscillator facilitates simple production of truly electronic music. The current produced by the oscillator can be turned into the sound of a certain pitch, and so much more voltage will produce the note a tone or semi-tone above, and less current similarly gives out the lower notes. Thus middle C on the synthesizer keyboard, although finally playing middle C through the speaker, is simply the tab providing the amount of current needed to make the sound of middle C. So far, so good.
However, when another key is pressed down, our overworked oscillator receives not two separate voltages, but the sum of the two voltages. The resultant note would be well out of tune with everything else, with the consequence that the oscillator is by necessity monophonic. Still, the oscillator can be additionally controlled from another source, to give it attack and decay for example, and the tone can be altered by means of filters and other components which can themselves be manually adjusted like the tone controls on any amplifier.
For the production and adjustment of the note, the synthesizer basically has three circuits; tone sources, tone modifiers and control devices. The tone sources, as we have seen, derive from the oscillator with its minor subsidiary noise generators. The tone modifiers include several filters and modulators, controlled in most cases by a sample and hold circuit. This is the facility so often used by the showman who wants to impress his audience by leaving his machine to 'play by itself' while he walks away from it. It is obviously necessary to tune the oscillators to the same pitch as the other instruments in the band, and this has been one of the primary problems in synthesizer technology. For T. Dream, using so many electronic keyboards, keeping in tune throughout a gig has been their major problem, expressed so often by band spokesman Edgar Froese. "We have tuned up half an hour before the start," he said recently, "only to find that temperature changes had forced the instruments out of tune."
Nowadays any tendency towards temperament on the part of the components is minimised at the manufacturing stage by a simple survival of the fittest system. The completed instrument is left to run for some hours, and anything that can't take it is removed and replaced, and the test repeated until the instrument is stable. Unfortunately this means that for the components to be stable the machine must be given some time to warm up. A fine tuner control allows final adjustments to be made if necessary, and the concert is ready to begin.
The VCS3, also extensively played by Froese, has since its inception in 1969 been one of the most popular synthesizer models. Its attractive features include compactness combined with versatility, and, like the Moog, is capable of producing the most unusual sounds and effects so vital to the T. Dream music. With the same basic oscillator principle, the VC53 features attack, decay and reverberation controls among others, and, while the panel looks like the flight deck of Apollo 6, the instrument can turn out noises ranging from simulated drum ruffles to vowel-sounding coughs.
Thee third main instrument in the band's line up, already well used by such exponents as Tony McPhee and Patrick Moraz, is the Mellotron. Though the mellotron sounds are as exciting in their own way as the synthesizers', it operates on rather different principles. Originally designed by another American called Chamberlain, the 400, the most popular model, contains 35 pre-recorded tapes each with three parallel tracks. The depression of a key causes one of these tapes to run. The normal sounds on these tapes are flute, three violins and a cello, although a tape of any instrument can be installed to particular requirements.
A track selector chooses a sound, and on adjacent tracks the machine facilitates a mix of two tapes. The single keyboard model includes volume, tone and track controls, with a potch controller for tuning and special effects, plus the swell footpedal. It is a sure sign of the rapid advancement in the electronic keyboard field that Mellotronics (responsible for manufacture and distribution) have recently introduced a new two-keyboard model, incorporating 40 tapes mounted on movable and interchangeable heads.Whether you like their music or not, the members of Tangerine Dream are certainly fine and adventurous musicians, and the combination of such players and such machines should certainly give the current music something to sit up and listen to very carefully.