The 1000 Computer Raid.

interviewsOprettet af Jacob Pertou man, november 26, 2012 20:23

It was all or nothing in a do or die attempt to stop enemy. They called it the 1,000 Bomber Raid. It failed. And back across the Channel came the Germans' riposte:

The 1000 Computer Raid

And it succeeded. Only too well.



YOU WON'T GET all sweaty or break a leg while listening to Tangerine Drearn, but you will not be unmoved. You see, they haf ways of doing things to your brain, even though not a great deal happens visually on stage with the group.

As everybody knows, they just sit there in front of their knobs ad faders in the half light and the most exciting thing going on is the two rows of moving lights displayed on the lights displayed on each synthesizer.

What is truly incredible are T. Dream's audiences. They come and sit in rapt attention, even in smaler country towns where they've just arrived from the boozer, end invariably listen for two 45 minute pieces without fidgeting or talking at all.

And on a wider scale, The Tang's last two albums "Phaedra" and "Rubycon" both made the Top Ten, and their latest, '"Richochet" (reviewed p.24), promises to do the same.

Is this then the music of the Seventies? While US/UK groups indulge in necrophiliac rehashing of former glories is the true sound of the decade coming from Germany? Certainly — without too many people here being aware of it — a huge explosion of groups has happened over there in a way similar to the British growth period during the early sixties.

Some are known here: Can, Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Amon Duul II, and others are not so well known: Neu, Jarre, Ash Ra Tempel, Kraan, Cluster, Guru Guru, Faust . . .

But all have on thing in common, they use far more ebctronics than British or American groups and between them they have developed a genuine National Sound.

SO I VISITED the Tangs' Chris Franke in his room at the Portobello Hotel a few hours after his plane brought him to the UK for film-editing (T. Dream at Coventry) purposes. He is impeccibly polite, producing gin and wire ad such like and relaxing into an interview with no trouble, even though it's usually Edgar Froese who takes care of talking chores. This is probably because Edgar started the group back in 1967, and also because he is twice as big as anyone else in it. Franke is tb electronic whizz-kid of the group, and his everyday conversation is laced with technical terms in a German accent. Sometims, though he cracks a Teutonic joke and smiles like a Rubens cherub.

Mid you, he comes from a musical family, was given a violin at 12 and taught music in the traditional way. He soon noticed that when he had finished his lessons and etudes and played just what he wanted to, his tone instantly improved.

Because he was having fun with it.

He then played trumpet at High School for five years and the same thing happened: "If I played some free things at home I developed much better, so with that knowledge it was automatic and logical that I began to play with friends.

“I bought some drums, very primitive at first" and we got a lot of fun playing things that we wanted to."

Franke was taught music theory and history, how to compose and how to play piano. So when he finally gave up drums it was easy for him to progress to synthesized keyboards.

He heard The Beatles; then — even more interesting — Cream, Jimi Hendrix and the British progressive underground.

But in 1967 he met Tangerine Dream, saw them at a concert given at a little experimental music studio in Berlin. They were experimenting with instruments and also with visuals, with pictures ad exhibitions. This was the time when "Happenings" were all the rage — remember? — and all over Europe painters and theatrical people, ballet dancers and poets were getting mixed up in a chic melange. Even London felt the change of mood (Pete Townshend was initially very influenced by the auto-destructive artist Gustav Metzger who used to be his art school teacher.) The Soft Machine participatedin Jean-Jacques Lebel's happenings in the South of France and many undergrord groups started using light shows ad dancers.

Meanwhile Chris Franke took courses in electronic music, visiting Nancy, France, for six months to study modern theatre in conjunction with modern music, during which musicians taught the theatrical people about the use of music and vice versa.

There were also influences permeating, arcross from the West Coast groups, intriguing Franke to some extent. Then Hcndrix died, Cream broke up and ... Chis Franke was depressed and saddened, sold his records, keeping only a few Pink Floyd -albums that he particularly liked such as "Ummagumma", and began to search jazz and avant garde music for inspiration. He also searched thc classical music of 400 years ago because "Many early organ pieces were written for improvisation."

He listened to madrigals, Gregorian chants, Indian music and electronic music.

“I have to say — electronic music before 1970 was really very primitive. There were just a few generators around and you had to do a million tape cuts to get a primitive musical result. People like Stockhausen and the French studio people did it and the music was really horrible! It was interesting but without feeling. Totally constructed you know?

"I heard a lot of American tapes, Milton Babbitt" Zubotnik, Arel a lot of people. In fact I don't really like American electronic music because they do so much: it's like a factory. You can get electronic music in pieces, buy it by the hour, by the day, but it all sounds really similar."

FROM 1967 ONWARDS Franke was playing at last with Tangerine Dream. By this time they were very influenced by the Airplane, early Grateful Dead and Zappa; Froese was particularly moved by the "special modulation of Morrison's voice". So they did special arrangements of Doors numbers.

Froese himself was primarily influenced by Xenakis and Stockhausen. In fact with most German groups, the influence of Stockhausen's Electronic Music Studio is enormous, lurking in the background in the way that Chuck Berry and Elvis do here. This accounts for the great difference between British and German rock.

So in 1971 the band began rehearsals with purely electronic instruments, and gave their first performance in the spring of 1972 to a surprised world who, generally speaking, didn't like it.

Chris: "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 my style of drumming from beat drumming to other colours and structures."

He even tried to make electric drums using special mikes but there are certain clearly defined borders which conventional instrumentation puts up and these couldn't be crossed.

On a synthesizer these borders do not exist.

Edgar: "Our first idea after we got all the electronics was to find out the sounds that have normally not been heard before..."

They didn't change to electronics for a gimmick; it was just that the sounds they' wanted were only possible by electronic means. And of course, in changing the instruments they totally changed the experience of listening. To get too hung up on the fact that their instruments look like the Star Trek bridge is to miss the point.

WHICH BRINGS us up to now. At this point the Tangs are trying to get people to forget about their earlier albums, like most other groups.

Just to be difficult I'll remind you of them: The first "Electronic Mediation", was rehased in 1970 but Edgar is the only surviving member of that line-up. It was never issued here. The second "Alpha Centauri", came out in 1971. By now Christopber Franke had joined Edgar but it wasn't until "Zeit" in 1972 that Peter Baumann joined them to complete the present lire-up.

"Zeit" a double album, was not released here either. "Atem" came out here in 1973 on Polydor — but it's not until their two Virgin albums "Rubycon" and Phaedra" arrive that the group are prepared to acknowledge their offspring. This is partly because they don't make any money from the four German albums (the result of a long 'and involved court action with Ohr-Musik) and also because, wait for it, the music on those albums no longer represents what they are doing. They would rather people picked up on the present state of their art. And it is pretty advanced:

Franke: "We are always looking to mix different styles of music but not just in the way that we put it together. We want to find a development to create music which flows from one style into another.

"Our big aim is to go from something like the piano beginning of the second side of 'Ricochet' into a totally abstract thing which may best be described as avant garde music. To go through different rooms of music with a long tube, maybe different rooms of music, one after the other, with different lightning, with different music, with different moods so the result is that all the thoughts in your head are always changed. "You don't have just one idea which you have with only one style of music. For instance, classical music is often very romantic and so you have romantic ideas. I talked with someone at one one of our concerts and he said that he nearly began to cry in some parts 'because it's so beautiful', but maybe twenty minutes later he had very strong thoughts about war, you know? A result of that sound!

"Sometimes the atmosphere and feedback from the audience is so strong that from the first note, the very first seconds, you know that the people are getting into what-you are doin'".

And of course sometimes they don't. This is why Tangerine Dream search for the most appropriate places to play, somewhere where it will be easy for the audience to give their full attention, where they will be comfortable and where the concert will be a special event. They have played in a Planetarium with the audience watching a starsow, they have done a number oi cathedrals because of the fine acoustics over here they've played Coventry, Liverpool and York Cathedrals. Chris Franke has found a cave in France which he thinks will make a perfect venue for the Tangs. It is dry, the acoustics are fantastic and it has power laid on; it is larger than a cathedral and is filled with stalactites and stalagmites.

"The moment I saw it I heard our music" he says. "But of course it is out in the middle of the countryside so . . .

The fact that every concert is different that they improvise the whole time instead of playing regular numbers, disturbs some people. Tangerine Dream feel that this is the only possible way for them to play. "It is composed in the moment; it happens live. That is my definition of the thing we are doing. Other people take a theme, and they improvise. The same with the earlier organ music.

"What we did sometimes was totally free improvisations which is a really great experience.

They use it sometimes for psychotherapy! You can really get into yourself — and it's much more intense if you improvise with a group than if you do it myself a lot. But if you play a long time with a group you know very well, you know what to expect.

"But if you have improvised a special thing, sometimes you try to come to that point again and again - and you get it into your brain. You build up things very carefully and slowly and people can follow everything you do. Sometimes when you hear music it's impossible to understand all the things at one time, you can only concentrate on the melody or on the solo part. But we like to make a totally transparent music with independent voices.

"By voices I mean instruments. We want many different voices but our music should blend together to become One, with all the parts having equal emphasis.

"In the end you have just two things, frequency and loudness. These two things are music because all other things are a conjunction. Any melody is different frequencies and the sound of the note is a mixture of frequency and loudness.

"When you play a violin tone A, it's a sound of different pitches in different amplitudes or loudnesses and so you get different sound colours. You can make diagrams of every instrument and you will see the same overtones but different overtone-loudness-amplitudes. The same applies to the time for the attack and the decay. In the end, you come to an analysis of sound, a science of sound.

"The interesting thing is that when you think about 'What issound?' in physics, soon you will have to go over to psychology”

"Now" … The psychology of sound is very interesting. If you can create nearly every sound possible then what would you like to do with that sound? What would you like to create? You can create everything! Is it dangerous maybe?

"Why are major sounds, for example, more funny than minor? There are thousands and thousands of questions which come to you through the electronics. I try to speak with different people about them. I like to speak with everyone workingin the field, to exchange experiences.

"It is very important."

New Musical Express, November 29, 1975, pages 13+47.

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