Remembering Klaus Schulze
My Podcast: The Holmes Archive of Electronic Music
We recently lost Klaus Schulze, age 74. He was a pioneering and prolific composer of electronic music, an influence on the Berlin school out of which Tangerine Dream emerged, but much more than that. Over the years, his sonic vision encompassed expansive works of mesmerizing electronic tapestries. His music was an immersive experience, woven together by hypnotic rhythms, audacious orchestral passages, and solos. He collaborated with many artists, from his early days with Tangerine Dream and Ash Ra Tempel to collaborations with Rainer Bloss, vocalist Lisa Grrard, Pete Namlook, Bill Laswell and a group that he called Richard Wahnfried. All told, and often depending on what you count, he released 55 solo albums over a fifty-year career. In 2000, he released a retrospective CD collection of 50 albums called The Ultimate Edition with many bonus tracks included. Yet he was not slowing down at all, always finding new electronic tools with which to express his musical vision. There were also dozens of soundtracks and collaborations. For instance, he has been producing music with vocalist Lisa Gerrard from 2008 to the present, resulting in six releases and he was planning on yet another at the time of his death. With Pete Namlook, he collaborated on The Dark Side of the Moog, eleven albums spanning 1994 to 2008, inspired by themes from Pink Floyd. Namlook passed in 2012.
I once asked Klaus about the influence of Karlheinz Stockhausen on his work. This seemed only natural, given the spacier components of both of their musics. But Schulze took great offense to this suggestion, saying he had never really heard Stockhausen’s music. His answer also informed me about what he felt about his own works. To Schulze, his music was fashioned with his own tools in his own studio using a composition process that was as immersive as his performances. It was his own “special kind of music.” Back in 2007, I reached out to Klaus Schulze to ask him a few more questions about his music. So it was that I contacted him through his longtime friend and manager Klaus D. Mueller.
The result was not exactly what I expected.
Schulze spoke about his special kind of music and his journey through whatever new technologies were available over the years. At the beginning, without a synthesizer, he created synthesizer-like sounds using “an old electric organ, old guitar amps and speakers. He fumbled with those until he got a "strange" sound out of them, but regularly the tools died an early death.” His first synth was the EMS Synthi A, a small portable device that he was still using to make electronic backdrops and atmospheric effects. He went through stages of using the Moog Modular Synthesizer, which he acquired from Florian Fricke of Popul Vuh in 1976, plus several analog synthesizers from ARP. By the late 1970s, Schulze was using a huge assortment of electronic equipment, much of which has been documented in his albums from the time. See the podcast notes for details. These analog synths were notorious for going in and out of tune depending on the room temperature. He told me that he enjoyed setting up for inside concerts ahead of time so that his equipment to adjust to the ambient temperature, making his performances more predictable for him. Otherwise, he just listened closely and went with the flow.
The coming of digital instruments in the 1980s eliminated the tuning issues and he was widely known to experiment with many instruments. About this he told me, “I try to use always the "best" tools. Which does not automatically mean that I only use the most expensive (or newest) things on the market, but I use what helps me the most, I use what my music requires the most.” Again, there is that notion of using what his music required. For example, he still valued the sounds made by the Minimoog and the EMS Synthi A even though there were many versatile digital instruments also available to him. He clearly was a technology geek and admitted as much.
“I'm a musician, not a technician,” he told me. “I rarely think much about "technology" - I just use it. Have I told you that I NEVER read the operating manuals? Not in 1975 and not today.”
So, as we listen to some selections from the Archives of Schulze’s music, let’s think about the musician and not the technician. For this podcast, I thought I would feature a number of works spanning Schulze’s first decade, his analog decade. I think you will agree that he made music quite unlike all others and which was later imitated by many.
Remembering Klaus Schulze
1. Klaus Schulze, “Synphära” from Cyborg (1973 Kosmische Musik). Recorded at Klaus Schulze Studio. Cello, Contrabass, Flute, Violin, Cosmic Orchestra; Composer, Organ, EMS VCS3 Synthesizer, Vocals, Percussion, Klaus Schulze. 22:55
2. Klaus Schulze, “Some Velvet Phasing” from Blackdance (1974 Brain). Recorded at Delta Acoustic Studio, Berlin. Bass Vocals, Ernst Walter Siemon; Composer, mixer, producer, EMS VCS3, Synthesizer, Organ, Piano, Percussion, Trumpet, 12-String Acoustic Guitar, Orchestra, Klaus Schulze. 7:56
3. Klaus Schulze, “Totem” from Picture Music (1975 Brain). Recorded at Klaus Schulze-Studio, Berlin, 1973. EMS VCS3 Synthesizer; ARP Synthesizer Odyssey (Strings; Percussion on 'Totem'); ARP Synthesizer 2600 (Solo-Voice); Farfisa Professional Duo Organ; Drums, Percussion, Phaser, Echo-Dolby-Revox, Quadro Teak-Tape recorder, 16 channel-Barth-mixer. 23:02
4. Klaus Schulze, “Mindphaser” from Moondawn (1976 Brain). Recorded at Panne-Paulsen Studios. Composer, producer, “The Big Moog” synthesizer, ARP 2600, ARP Odyssey, EMS Synthi A, Farfisa Synthorchestra], Farfisa Professional organ, Crumar keyboard, Sequencer Synthanorma 3-12 sequencer, Klaus Schulze. This was the first album for which Schulze used a Moog Modular Synthesizer, which he had acquired from Florian Fricke of Popul Vuh. 25:05
5. Klaus Schulze, “Crystal Lake” (Xylotones, Chromwave, Willowdreams, Liquid Mirrors, Springdance, A Bientot)” from Mirage (1977 Brain). Recorded at Panne-Paulsen Studios. “An Electronic Winter Landscape. Dedicated to Hans Dieter Schulze.” Schulze provided detailed notes inside the album about his electronic music systems as well as the “PA system” for his live shows, which had become coveted events by this time. Here I’ve transcribed it for you. 29:06
ARP Odyssey, ARP 2600 + Sequencer, 2 Mini Moog, Micro Moog, Poly Moog, Moog CIIs (4 Units + 2 Sequencer) The Musical Universe, EMS Synthi A, Farfisa String Orchestra, Farfisa Synthorchestra, Farfisa Professional Duo Organ, 3 Crumar Keyboards, 2 PPG Synthi + Computer Sequencer, 12 Octave Filter Moog, Octave Filter Bank Ems, 2 Revox A77 Dolby + Speed Control For Echo, AKG Bx20 Reverb Unit, AKG Bx15 Reverb Unit, Compact “A” Phaser Specially Built By K. Schulte/Berlin.
Dynacord, 8 Bi00 Bass Cabinet 1 X 15 Gauss, 2 Bass Cabinet 2 X 15 J.B.L., 4 Di000 Cabinet 1 X 15 Gauss, 8 H60 Horn J.B.L./Gauss/Electro Voice, 56 Pt7 Tweeter Piezzo, 2 Phase Linear 700 Amp, 2 Phase Linear 400 Amp, 2 Klerk Tennik 27 Bank Graphics, 1 Spectrum Analyser, AKG Microphone.
2 Bi00 as above 28 Pt7 As Above, 4 H60 As Above, 1 Phase Linear 700 Amp.
6. Klaus Schulze, “Frank Herbert” from "X" (1978 Brain). Recorded at Panne-Paulsen Studios. Moog Modular Synthesizer, PPG Synthesizer, Minimoog, ARP Odyssey, Korg Polyphonic, Polymoog, EMS Synthi A, Mellotron, Sequencer, Drums, Revox Echo, AKG Bx 20 Hall, Dynacord Speakers, Composed, Arranged, Recorded, Mixed, liner notes, and produced, Klaus Schulze; Drums, Harald Großkopf. “"This work is dedicated to my oh so dear synthesizers. Klaus Schulze.” "X." was recorded from January to summer 1978 in Frankfurt. 10:42
7. Klaus Schulze, “Dune” from Dune (1979 Brain). Produced, keyboards and synthesizers, text and music, Klaus Schulze; Cello, Wolfgang Tiepold; vocal, Shadows of Ignorance, Arthur Brown. The cover photograph was taken by Schulze, is a snapshot taken during a scene of the Soviet science fiction film Solaris. 30:05
8. Opening background music: Klaus Schulze, from Irrlicht: Quadrophonische Symphonie Für Orchester Und E-Maschinen (1972 Ohr).
Opening and closing sequences voiced by Anne Benkovitz.
Additional opening, closing, and other incidental music by Thom Holmes.