Tangerine Dream is a German electronic music group founded in 1967 by Edgar Froese. The band has undergone many personnel changes over the years, with Froese being the only continuous member. Drummer and composer Klaus Schulze was briefly a member of an early lineup, but the most stable version of the group, during their influential mid-1970s period, was as a keyboard trio with Froese, Christopher Franke, and Peter Baumann. Early in the 1980s, Johannes Schmoelling replaced Baumann, and this lineup, too, was stable and extremely productive.
Tangerine Dream’s early „Pink Years” albums had a pivotal role in the development of Krautrock. Their „Virgin Years” and later albums became a defining influence in the genre known as New Age music, although the band themselves disliked the term.
Although the group has released numerous studio and live recordings, a substantial number of their fans were introduced to Tangerine Dream by their film soundtracks, which total over sixty and includes Sorcerer, Thief, The Keep, Risky Business, Firestarter, Legend, Near Dark, and Miracle Mile.
Origins: Psychedelia and Krautrock
Edgar Froese arrived in West Berlin in the mid-1960s to study art. He worked as a sculptor and studied under Salvador Dalí, among others. His first band, the R&B-styled The Ones, was gradually dismantled after releasing only one single, and Froese turned to experimentation, playing minor gigs with a variety of musicians. Most of these gigs were in the famous Zodiak Free Arts Lab, although Froese’s band was also invited to play for his former teacher Dalí. Music was mixed with literature, painting, early forms of multimedia, and more. Only the most outlandish ideas attracted any attention, and Froese summed up this attitude with the phrase: „In the absurd often lies what is artistically possible”. As members of the group came and went, the direction of the music continued to be inspired by the Surrealists, and the group came to be called by the surreal-sounding name of Tangerine Dream (prior to this the group had sometimes gone under the title of The Tangerines Psychedlic Light Dreams or the Tangerine Dream band).
Froese was fascinated by technology and skilled in using it to create music. He built custom-made instruments and, wherever he went, collected sounds with tape recorders for use in constructing musical works later. His early work with tape loops and other repeating sounds was the obvious precursor to the emerging technology of the sequencer, which Tangerine Dream quickly adopted upon its arrival.
Throughout the 1980s Tangerine Dream composed scores for more than twenty films. This had been an interest of Froese’s since the late 1960s, when he scored an obscure Polish film. Many of the group’s soundtracks were composed at least partially of reworked material from the band’s studio albums or work that was in progress for upcoming albums; see, for example, the resemblance between the track „Igneous” on their soundtrack for Thief and the track „Thru Metamorphic Rocks” on their studio release Force Majeure. Their first exposure on U.S. television came when a track for the then in-progress album Le Parc was used as the theme for the television program Street Hawk. Some of the more famous soundtracks have been Sorcerer, The Keep, Risky Business, and Legend. At their best, the soundtracks have been as musically successful as the regular studio albums, and many fans discovered them through their film or television work.
Krautrock is a generic name for the experimental music scene that appeared in Germany in the late 1960s and gained popularity throughout the 1970s, especially in Britain. BBC DJ John Peel in particular is largely credited with spreading the reputation of krautrock outside of the German-speaking world.
Krautrock is an eclectic and often very original mix of Anglo-American post-psychedelic jamming and moody progressive rock mixed with ideas from contemporary experimental classical music (especially composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, with whom, for example, Irmin Schmidt and Holger Czukay of Can had previously studied) and from the new experimental directions that emerged in jazz during the 1960s and 1970’s (mainly the free jazz pieces by Ornette Coleman or Albert Ayler). Moving away from the patterns of song structure and melody of much rock music in America and Britain, some in the movement also drove the music to a more mechanical and electronic sound. The key component characterizing the groups gathered under the term is the synthesis of Anglo-American rock and roll rhythm and energy with a decided will to distance themselves from specifically American blues origins, but to draw on German or other sources instead. Jean-Hervé Peron of Faust says:
|“||We were trying to put aside everything we had heard in rock ‘n’ roll, the three-chord pattern, the lyrics. We had the urge of saying something completely different.||”|
Typical bands dubbed „krautrock” in the 1970s included Tangerine Dream, Faust, Can, Amon Düül II, Ash Ra Tempel and others associated with the celebrated Cologne-based producers and engineers Dieter Dierks and Conny Plank, such as Neu!, Kraftwerk and Cluster. Bands such as these were reacting against the need to develop a radically new musical aesthetic and cultural identity for the post-WWII. Many of these groups began their musical careers with little or no awareness of (or interest in) rock and roll; exposure to the increasingly radical and innovative music of, in addition to the Velvet Underground, the Silver Apples, Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix, or the Beatles, for example, led members of groups like Can or Kraftwerk to embrace popular music for the first time.
The signature sound of krautrock mixed rock music and „rock band” instrumentation (guitar, bass, drums) with electronic instrumentation and textures, often with what would now be described as an ambient music sensibility. A common rhythm featured in the music was a steady 4/4 beat, often called „motorik” in the Anglophone music press.
Force Majeure / Going West
Song Of The Whale
Tiger Tiger. burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye.
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?
And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat.
What dread hand? & what dread feet?
What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp.
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?
When the stars threw down their spears
And watered heaven with their tears:
Did he smile His work to see?
Did he who made the lamb make thee?
Tiger Tiger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?