Tangerine Dream – Technological Vision

In 1988, Tangerine Dream’s Edgar Froese and Paul Haslinger were interviewed by Ted Greenwald. This interview appeared in the November 1988 issue of Keyboard (US) magazine. Please note that the (c) are with the magazine and the author. We derived the article from the original magazine, so please understand that some small scanning errors may still occur. Because the article only included two pictures, we’ve added some pictures from Tangerin Dream 80’s era. You’ll find the scans of the original article as an image gallery in the text. The Pdf is available as download at the bottom of this post.

If you create something ten years ago , and all of a sudden it becomes famous, it’s quite funny, really,” Edgar Froese states in his thick German accent. But Froese is not laughing. Rather, the visionary leader of Tangerine Dream is describing his frustration that the music he pioneered in the early days of synthesizers has become identified with the style known as new age. Paul Haslinger, a member of the group since 1985, concurs: “If any of Tangerine Dream’s music could be called ‘new age,’ it would be the albums between 1974 and 1977.”

Image above: The Dream lives on, as Tangerine Dream takes a break during tour rehearsals in Los Angeles. In foreground, Edgar Froese stands at Roland MKB-1000c ontroller,with left hand on Roland D-50; rack to his right indudes two Atari Mega 4s, two Atari keyboards, and a YamahaD X7IIFD Ralf Wadephals stands next to rack that includes (top to bottom) Yamaha TX816, Korg DVP-1, Akai S900, Roland MKS- 20, Roland M-160, Lexicon PCM-60, SRC Friend-Chip Cooper MSB+, and other units. Paul Haslinger relaxes before two Atari Mega 4s and Atari keyboards

In the 20 years that Froese has been using the name, Tangerine Dream has maintained a distinctive identity that, aside from its roots in late-’60s psychedelic rock, owes little to any other music in the world. Froese bristles when people miss that crucial point. “I understand it,” he sighs, “but I don’t like it.” “We don’t like to be styled,” Haslinger adds. “We like to freak out.” Though you might not know it from the spacious but tightly controlled sonorities of their latest album, Optical Race, freaking out was once T-Dream’s specialty. Their free-form psychedelic jams, coming at a time when electronic instruments had been the sole province of the avant-garde wing of academia, showed that such devices could be used in rock and not as gimmicks, either, but as the foundation of the sound. The band began as Froese’s vehicle for realizing in sound the tenets of surrealism espoused by his friend and mentor, painter Salvador Dali. Aiming to lay bare the bedrock of the imagination, Tangerine Dream cut loose the anchors of rock and roll-electric guitars, drums, and song structures-and headed for the uncharted horizon of synthesizer technology. During the latter years of the ’70s, when Jean Michel Jarre, Vangelis, Synergy, Kraftwerk, and the other rock-based synthesists were developing their craft, they were building on a foundation established by Tangerine Dream.

The group’s early music pushed the modular synthesizers and analog sequencers of the time to the limits of their live performance capabilities. In contrast to other synthesizer players of the era, Tangerine Dream understood the synthesizer not as a keyboard, but as a collection of devices for producing and controlling sounds. On such records as their classic commercial breakthrough Phaedra, envelope generators shaped not just individual note events, but entire phrases. Clock pulses drove sequenced rhythms and articulated improvised chords. Disregarding the structures of conventional musical thought and practice, the group created fluid landscapes in which pitches, timbres, and rhythms collided and melted into one another, washing over static harmonic centers that ebbed and flowed in tides of undifferentiated sound. Froese does not regard himself as a keyboard player (although Haslinger is a conservatory-trained pianist). The leader sees his lack of training as a balancing factor that makes for stronger music. “We have to understand what is needed artistically and what is there [in the music) just to make me think, ‘I’m a very good keyboardist.’ Fortunately, we’ve totally erased the ego-tripping aspect out of the band. Everybody can show what he can really do, but that shouldn’t be the main purpose.”

In contrast to many electronic ensembles, Tangerine Dream has al a been a performing band, and another aspect of their pioneer status consists in bringing technology primarily designed for the studio into concert halls, festi al grounds, and cathedrals. Their mastery of electronic music performance is documented on six live records, the latest of which, Livemiles, captures recent performances in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and West Berlin. At the same time, their studio output has been prolific, spanning 17 albums, not to mention Froese’s numerous solo efforts.

In recent years, Tangerine Dream has been most visible-or rather, audible-in movie theaters rather than concert halls. The group’s 1977 score for William Friedkin’s Sorcerer rocketed them into high demand as film composers, a field in which Froese’s original visual conception ofthe musicfound a direct application. Eleven feature-length movies later (including the hit Risky Business), Tangerine Dream is still a hot ticket in Hollywood, having caused considerable controversy when they were hired to replace veteran film composer Jerry Goldsmith’s soundtrack for Legend [see Keyboard, Jan. ’86]. Their latest score, for Steve de Jarnett’s Miracle Mile, hit the screens in August ’88. In March of this year, Christoph Franke, a member of Tangerine Dream for 17 years, left to pursue a career in hardware development. “He recently collaborated with WaveFrame in Denver, Colorado,”

Froese explains. “We felt obliged to remain in pure music.” Franke’s replacement is Ralf Wadephal, a Berliner whose playing caught Froese’s ear. “The Berlin keyboard scene is quite active,” Froese points out, “so finding him was easy. We are lucky that he worked on the same equipment that we do, and that he is on the same musical level that we are.” Having been with the group for such a short time, Wadephal appears on only one track of Optical Race. The new album is something of a reunion, since it was released on the Private Music label; Private Music president Peter Baumann played in the group between 1971 and 1977. Wadephal wasn’t able to join our conversation, which took place as the group prepared for a month-long North American tour. Froese and Haslinger, though, were on hand and brimming with perspectives on the state of technology, the state of music, and the intersection between them. Having helped to bring synthesizers out of the technological basement onto the stage and into the musical consciousness of the world, Tangerine Dream is now poised on the brink of MIDl’s next generation, champing at the bit to leap into the void.

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When tangerine dream began concertizing, the music was mostly improvised. That doesn’t appear to be the case any more.

Froese: Yes, that’s true, mostly because we’re working with the new technology. We began to reevaluate when to improvise, and if there is any need to improvise, when we found that you cannot just close your eyes, press a button, and pray for the right sound or sequence to come out. Working with the new technology means that you have to make programs and precom pose things. During our previous American tour [excerpts of which appear on side one of Livemiles] we worked with the Yamaha QX1 sequencer. On the other side, in West Berlin, we worked with Atari computers and the Steinberg Pro-24 sequencer program.

Haslinger: For a live performance, you have to put the music in some format, and the most secure format at the time of the American tour seemed to be the QX1. It’s a hardware unit, so you don’t have to worry much about it. The Berlin concert was the first time we went on stage with computers. It doesn’t really make a difference whether you use IBM, Mac, or Atari, but you have to make it secure. Now we dare to go onstage with computers.

On your current tour, each player has two Atari Mega STs. How are they being used?

Haslinger: Each of us has a computer for sequences and another for sound storage, and each computer has a 20-meg hard drive. Each of us supplies the basic tracks for certain parts of the show, and we all interact with these by playing other parts. Although we have sys-ex data on the sequencer tracks, we have still the option of changing sounds with the other com synchronizers. The sequencer will hold 999 measures, and within that there might be five or six pieces. So we don’t have to reload that often.

How much of the show is sequenced, and how much is live?  

Haslinger: About 70% is strictly composed, and the other 30% is improvised.

The photo on the album cover of Livemiles shows lots of diskettes sitting on top of your keyboards. Many bands would have somebody offstage loading those diskettes.

Froese: We run everything ourselves. We still remember one very early gig when we used early sync machineries. We had external sync control by somebody who did our patch and our sample changes, and it was just horrifying. We need to have the control. Even if we do not improvise like in the old days, we love to have changes, and we love to jump into whatever creative process without asking somebody else to give it so much attention.

On Livemiles, there’s clearly some live playing mixed in with the sequences, but it’s difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins.

Froese: We’ve got a philosophy about that: Everything that you can control with two hands-or better said, six hands-will be controlled with six hands. Beyond that, we obviously have to use sequencers.

Which sorts of things are sequenced, and which end up being performed with six hands?

Froese: As you know, you can do everything with a sequencer, but to have a live feel, to have the feel of skill playing music, if you are a musician, you have to prove yourself. You have to have the enjoyment of being on a stage and responding to the audience. Therefore, you won’t put too much preset information into the computer. So there is a wide range of possibilities left for us to interact. Sometimes the bass line is programmed, sometimes some noise stuff is programmed – specifically sounds, because it’s hard to load them into a sampling machine in such a way that you can be sure they will hit at the rightpoint. That’s the hardest thing of all: to get those sound changes without any accident. With the QX1 it was nearly okay – I would say that 90% of it worked pretty well.

Haslinger: There are three sequencer softwares which we use a lot and which are best for our needs. First, the Steinberg software, which comes with a lot of editors and librarians-you can manage your system pretty well just with that. For the Mac, it’s still Peformer [from Mark Of The Unicorn], and for the PC, it’s the Voyetra [Sequencer Plus] software. That doesn’t mean that other softwares are not interesting for us. It just means that we’re not that familiar with them. It’s a personal instrument thing. These softwares really give us the feeling of being at home. Especially Steinberg-they are one hour’s flight from Berlin. The guy who programmed the Pro- 24 is a personal friend of ours, and we meet nearly every month to discuss things. He will address our points in the program, and that’s a much more direct kind of contact than we have with Mac and PC programmers.

Froese: Obviously, the best would be to connect all three: the best of the Atari, the best of the I BM, and the best of the Mac. But as you may know, there are a few problems between the three of them, so we have to figure out what is the best facility for the stage, and we chose to go just with the Steinberg.

Is there something special that each computer offers?

Haslinger: Every machine and every program has its own advantages. We keep them all in the studio. If you’re writing a song, or sequencing, or making up sounds, you need different aspects. We like to have the choice, and through the MIDI language we have the choice to simply play it over [one computer recording another computer’s playback. With the MIDI file formats coming up, we will be able to exchange disks between Mac softwares, between Atari softwares, and between IBM softwares.

What instruments are you playing live?

Haslinger: For the master keyboard, everybody has his own preference. Edgar plays a Roland RD-1000, Ralf plays a Yamaha KX88, and I play an old Roland MKB-300. l’ve carried it with me around the world. It’s quite a funky instrument already, not good at all, but I like it. For sound devices, we use the Emax with the harddisk. It’s just so practical. We’re also using a couple of Akai S900s. Edgar and Ralf use the Roland S-550. Then we have the usual stuff, the TX816, the D-550 and D-110, and the Oberheim Matrix.

Edgar, you started as a guitarist rather than as a keyboard player.

Froese: I started as a very freaky blues guitarist. Then I changed in a more progressive way. The influence of Jimi Hendrix, obviously, brought me into that line. Then I forgot about playing the guitar for three or four years because Hendrix was just too much; I couldn’t stand it. Then I started playing again, and today I love to add that sound that people can associate with immediately. I love to control those feels just by plucking a string and doing those fingerworkings.

Although Tangerine Dream is primarily a keyboard band, you don’t make what would be called high-technique keyboard music. The music isn’t designed to take advantage of the layout of the keyboard per se. Do you consider yourself a keyboard player?

Froese: I do not consider myself as anything except a composer. I don’t want to be too philosophical about it, but I see everything as a life movie, and I try to express that life movie. It’s the day-to-day life, and all the good and bad experiences are running through my very subjective personal filter and being hit with reflective thoughts and all of that sort of thing. I’m a very normal person. The only exception is that I reflect everything through the filter of music.

Paul, are you trained as a pianist, primarily?

Haslinger: I studied at the Academy in Vienna and piano was my main instrument. In a sense, my first love is the piano. But since the time I joined Tangerine Dream, I feel more like a composer. I do find, though, that since I’m trained on the keyboard, it is the most expressive interface for me. For getting into rhythmic structures, I like to play drums because of the physical approach, which is, especially for someone coming out of Europe, difficult to get. Listening to Indian or African percussionists, something arises in me saying, “I want that,” and the way to 1pproach it is combined with playing it. but I find that it’s not possible for me to perform it perfectly, so the next step is to ;et up percussion and drum sound combinations on the master keyboard, so that I have a drum set on the keys. Whenever I go into rhythm, I start playing on drums rnd then go to the keyboard, because that’s really my instrument. In a way I’m playing keyboard, and in a way I’m playing drums. I don’t know how to call it – am I a keyboardist, or a drummer? I don’t know, but keys are the way I like to express myself. I made different drum setups on the keyboard, so I can play them exactly as I want. Every drum on Optical Race is played in that way.

Do you use classical piano fingering technique, or do you play the keys from the forearm or wrist while holding a finger stiff?

Haslinger: Both. Sometimes I have to ~et into playing from my body, or I don’t ~et the groove. But I do things with my fingers that frustrate every drummer. I play r_ollsu sing classical repeated-note technique. Sometimes things happen accidentally, too. I might try out the drum kit by playing a Chopin Prelude. People hear it, and they say, “How did you play that fill?”

Onstage, does each of you have specific kinds of tasks relating to musical structure, or do you each contribute freely with bass lines, melodies, accompaniments, drums, and so forth?

Haslinger: Sound-wise, the initial ideas for a piece come from one member. Most of the time, the one who does the initials for a song also does the basic structure for the live set, too. It runs on his machinery, and the basics come from his side. And, of course, we like to use the best side of each musical personality. In adjusting compositiQns for playing them live, we look for the best combination of predefinition, which – you are stuck with, and having as much influence as possible during the performance. In every case it’s different. Someti mes, just by adding a rhythm, you can make the whole thing feel dynamic. By adding a different harmony, you can shift it into a whole other atmosphere. By giving another melody on top, you can, for 95% of the people listening, make it another piece.

Froese: Now that we have the computer onstage, we can talk about it the evening before a concert and change the sound configuration.

Will these technological changes affect the kinds of music you create?

Froese: I would say-and I’m very sure about it-that music will have a new direction within the next five to six years. Ther~ will be two big categories: The traditional will be music as we know it, and then there will be a section that will be new music. That will be all kinds of music which will not be created by hand in the old-fashioned way, even if you use a piano or a guitar. It will be controlled by a [computerized] system between the sound and the process of playing. You will have a generating aspect between the process of composing and the acoustic signal getting out of the speaker. The two types of music will drift away from each other. Obviously, some people will say “The old music was the good music. I don’t understand the new music. I can’t relate to it.” I will be absolutely happy if the people who love the old music will be tolerant about the others, and the others will be tolerant about the people who just want to listen to the acoustic guitar and the acoustic piano, which is great.

Could you explain a bit more about the difference between the “old music” and the “new music”?

Froese: If it’s music that’s coming out of a speaker system, people will just say, “Okay that’s music.” But in fact, the way of composing music is different if you have a controlling system between what you play by pressing a key and what you hear coming out of the speaker. If you play an acoustic guitar, or even a fuzz-tone guitar through an amp, that’s a very direct process. But if there is a device between your idea and the speaker, it can change your idea 100%.

What you’ve been doing for a number of years is akin to that. Your setup, at least in the past, involved notes being articulated by a clock pulse rather than by your fingers, so that you chose the pitches with your fingers, but a machine selected the time they were to be played.

Froese: That’s one point, but talk to musicians who are using computers. If they are honest, they will tell you that the improvised part in creating new sounds or sequencer lines is very, very high. For example, you are looking for a good bass guitar sound, and you end up sometimes with a brilliant Indian flute. It’s because the way you search for a good sound brings you to a completely different field. All of a sudden, instead of hearing the bass line, which you have to play because you set it up with the drum part, you’re hearing the flute sound, and you say, “Hey, that might make a good melody line.” The chance of being creative and going in ijn opposite direction is very high. If you are open enough and not so distracted by it, it’s a nice idea.

When you’re working in the studio, do you compose a piece first and then find the sounds for it, or do the sounds inspire the piece?

Haslinger: It works both ways. When the D-50 came out, everybody was rushing to get one and get it in the studio. You would plug it in and play, and in the same moment you would have an idea. But of course it cannot always be like this, because there isn’t a D-50 every day. Did you share Chris Franke’s involvement with Waveframe? It seems that everyone is still waiting to see what their instrument will turn out to be.

Froese: We went through the Fairlight philosophy, the Synclavier philosophy, and so on. Those instruments are very good, no question about it. But for the music we work on and the philosophy we have about creating sounds, continuing to stay with one instrument for the next six or seven years … it’s much easier for us to change everything every couple of months.

Haslinger: You get dependent when you only use one system. For our needs the main aspect is not the technical framework, but the musical aspect-how usable it is. There are a few sounds on the Synclavier and the Fairlight that we are able to approximate in other systems. We take the main sounds and transfer them to the Emulator II or other samplers. Technofreaks will say that it’s not the same sound because of the resolution and so forth. But for us, music-wise, it makes sense.

Froese: We hate being told we have to spend several hundred thousand dollars’ on a piece of equipment just because it has a 16-bit sound and 32-channel recording and so on. I know the companies that make the systems spend a lot of money on research and a lot of money building them, and we respect that. They do a great job, but I think the future of music will be so different that it doesn’t make sense to stick with a single approach to technology. A company may build a great system with advanced features, but while you’re learning to use that very expensive machinery, its value has gone down to 20% of its original value. We bought several PPG WaveTerms a couple of years back for about $150,000 altogether’. Within a year and a half we sold them for $10,000, because they were unreliable and the company was going bankrupt. That’s a great deal of risk. I don’t advise anybody to do the same thing.

Haslinger: We are certainly following the WaveFrame project with great interest. The people working on it have a great reputation, and they’re hard workers. What I’ve found out so far is that the instrument has the same approach as all the 16-bit units coming out now. Everybody tries to get into 44.1 kHz and 16-bit. What they don’t understand is that it’s not enough having so much memory, having so many possibilities, and being able to put a D-50, a DX7, and two E-II sounds together in the sampler. That’s not the point. The point is, once you have the sound, you have to do something with it. I’ve played with the Wave Frame a couple of times, and what I heard is nice, but as soon as I wanted to add a bit of velocity or pitchbend information, or whatever, it’s not possible, you know? [Ed. Note: According to a spokesman for Waveframe, their Audioframe sampler has both pitch-bending and velocity control of amplitude, but currently no velocity control over filter cutoff.] It’s always the same thing. As soon as it gets down to making music, these genius technicians say “That’s your job.”

Froese: To be fair to WaveFrame, their machinery is brilliant. Butthose kids who want to create music today, whether they want to make a score, or a jingle, or to play in the garage next door, they should not forget that a composer, a real composer who has the music going on in his head, would not need a million-dollar equipment setup. He can buy a little homecomputer and a voice unit, and he can be much more effective than somebody else who needs a studio full of equipment. Haslinger: The people I admire the most are the ones who are sitting at home with just a Casio SK-11, let’s say, doing music that sounds so great that I’m ashamed. I know people who own a Synclavier just for the reputation, because they wouldn’t get any jobs if they didn’t. These are the two extremes, and the Casio guys really frustrate me, because they are doing such good music.

Froese: Kids of 15, 16, or 17 want to start making music because they love music, but they are led to think, “I have to become a big star, I have to have an agent, I have to have $100,000 to buy equipment.” I want to make the statement that you do not have to have all of that to become a very good musician and composer. If you really have something to say to the world, one day you will h9ve the chance. Maybe it takes a week, maybe it takes five years, but it will happen.

But you do tend to acquire just about every major new instrument that comes out.

Haslinger: We’re like little kids. Whenever a new piece comes in, we just grab it and eat it!

It can be overwhelming have to learn continually how to use new musical tools. Sometimes it seems that it might be even harder to be familiar with the technology and to have to keep re-learning things than it would be to start fresh and learn from scratch.

Froese: Sorry, but I can’t agree. If you know a bit about the general philosophy of electronics, the general ways of creating sounds, and what a tone really is, then if you want to create a new sound with the DX, you only have to know what a scaling curve is, how to set envelope rates, and so on. If you start really cold – if you love your acoustic piano and jump into a Mac or ST program – then you may get lost in the middle of a desert. I agree with you in the sense that once you realize whaha computer really is, that a computer is machinery for a composer and never creates anything for which it was not programmed, then you can take away everything you’ve ever heard, kick away all of those song-type cliches, and start from a new ground. Then you really can start from your own imaginations of sounds. But you have to learn what those machineries can do, and maybe even more important, what they can’t do.

Do you make it a point to keep up? Do you consider yourselves avid students of the technology, or do you simply absorb what you need to?

Froese: To be honest, we are absorbing new knowledge like babies. We have been doing it for 20 years. When we get a new piece of equipment or software, we listen very carefully and then we talk to the designer. It happens from time to time that you sit in front of a technical genius, a person who has his head full of incredible ideas, and you have to bring him back down to earth. You have to say, “Look, a musician has to be able to make use of this. How can we make a philosophy which helps both of us?” You have to have a dream in your head, and maybe it can never be fulfilled, but it has to be there.

Haslinger: What most people haven’t, yet understood is that computers and hightech equipment in music aren’t anything more than a new form of instrument. If you sit down at a piano, you don’t have to think about how it works. It is a very complicated process which goes from the key to the hammer to the string, but nobody cares. It’s just a piano. You can sit in front of a piano and practice for eight hours a day and it’s considered normal. If you sit down at a computer, everybody goes on about mathematics and all that, and nobody cares that it’s an instrument that has to be practiced. You have to sit down and say, “This is my instrument, and now I just play.” That’s what we try to do very often. On the one hand, we’re very interested in technical research; we’re working with a lot of technicians, giving them our input. On the other hand, we’ve tried to set up our studios in a way that the keyboard and other controls are at the center, and can be played in a very musical way.

How is your studio laid out?

Haslinger: We rebuilt it so that the keyboard is placed in the center. All the acoustics and speaker systems are set up in such a way that the spot where you sit and compose will be the ideal place. And we preprogrammed a lot, so you can just sit and push buttons. When we do music, we do pure music. The time where we check out software and work with technicians is separate.

The fact that several instruments in the studio are only four or five months old must detract from the process you’re describing. If you call up a sound that’s dose but not quite what you want, you’ re always tempted to stop playing and leaf through the manual.

Froese: That may be the most complicated point of all. We have the most up-todate technology in our studio sometimes for three weeks, sometimes for three years. But we do not have the time to read through every manual. Sometimes it takes weeks before you understand everything. Our solution is to have a few technicians who read all the manuals for what we call the “daily equipment” and give us the key points. When we find an instrument that we fall in love with, and which lets you change the software so that it remains useful for at least a few years, then we go through all the facilities the instrument offers and work everything out for ourselves. I think the crucial point for most musicians on electronic instruments is that they have to spend a lot of time going through paperwork just to figure out that the instrument is exactly the opposite of what they wanted.

After all these years, Tangerine Dream must have an enormous library of sampled sounds.

Haslinger: We have a lot of storage in the back yard. But sampling is just another word for recording. The important thing isn’t having the sounds, it’s the context in which you’re using them. With the 16-bit machines and the bigger storage capability, the time is not far off when we will have a junction of recording and instrument design. What we try to do already is1 when you sit there and play and compose, you have everything at hand-sounds, sequences, everything. You just need to store your ideas. Before long you’ll be able to go direct to digital with everything. That’s the idea behind the Synclavier, but that’s still the wrong approach. If you want to make a musical movement in this world, you have to come up with a concept like a DX7, not a Synclavier.

Do you do new samples yourselves, or do you rely on things that you have in your archives?

Haslinger: We have one technician who just works on samples. He comes up with sampling ideas; and we see what we can do with them. We need that a lot, because in film music work it’s so important to have new, original sounds. On the other hand, we do adapt factory samples. Companies spend a fortune on good samples. Why not make use of them? With our sound devices we try to modify the sound until it’s right.

How do you deal with the problem of organizing and accessing the sounds?

Froese: Just to name one instrument not in the way of putting it above everything else – when we started working with the Emax Rack, we immediately saw that we needed some software to help us make, perfect edits to the programs, and to work out the library. We worked very hard on that. Then we jumped around and started creating samples ourselves, and overlapping sampled sounds and digital sounds, and creating our own material. That can be done, I’d say, three times a year. Not more often, because we do not have the time to do it every month.

Haslinger: Thank God for the memory button I We always can press it whenever we find a good mixture of whatever instruments.

Froese: There are so many good drum sounds around, but unfortunately they’re all on different instruments, so you can’t dump them from one to the other. For some of our drum kit sounds, we use the Akai S900-for nothing else anymore. We use the Emax for some solo voices and some other sounds. All three of us have those instruments in our racks. Yet each of us has a personal way of looking at music. Someone may be more into the melodic area, another more in the rhythmic area, the third more in the harmonic area. So each of us has his very personal hardware setup where he feels familiar and comfortable.

How do these elements come together in the activity of composing?

Froese: We spent two years thinking very hard about how to do it, and we ended up talking over and over about the philosophy: What does it really mean to each of us to be a musician? Over the last year, we ended up just trading floppydisks, so that each of us can get familiar with the others’ ideas. We have no excuses- we put on things that maybe the other ones don’t like. In the end, we got together and figured out what one of us would do to the work another one has already done. This way, you see not just the pleasant side of the other person; you may see the side that can be very ugly, a side that you never thought of. Paul and I had worked together for two and a half years, and we thought we knew each other. We played the sequences for each other and said, “Oh, sorry, who did that?” I did not know that something like this could come out of Paul, and maybe the other way around. To say it very simply, in a band like this we have to surprise each other. If we just do the same thing over and over, we lose our vitality.

When you discussed your philosophies as musicians, what came out of those conversations?

Froese: One night a couple of weeks 1-go, we figured out that music, what you hear as music, is maybe just 10 or 20 percent. The rest is what you don’t hear. Call it atmosphere, aura, the invisibility of the sound-everybody should find his own explanation for it-but the tone you hear is just a small percentage of what the music really is. When you sit down to compose and you hear the complete orchestration in your head, is it there for a person who sits beside you, or is it not there? I would say it is, and what you have in your head is even more important than what is created later using the instrument. It’s a key point for our work at the moment to release more and more of that so-far unheard part of music, rather than just to create a new DX-whatever sound. It’s something that you hardly can explain in words. As soon as a tone is there, it’s gone, you know? How to grab it, how to keep it?

For an electronic group, Tangerine Dream is extraordinarily effective and experienced in a live situation. By this time; do you feel any limitations onstage, as opposed to in the studio?

Haslinger: Limitation is given by mind.

Froese: That’s true. And it’s becoming more and more true. The borders you think of are not actually there. There is no border as long as you do not start to think about borders. Every musician should think about that, as a general principle. The music world today could be much more different, and m·usicians could think abouttechnology much more differently, if they would not build for themselves these borders. There are musicians I’ve spoken to, famous artists, who love computer music-better said, music created using computers-but they hate to start working with those instruments. By that fact, during interviews they start talking in a completely different way. They say, “What bullshit. I don’t want to sit in front of a little screen during my creative process.” People should start understanding that computers are nothing more than little helpers. They are not geniuses. They are not the biggest thing on Earth. Absolutely not. They just help you to create things.

Haslinger: There are parallels in history. Every time a new instrument appears, there is first a period of exploring it. This was like when Tangerine Dream started, with the first synthesizers, the first steps into this new sound area. Now we’ve got to the second step, which is more about musical usage. It’s not so much, “All right, we’ve got to check that out.” It’s more like, “What are we going to do with it?”      

Tangerine dream: a selected discography/filmography


  • Alpha Centauri (1971), Jive Electro (dist. by Relativity);
  • Phaedra (1974), Virgin;
  • Rubycon (1975), Virgin;
  • Stratosfear (1976), Virgin;
  • Cyclone (1978), Virgin;
  • Force Majeure (1979), Virgin;
  • Tangram (1980),
  • Virgin; Exit (1981), Virgin;
  • White Eagle (1982), Virgin;
  • Hyperborea (1983), Virgin;
  • Le Pare (1984), Jive Electro;
  • Underwater Sunlight (1986), Jive Electro;
  • Tyger (1987), Jive Electro;
  • Livemiles (1988), Jive Electro (dist. by Caroline, 5 Crosby St., New York, NY 10013);
  • Optical Race (1988), Private Music (dist. by RCA).

Film Soundtracks

  • Sorcerer (1977), MCA/Virgin;
  • Thief (1980), Virgin;
  • Wavelength (1983), Varese Sarabande (13006 Saticoy St., North Hollywood, CA 91605); Risky Business (1983), Virgin;
  • Flashpoint (1984), EMI;
  • Firestarter (1984), MCA;
  • Heartbreakers (1985), Virgin;
  • Legend (1986), MCA;
  • Three O’Clock High (1987), Varese Sarabande;
  • Near Dark (1987), Varese Sarabande;
  • Shy People (1987), Varese Sarabande.

Edgar Froese Solo Albums (all on Virgin)

  • Aqua (1974),
  • Epsilon In Malaysian Pale (1975),
  • Macula Transfer (1976),
  • Ages (1978),
  • Stuntman (1979),
  • Pinnacles (1983)