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Concert Review

Article from Electronics & Music Maker, June 1983

Klaus Schulze & Rainer Bloss, Tim Souster

Klaus Schulze/Rainer Bloss

Coventry Cathedral
26th April 1983

The first UK tour for Klaus Schulze, taking in two London dates in addition to Manchester and the climatic cathedral gig, has been universally voted a success. Several important changes have taken place since last year's appearance at The Venue, and concert promotion, album retailing and tour organisation all seem to have come together at the same time to give a bright outlook for UK fans of this seminal electronic composer. The single album version of his latest release, Audentity, is selling well via the Illuminated label in the UK, and Schulze promises to return next year or even later this year.

After Audentity was recorded in Klaus' own studio a complete change of instrumentation took place, just as he was setting off with Rainer Bloss on a massive tour. This didn't present any problems, as it was partially possible to work with the new equipment on the road. "Having done nearly sixty concerts with another sixty to go, I feel the response from the people has been absolutely positive from everywhere, even now from Scandinavia. The new wave electropop bands have opened up the minds of the listeners to synthesised computer music. I'm still using computers, but not the GDS any more; I've had a Fairlight specially modified and also play one of the Minimoogs through a TC Electronics fuzz pedal. It has a great 'guitar solo' sound, because I'm doing more rock music now.

Rainer Bloss uses the GDS and the Wave 2 on stage now — I stopped using the GDS because it's too slow to change sounds on stage, and because it can't store real sounds. In the Fairlight I have samples of real strings, real voices and some other incredible sounds. The GDS is 16-bit and the Fairlight is 8 bit, but I've installed a new Texas instruments device to read programmes faster and I've had 8 dbx noise gates built in so that it's absolutely silent. I've got a pre-release computer programme for the Fairlight which I collected in Australia when I was organising IC Down Under, the branch there of my record label. I visited Fairlight in Sidney and they gave me the programme, which makes a lot of new facilities accessible and really makes it the best instrument in the world.

What fascinates me now is real sounds — I have a Stanley Clarke bass, choral sounds with breath in the sound, an entire orchestra sample on a single key, and I had the programmer over for four days to help me sample choirs, assign the sounds (male and female) to different parts of the keyboard and soon. On the GDS I needed all 32 voices to make a monophonic cello sound — on the Fairlight I can have real polyphonic strings, I can do key splits for 6 or 7 different voices, for strings and choirs and electronic sounds at the same time, and I have a slave keyboard for other sounds. I have ten performance programmes located on the two keyboards, so I can easily play for one hour without changing programmes."

The concerts only included one piece from Audentity, the lengthy Spielglocken with the melody from Cellistica superimposed on it. Other pieces used a heavier rock rhythm based on patterns from the Simmons drum modules; Schulze hadn't taken these along, but had transferred their sounds to the rhythm page R of the Fairlight. "Normally if you have the rhythm page with eight notes going you couldn't play the keyboard any more, so now I treat it as a separate unit. You can't see which rhythm notes are playing any more but it leaves eight voices free on both keyboards. I haven't been using the Music Composition Language yet; I don't know it, because I got the Fairlight two weeks before going on tour, and it's not so important for live concerts, but the programmer's convinced me that it is the best aspect of the instrument."

Schulze has now stopped using his modular system on stage, although he's kept it (along with his old Mellotron and other instruments) in his studio. His stage setup has been cut down to Fairlight, two Minimoogs and a Yamaha CS80. "The keyboard velocity sensitivity on the CS80 is incredible. You can really dig your fingers into it, and although you can programme this velocity sensitivity into the computers, you can only put it to maximum. Here you feel as if you press the sound out of the keyboard. I had a look in the radio studio in Stockholm at the Synclavier, trying to use it for strings and bells, but I don't like it at all. We ended up only using the bell sounds. Like the GDS it's only got a mono output which is stupid, because it's got a 16-track recorder. The Fairlight has eight outputs, sync out for other instruments, eight analogue triggers for light shows and so on — I could play the light show from the keyboard if I used the interface."

Schulze's music continues to become heavily rhythmic, a fact which has put off many fans of the Moon-dawn style of 'floating music'. "I have to change all the time, and meeting Mike Shrieve taught me so much about rhythm and the basic feeling of rhythm. I feel I need it now, although we did a piece on Audentity — the fourth side, Sebastian im Traum — without any rhythms, and the middle section of side two, Amourage, also has no rhythms. People in Germany and France have been saying it's the best thing I've done for three or four years, but I don't know why; I love Digit very much, I think Death of an Analogue is one of the best compositions I've done. I've done a lot of film soundtracks, for 'Tango', 'Walking the Edge' and so on, and for an American opera, and some ballet music. A lot of this is 'floating music' and I hope to release an album of some of it later."

This album will only be one of many projects which Klaus has planned after the end of the current tour. "We don't make money on tours because it's so expensive for the trucks and the road crews over such long distances. It's really promotion for the albums, but I love to be on stage and to play live and have contact with the audience. One of the best things for an artist is to have a live confrontation with the people, and it's also nice because it's a different story from working in a studio; you can examine and experiment, and it gives you a feeling of pure power. That's the reason why I'll never stop playing live; it's the sort of thing we're made for, it's part of my programme."

Schulze certainly showed his love of powerful live work at the opening Lewisham concert, playing 'Spielglocken' followed by two heavier sets using his fuzzed Minimoog sound. Also heavily featured was the astonishing Orchestra 5 preset on the Fairlight, a massive symphonic chord picked out on a single key which left members of the audience gasping through a combination of sheer volume and surprise value.

The distinctive sound was used a little more sparingly in the more ethereal setting of Coventry Cathedral, which provided a massive mural backdrop behind the musicians and an even more impressive spotlighted cut-glass backing for the audience. The repeated arpeggios of Cellistica were played by Rainer Bloss on the Wave 2, and for more rock-oriented opening pieces and delicate passages he used a Yamaha Electric Grand. The GDS keyboard stood to the right of the stage, its pale blue monitor contrasting with the sharper green of the Fairlight display. As Schulze brought up each wavetable the audience learned to brace itself before a particularly violent sound, but the sharp edges were taken off the performance by the huge reverberant space of the cathedral. Sound engineer Tommy Betzler (latterly the drummer and leader of IC band P'Cock) explained that, although very large bass horns were in use, the PA crew really needed twice the amount of equipment available to produce a respectable sound in such a challenging venue.

The second piece used Simmons patterns, repetitive sequencers and screaming fuzzed Minimoog, together with Fairlight strings and GDS cello and synth effects. Rainer Bloss remained fairly calm throughout, but Schulze as usual rocked and swayed back and fore over the Minimoogs during the solo passages.

After a lengthy pause the duo returned to play Ludwig II Von Bayern, from 'X', a simplified version using sampled string sounds and with new sections inserted. These largely consisted of Fairlight passages using enormously slowed voices and acoustic sounds, which added a new dimension to Schulze's live performances and well justified his change of instrumentation.

A gentle close was followed by a lengthy standing ovation and the eventual return of the duo after some impatient members of the audience had already left. The final improvised piece used slow string chords and a gently pulsing beat reminiscent of very much earlier work, and showed the touch-sensitivity and abstract sound capabilities of the CS80 to the full. A brief reference to the Audentity theme of the opening pieces closed the concert, and a very tired duo returned backstage to sign a few autographs.

Concert promoter Peter Brightman must be well pleased with a very favourably-received tour, and if in conjunction with Schulze and UK manager Peter Chailcroft he can organise a repeat performance in the not-too-distant future, British electronic music fans will be well served too. Schulze is still breaking musical boundaries, even discussing a 'heavy metal electronics' piece based on the new powerful sounds of the fuzzed Minimoog and Fairlight samples. It's good to see that there's no sense of complacency or stagnation at the top of the synthesiser music field.

Electronic Music Now

London Roundhouse
27 February 1983

Presented by Tim Souster as part of this year's Arts Council sponsored Contemporary Music Network tour, EMN sought to give a round-up of techniques used in classical avant-garde music in the present day.

To musicians used to the high-technology world of rock and pop, many of these techniques seemed sadly outdated, and the unspontaneous nature of the event — relying as it did largely on taped pieces — put something of a damper on the evening. However, Tim Souster proved a genial host, and began by introducing trumpeter John Wallace to play Roger Smalley's 'Echo 3'. Relying as it does on a tape feedback loop between two Revox B77's, the piece broke no new ground, but created some quite interesting echoed arpeggio and abstract sounds. The high-quality, low-volume PA system performed well throughout the evening, particularly coming into its own on the quadrophonic tape pieces.

Alejandro Vinao's 'Go' was one such, based on a ten-chord chorale of voices all repeating the single word of the title, plus percussion instruments. Movement within individual sounds and voices was reflected by stereo shifting across the auditorium and by dramatic glissandi both up and down. The piece was produced at London's City University Electroacoustic Music Studio.

Denis Smalley's 'Vortex', again on tape, was at least a little more technically sophisticated with Synclavier, digital harmoniser and vocoder as sound sources. The title refers to the whirring sound objects and textures which pursue each other (and also sometimes themselves) throughout the piece — stunning in quad!

Michael McNabb's 'Dreamsong' was a little more minimal, again using computer techniques but with a subtle treatment and transformation of natural sound. The final transformation slowly swept a large auditorium's crowd noise into a recording of Dylan Thomas' sonorous reading voice.

Jonathan Harvey's 'Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco' placed the listener within the great tenor bell of Winchester Cathedral, with pitch and time structure based on the bell's irregular harmonic spectrum and a choirboy's voice floating within the quad image. The piece was recorded using computer techniques at IRCAM in Paris.

Lastly, Tim Souster's own 'The Transistor Radio of St Narcissus'. Conceived as 'a journey down through the layers of a sound spectrum' from harsh distortion to constant harmony and regular rhythm, it used tape, flugelhorn, and a very small degree of live electronics provided by a Serge Modular System triggered by the flugelhorn.

The piece revealed great subtleties of sound manipulation, but the MC4-generated sequenced closing piece set the lack of dynamism of the previous pieces into perspective. The music played on the tour was impressive enough in its own way, but did not go very far towards examining the full and live potential of Electronic Music Now.

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Publisher: Electronics & Music Maker - Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.

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Electronics & Music Maker - Jun 1983

Music Review by Mark Jenkins

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