Synthesizing

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Tangerine Dream’s Chris Franke, 1973.

Following yesterday’s post, more synth-mania with an emphasis on the Analogue Seventies. YouTube is laden with this stuff but the best things often take some searching out.

Tangerine Dream, Paris, 1973
This is one I’d not seen before, Tangerine Dream when they were still in their Krautrock phase prior to signing to Virgin. The music sounds like outtakes from the Atem album, and as usual with these films it’s great to see what instruments are being used.

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Tangerine Dream at Coventry Cathedral, 1975
Baumann, Franke and Froese again performing one of their cathedral concerts. Tony Palmer directed this but the sound was lost so the 27-minute film has edits of the Ricochet album as the soundtrack. (See Voices in the Net.) Ricochet was compiled from live recordings from the same period so it’s not so inappropriate.

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Klaus Schulze, 1977
Klaus Schulze played drums on the first Tangerine Dream album, Electronic Meditation (1970), but was never an official member of the group. This lengthy improvisation is typical of the swathes of beatless music he was producing for much of the 1970s.

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Laurie Spiegel, 1977
Laurie Spiegel demonstrates one of the earliest digital synthesizers. Spiegel’s 1980 album, The Expanding Universe, was reissued in 2012, and is well worth seeking out. There’s more rare analogue and digital synthesis on her YouTube channel.

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Vangelis, 1978
Vangelis in the studio recording the China (1979) album. If you can overlook the Chinoiserie clichés there’s some very good music on this release, some of which looks forward to the Blade Runner soundtrack.

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3-2-1 Contact, 1980
A great little film with Suzanne Ciani demonstrating synthesizers for a show on the Children’s Television Workshop. Featuring an oscilloscope and a Prophet 5.

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The Original New Timbral Orchestra
Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff made their name as Tonto’s Expanding Head Band, “Tonto” being Cecil’s custom-built TONTO (The Original and New Timbral Orchestra) synthesizer. Cecil shows off his analogue gear in this short film.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Tangerine Dream in Poland
Electronic Music Review
Tonto’s expanding frog men
A Clockwork Orange: The Complete Original Score
White Noise: Electric Storms, Radiophonics and the Delian Mode

Tonto’s expanding frog men

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I wasn’t going to write about album cover art three times in a row but things keep catching my attention this week. Anyone interested in the history of electronic music knows the name Tonto’s Expanding Head Band, the duo formed by Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff to create music with Cecil’s huge, custom-built TONTO (The Original and New Timbral Orchestra) synthesizer. Cecil and Margouleff recorded two albums together: Zero Time (1971) and It’s About Time (1974), the latter credited to Tonto only. Zero Time was incredibly advanced for 1971, not classical adaptations like those being produced by Wendy Carlos and her many imitators, but all-original pieces created polyphonically, a feat that only the TONTO synth could easily achieve.

Given how successful the album is musically I’ve always thought it a shame that the sleeve art, inside and out, was the kind of amateurish “psychedelic” doodling that you find on many albums of this period. The design above was for a 1975 reissue, something I’d not seen before. The artist was illustrator Jeffrey Schrier who has a small, and no doubt incomplete, listing at Discogs with nothing similar to this in evidence. At a guess I’d say the evolving frog men are derived from the lyrics of Riversong, a meandering piece with singing processed via early vocoder-style technology, something that Wendy Carlos was also experimenting with. It’s not all hippy ambience: Jetsex sounds like an outtake from Kraftwerk’s Autobahn (albeit three years early) while Timewhys wouldn’t have been out-of-place on The Human League’s Travelogue album almost a decade later. Easy to see why Stevie Wonder and others were eager to work with Malcolm Cecil throughout the 1970s.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The album covers archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
A Clockwork Orange: The Complete Original Score