This LP is dedicated to Richard Wagner

Composer Klaus Schulze has said 'I still love my Richard Wagner, who influenced me heavily. The way Wagner’s music introduced me to the use of dynamics, subtlety, drama, and the possible magnitudes of music in general remains unparalleled to me. There can’t be any doubt about it'. Schulze's 1975 release Timewind seen above* carries the message 'This LP is dedicated to Richard Wagner', and the two tracks of truly Wagnerian proportions on the original vinyl release were titled Bayreuth Return and Wahnfried. So why doesn't the name Klaus Schulze mean anything to the vast majority of classical listeners?

The answer is because Klaus Schulze, who also uses the the alias Richard Wahnfried, is a creative maverick who was a leading figure in the development of the kosmische musik known popularly as Krautrock, which he then morphed into the proto-ambient Berlin School of electronica, and is today best known as the Godfather of Techno and the Pope of Electronic Music. Schulze was briefly (1969-70) a member of the Krautrock band Tangerine Dream and a founder member of the legendary post-psychedelic Ash Ra Tempel (1970-71). After quitting Ash Ra Tempel Schulze's evolution as a solo artist was influenced by the pioneering electronic compositions of Morton Subotnick and the early minimalism of Steve Reich and Terry Riley

Klaus Schulze's first solo album Irrlich was released in 1972 and subtitled Quadrophonische Symphonie für Orchester und E-Maschinen (Quadraphonic Symphony for Orchestra and Electronic Machines). It was recorded with a modified electric organ and a heavily processed Colloquium Musica Orchestra, which was the house orchestra of the then hot-bed of student activism the Freie Universität Berlin. Klaus Schulze's fifth solo composition Timewind released in 1975, is his best-known album. This tribute to Wagner was, like Jean-Michel Jarre's legendary Oxygene, a essentially a home project created with early synthesizers, organ and keyboards recorded in two hours on a 2-track Revox. But don't let that put you off: the current CD transfer sounds magnificently post-Wagnerian even through low-res YouTube.

In his Timewind sleeve essay Klaus Schulze tells how he received a Grand Prix du Disque International from l'Académie Charles Cros in France in 1976, and how genres converged as Olivier Messiaen was a fellow recipient. This award compelled public libraries, universities and school in France to hold copies of Timewind, resulting in overnight orders for 25,000 copies. Schulze's follow-up album in 1976 Moondawn reached number two in the French charts, headed only by Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here. Since then Schulze has released more than sixty albums. 

Although inspired by Wagner, Timewind is, unlike J. Peter Schwalm's noteworthy Wagner Transformed, not an electronic reworking of Wagnerian themes. Rather it is new music that takes Wagner's apocalyptic vision to a new level using electronics. Wagner reappears in other Klaus Schulze albums; notably in Das Wagner Desaster (1994) inspired by the quarrel between Wagner and Friedrich Nietzsche. However, although openly acknowledging his debt to Wagner, Klaus Schulze is not a sycophant. When questionned in an interview about the influence of the master of Bayreuth, he responded 'I dig Wagner. But I also dig J.J. Cale'. 

This flippancy is one of Schulze's hallmarks. When asked why he never played live in America Schulze explained 'My friend kdm told me: Beethoven never played in America. Wagner never played in America. Schubert never played in America. Bach never played in America. Mozart never played in America... so, why should I?' And in an age when keeping the media onside is every musician's holy grail, the following exchange with a Romanian cultural commentator is a blast of fresh air:

Interviewer: 'Your last album has been released under SPV label and its division Synthetic Symphony. Please introduce Moonlake to the Romanian music lovers. If possible, drew a parallel with another Klaus Schulze release'.
Schulze: 'I will not do such thing. I compose, I play and I record music for listening, for the enjoyment of the listeners, but not for explaining. Then, I would have chosen the profession of a writer. Which I did not'.

It is a mistake to dismiss  Klaus Schulze's Timewind as just an amusing piece of Wagner-inspired trivia. A recent Guardian article titled 'Musician, heal thyself: how ambient music brought solace in 2020', which was conveniently overlooked by classical's cultural commentators, explained how during the pandemic 'airy (or airless) soundscapes spoke to the claustrophobia and drift of isolation'. The article's proposition that music can restore us in times of distress chimes with several recent Overgrown Path posts which suggested that during these dark times classical music should be something more than an aural Netflix. 

With ongoing social distancing restrictions effectively curtailing conventional ensemble performances and recordings, I have been engrossed recently by new solo electronic compositions created in their sophisticated home studios by Klaus Schulze disciples Robert Rich and Steve Roach. Robert's Offering to the Morning Fog is a subdued but transcendent meditation prompted by the first lockdown, while Steve's Tomorrow is a more sanguine look forward to a future when life, and art music, will return to a new normal. 

The distinguished physicist and explorer of quantum theory David Bohm proposed that the reality we see about us (the explicate order) is no more than the surface appearance of something far deeper (the implicate order)**. If classical music really wants to reach a wider audience it must look beyond perceived reality. Sorry, but for solace during the pandemic that wider audience did not turn to Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducting Weinberg, despite the considerable merit of her advocacy. Whether we like it or not, that wider audience turned to Julianna Barwick, Richard Norris, Kelly Lee Owens and other composer/musicians far off the classical radar. Even classical obsessives like me turned to Steve Roach's A Soul Ascends as well as the late Beethoven Quartets.

The new classical normal will undoubtedly be very different to the old normal, with the unwelcome disruptor of Covid making concert halls and traditional classical ensembles a threatened species. In recognition of this classical music must break through the electronic glass ceiling to reach a wider audience. Some readers will dislike or even hate Timewind and its progeny. So in conclusion, and remembering that when Wagner died he was working on his Buddhist opera Die Sieger, I offer a teaching of the 11th century Buddhist tantric master Padampa Sangye. My suggestion is that this teaching should be adopted as the mantra for classical music's new normal:

Approach all that you find repulsive! 
Anything you are attracted to. Let go of it! 
Visit cemeteries and other frightening places! 
Find the Buddha within yourself!

* The striking Daliaesque cover art for Timewind and other Klaus Schulze albums is the work of the Swiss surrealist painter Urs Amman.
** For an understanding of David Bohm's work see F. David Peat's biography Infinite Potential.

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