Klaus Schulze - Dreams Into Action. An epitaph  

Klaus Schulze – Dreams Into Action

by blue22 (2022)
Auf Deutsch

Rachmaninoff once said, "Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music." With this in mind it seemed only right and proper to put together a fitting piece after a short respectful pause for contemplation following the passing of ‘our' dear musical friend, Mr. Klaus Schulze. Whilst pondering how best to approach the subject in the most appropriate and dignified of ways I restarted the writing process several times over to try and put the right spin on what it was I wished to convey…sadly without much success.

Now today I hear we have lost another luminary of the electronic music field, Evangelos Papathanassiou, (better known as Vangelis) – clearly 2022 is turning out to be somewhat of an awful time internationally for fans of the electronic music scene. So with new resolve I think it's high time I buckled down to concentrate on writing this piece, not simply as a memorial to Schulze, moreover as a celebration of his life long musical achievements and of the astounding back catalogue and musical legacy he leaves behind. Yes, he may now have gone to a better place in the physical sense, but forgotten he is not – his spirit, his music and influence lives on and will doubtless outlast us all!

So, we are here today to discuss the works and ethos of the one…the only, (maestro), Klaus Schulze. With so much of his time and energy poured into his work of the last five decades, he never really paused for anything resembling any great promotion of self image. Social prestige meant little if anything to the man and for that you can but admire him. Klaus said in more recent times, “The music is far more important than the person creating it", easily said, but I think you'll find he really meant it.

As a consumer and reviewer of Schulze's works for longer than I care to remember Klaus is indeed an enigma, both the man and the music really do seem to be an inseparable commodity. No doubt Klaus would argue that point, that it is for the music to do the talking and that he himself is nothing more than emblematic of the musical concept presented. Conversely one could argue that music with little or no lyrical content, no political leaning or obvious message for the wider world has very little to offer the listener other than some whimsical flight of fancy. So what is it that drew people into the musical world of Klaus Schulze attracting devotees from across the planet, some universal appeal maybe?

Well, sadly not...I have said before now that Klaus was the greatest musician the world never knew. Mention his name at a party or to a mixed crowd and the response may well be, “Klaus who???" He didn't exactly make a habit of recording catchy hummable three minute pop tunes. He didn't really enjoy playing the media game, (though he was only too aware and understood that it was a game that needed to be played every now and then). A very matter of fact individual, no unnecessary airs and graces, just a guy that sits on stage noodling about with a clutch of electronic keyboards and synthesizers making it up as he goes along in the hope something good will come of it! Described in this manner most any ‘outsider' could be instantly dismissive of Schulze, but pause for a moment and take a look at today's wider electronic musical world, all the indicators are there – DAWless jammers, DJ's, retro analogue gear junkies, ambient experimenters and those who pursue a career in that school we now know as Berlin…all, (and I mean ALL, weather they are aware of it or not) ape what Klaus was doing decades earlier. On this very day, as you read these words, the music, the works of one Mr Klaus Schulze are most certainly more relevant than ever they have been before. It is for that reason I feel his departure is indeed such a great loss, his sphere of influence has been immense.

It is understood that poor health finally put an end to his travels and live performances several years ago; something he missed greatly – to have that applause, immediate feedback and interaction with his audience whilst constantly battling that demon, ‘stage fright' right through to his final shows. His tours and recordings inspiring much more than a single generation of wannabe musicians to follow in his footsteps; indeed it could be said that a whole cottage industry of copycat artists and labels sporting a plethora of releases have sprung up in his wake. As can now be evidenced both on and off line in kind words of condolence from fans, friends and followers alike, it was Klaus that inadvertently lit the touch paper of inspiration with his free spirited musical approach. He showed us that composition need not be about a given message, time or place. It could be about tone and tonality; this aspect of his music playing no small part in the Klaus Schulze sound. Sometimes that factor alone steering lengthy pieces to their conclusion. Here was music that could simply exist at an otherworldly, ethereal level, (never cosmic so far as the composer was concerned) but music that exists only in entropic hints of light and shade. At times that shade could become very dark indeed, but only really used as a device to accent the light brought about through the use of his wonderful sequencing.

Over the years there does appear to have been a lot of misplaced fawning about how Schulze is described as the founding godfather of techno, ambient chill and a whole host of other banal sub genres…however, these are just labels people use to pigeon hole and categorise what it is Klaus did. None of them very accurate or appealing descriptions, some just concocted from a position of pure ignorance. Klaus never set out to be anything to anyone, remaining humble throughout his best efforts; an endearing quality that clearly won fans over from across the globe.

Moving onto the inevitable technical aspect of the tools Klaus used to perform his largely improvised brand of electronic entertainment – the synthesizer. The Schulzian standpoint would be that they really were merely a means to an end simply providing a much broader sonic palette of tones than could be gleaned from any other form of instrumentation available. Sure he liked letting rip with the old Minimoog every now and then, (even the guitar making the odd guest appearance) but at no point do I really get the impression that there was some great unrelenting love between him and any single piece of equipment that he could not do without – if something else came along that could do the job better, that is what he would use…and so began the steady equipment acquisition and growth of his production and studio facility. Throughout the various stages of his long career the technology continually moved forward with the developments and advances being made. Be it from the bygone days of taped experimentation to analogue machines; from analogue to digital, along with the advent of sampling in the eighties, current trends moving from hardware to software and back again Klaus never really developed a different form of modus operandi.

Of course there were brief excursions with collaborative works and some guy by the name of Wahnfried, but his solo works never really changed. To transpose certain musical ideas from recordings made in the seventies over to those made in the nineties or from the last ten years back to the eighties you'll most probably find the motifs and musical structures used interchangeable. His approach to album production always remained unchanged; the only aspect of his work that really varied was in the technology employed to get the job done, (and in that technology Klaus had invested heavily over the years). On that point of reference regarding the equipment used, it seems extraordinary that Schulze had stated in more recent times, "I cannot think of one ground-breaking innovation - and we're talking about a period of approximately fifty years." A sweeping statement, but to me that reads like a man who has bought in a great deal of new all singing, all dancing equipment that has failed to live up to expectation. Life's like that sometimes – the trick is to not always believe the manufacturers hype.

This lack of any real change in the Schulze method of music production and recording is the factor that sets him apart from so many of his contemporaries. He stated on several occasions that he always makes the same album, waiting for the right inspired mood to strike; no real planning or forethought other than a few prepared sequences and the bare bones of a creative idea. This was an approach that could at times lead to sonic nirvana and at others wind up riding down a path that could prove to be nothing more than downright annoying! I will say this – there is no great mystery about the way in which Klaus Schulze approached a piece; the musical narrative is generally quite small, (due in no small part to the way in which he chose to work). Unyet the breadth and scope of the man's work would appear much much greater! Quite often there is real musicality in his improvised style of play; this is not something that is taught in books or researched through academic study, it is something a musician must feel. To quote Miles Davis, "I don't play what's there; I play what's not there."

There's no denying it, what Klaus did starting back in the nineteen seventies is carve out a niche for himself, walking a solitary musical path of his own making. Generous to a fault with his collaborative works, but never really deviating from that original goal he was aiming for. As for following any notion towards commercial leanings…that subject, a complete non starter. One of the most remarkable things about the fifty years of music production we are left with is Klaus's innate ability to work with his instruments to sculpt the sound he wanted and when happy with it knowing exactly when the time was right to hit the record button and get the piece down, (more often than not) in a single take. To do that in this day and age with modern equipment is quite something, to have been doing it for half a century, remarkable! This is clearly an ability he had to an art form.

It is said, "the world has music for those who listen" and for those prepared to put aside their preconceptions of what music can and can't be, Schulze could offer a completely new musical experience, mirroring some of the album artworks of endless vistas, new horizons – a slice of real escapism, a style of musical imagery that forms only in the mind. It is through his capacity to do just that dear friends and listeners that his albums were produced setting him onto a path of musical fulfilment.

Perhaps now it's time I wound up this internal dialogue, maybe I have written a little too much and digressed even more so.

As has been said so many times in the last few weeks, the world of electronica greatly mourns the loss of such an innovative musical pioneer. Reading through the many letters of condolence both on and off line there's not much that I can add that hasn't already been said. True, musically Schulze is somewhat of an acquired taste, though paradoxically he finds himself copied by many, praised by few. Plagiarised countless times; though rarely bettered.

However, to the real fan who can happily engage in active listening there will only ever be good and great Schulze album's, albeit some stronger than others. He was a prolific artiste and a leading exponent of his art and craft. For me, Klaus was the real deal; he lived purely for his music and its creation - largely indifferent to popular trends and commercial concerns. An artiste whose real influence is yet to be fully realised and acknowledged by not only the public, but by the broader popular press and media alike.

I don't happen to believe that Klaus is best summed up by some heart felt passion to follow a rather tenuous musical career or by some or any one of the choices made along the way. Put quite simply, there never will be another Klaus Schulze, his recordings are a reflection of a time and place in our musical history that will not be repeated. I feel he is way better acknowledged as an individual who through the use of his artistic endeavour touched the lives and ears of so many. His influence and output was immense as is our gratitude for the music he leaves behind. In that sense his music transcends his death living on in the musical legacy he leaves behind.

Remember Mr. Schulze always dear fans and followers – need it be said; the distance between your dreams and reality is called action. All Klaus did was set his to music.