Klaus Schulze: The Authorized Live Releases, Part 1: 1975-1977  

Klaus Schulze: The Authorized Live Releases, Part 1: 1975-1977

by David M. Cline (1998)

Despite a 24 year old dream to see KS live, I have never been to Europe and therefore I have never attended a KS concert. This personal lament has fueled a burning passion for his live releases. In this article I will examine his authorized solo live releases for the years 1975-1977. I will attempt to put these recordings in perspective of his ongoing career, as well as within the context of his concurrent studio releases. To save space when identifying the track location, I use the following abbreviations: SE for Silver Edition, HE for Historic Edition, JE for Jubilee Edition, and I list each sets' CD number after the # sign.

KS discussed his concerts in the August 1994 issue of Keyboard: "It always has a kind of a structure, by starting atmospheric and then becoming more melodic. It builds into a 45-minute piece. Then there is a break before the second piece, which starts totally different from the first piece, but with a similar ambience and usually a very furious ending, like a Mini-moog solo or drum solo. Finally, the encore can be very soft or rhythmic, depending on the mood of the audience. It's like the records, but more extended and lively because it's happening spontaneously." And commenting about his enjoyment of doing a live Mini-Moog solo: "I have never done that in the same way on a record because it's something I cannot do in the studio."

In preparing this article I questioned KS (through KDM) about the intent behind his live music. I learned that performing live began as a highly enjoyable part of his musical career that enabled him to play largely improvised compositions that were similar to his recent albums, or soon to be released albums. Initially, the live performances could not exactly reproduce what is heard on the albums, but this changed over the years. KS truly enjoyed the interaction with the audience but this was a byproduct of the experience. Live performances were not an intended proving ground for new compositions, or an experimental venue. Although many artists use live performance to develop new compositions or refine old ones, this was not an important focus of KS's live work.

From the onset, it is important to remember that fact that almost none of the official released live works were recorded for that purpose. Essentially it is by virtue of the echo-tape and other occurrences that we are so lucky to have historic documents of KS' live work. There were many tours that will probably never be represented by official live releases because they were simply not recorded in a suitable form for release.

The first solo concert represented in official released form is from the French Tour of April 1975. This tour occurred after recording on Timewind's Wahnfried 1883 had begun and was two months prior to the June 3, 1975 "live" bedroom recording of Bayreuth Return. The 25 minute track Fourneau Cosmique (HE #8), has a similar structure to Bayreuth Return, but the melody lines and sequencer patterns are different. In fact the echoed synth tones eleven minutes into the track create a rhythm whose effect is similar to the middle section of Mental Door from Picture Music.

The May 30, 1975 München Concert, (HE #3), was just four days prior to the recording of Bayreuth Return and makes for an interesting comparison to that historic title. Alles ist gut begins as a calm piece, the gentle pace set by the Syntanorma sequencer. By the eighth minute bell-like sounds signal alarm, but by the fourteenth minute, the calm atmosphere returns. Although the instrumentation and overall sound has changed much, the effect of this piece is not unlike the early organ works found on Historic Edition and Jubilee Edition, such as Tempus Fugit. Der Blaue Glauben includes nine minutes of pre-recorded drums, and this alone separates it from the sound on Timewind, yet there are similarities. In fact the sudden ending of this track is very similar to the ending of Bayreuth Return. Considering the thoughtful nature of the two main pieces from this concert, is no wonder that the encore, Well Roared, Lion! is stately and almost gothic in character. We are fortunate to have this whole beautiful concert represented here. While there are many future examples of intense and furious emotion in the live releases, these three pieces are much more peaceful than what we hear on Timewind. The ever reaching, and searching chords on Wahnfried 1883, the soaring synth lines and sequencer patterns on Bayreuth Return both reveal and provoke deep emotions, and set a pattern for future live and studio releases.

The next live track is La Vie Secrète, from the October 4, 1975 concert at Fürth, (SE #10). This title has generated controversy as to the dating, see The KS Circle #18. I will not add to the debate, but I will say that the abstract sounds we hear at the beginning are similar in tone to Velvet Voyage's beautiful start. It is no surprise to me that this is one of the more popular live tracks, ranking 15th overall in the most recent poll, see KS Circle #18, page 10. La Vie Secrète is well titled with its mysterious beginning and its hypnotic yet building theme. The use of the recurring bass sequence is also similar to the effect of the bass line in Velvet Voyage, adding to the dream-like state created by each. A grand piece and worth every minute.

Zeichen meines Lebens (HE #5), is the only other 1975 live track to be mentioned in the KS Circle polls, two votes in the first titles poll, KS Circle #4. The piece is taken from the October 24, 1975 concert at München, St. Ursula Church. This is a bright uplifting track, and is dominated by the sequencer patterns. The piece begins with the structure of a sequence rather than the more typical atmospheric beginning. The patterns become complex and several beautiful melody lines are heard in its thirty two minutes.

There are two other shorter tracks from the fall German tour of 1975, La présence d'ésprit (SE #9) and Die lebendige Spur (SE #3). La présence d'ésprit begins with abstract sounds for the first two minutes but then quickly begins with an engaging sequence that propels the listener on and on. With its wind effects, fast paced sequences, and flowing melody lines, this track makes for great music on the open road. Die lebendige Spur makes a good companion piece to La présence d'ésprit as this is another track that is more sequence dominated than either titles from Timewind. Again, plenty of wind effects, melody lines, and up tempo sequences bursting forth to create a feeling of unrestrained joyous travel. Although sequencers were used to grand effect on both Timewind and Moondawn, the combination of driving tempos and uplifting, even light melody lines would not become so prominent until the Body Love albums. The short length of both these tracks makes the likely possibility that they were encore pieces. Perhaps KS was simply reacting to the positive uplift of the crowds' enthusiastic cheers.

The last live recording before the release of Moondawn, is Shadow Piece (JE #14), which may or may not be live and the exact dating is not known. Shadow Piece has an ominous feel to it, very different to the sequencer/melody dominated tracks just discussed. This reminds me of Wahnfried 1883 in tone, although Shadow Piece remains more atmospheric and has less of the searching-reaching quality to it. Interestingly, at nine and one-half minutes into the piece, a few recognizable melodic chord changes poke through the dense atmospheric background, and preview the magnificent bass theme of Zeit Geist (which is similar in spirit to the searching chords of Mindphaser).

At the end of 1975 KS purchases the Big Moog. He records the historic Moondawn in early 1976 and participates in the recording of Go. In April he begins a concert tour of France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, just as Moondawn is released. With Moondawn KS proclaims "This recording opened another door I wanted to go through since years...the rock music. Now its done and I can go on... to open another door..." The use of drums and sequencer on the beautiful Floating is not a great departure from previous works, especially if you recall his use of pre-recorded drum tapes in concert. However, the style of drums in Mindphaser after the transition at 11:53 is much more in the rock tradition than ever before in KS' work. Also of note is the appearance of free-form keyboard soloing over the backing track, a feature that would appear heavily in his live works. From my listening to the live pieces that follow, I feel that KS' soloing style develops greatly during this next tour. KS favorite solo instrument in concert, the Mini-Moog, was not used on Moondawn and would appear later this year.

We have several pieces from the April-May tour to enjoy. All are similar and provide interesting contrasts. I Sing the Body Electric from the April 20 concert at Rouen (HE #2) demonstrates the form for next four available live tracks. An atmospheric beginning leads to Mindphaser like searching synth lines, then much keyboard soloing over various effects. Eventually, a sequence echos and buzzes into the listeners consciousness, with keyboard soloing on top, then this fades to leave searching synth lines to the calm end. Indeed, this is an expanded version of the elements of Mindphaser, without the drums or water effects, merged into Floating. Recall that while Floating features sequences, Mindphaser does not, however the solo key has repetitive lines that are similar to a sequence. The general form of I Sing the Body Electric would be repeated with much variation in content on Vie de rêve from the April 21 concert at Reims, (JE #8) as well as Andromeda Strain from the May 5, concert at Rotterdam, (HE #6), and the shorter Make Room, Make Room, concert location unknown, (HE #6). One of the interesting contrasts in these four live pieces is the accompaniment to the main sequence. For example, Vie de rêve and Make Room, Make Room feature abstract effects over the mid-track sequence, while I Sing the Body Electric and Andromeda Strain feature synth melody lines over the sequence. Through the glory of improvisation, all are different with only the basic structure and instrument use making them sound similar. One distinguishing feature of the available pieces from the April-May 1976 tour is a lengthy keyboard solo with little or no backing. Pieces from future tours would feature plenty of soloing, but those solos would be fully integrated into either sequencer of drum backing.

After KS performs with Stomu Yamashta's Go in London and Paris, and several months go by, KS performs with Harald Grosskopf at the Berlin Meta Musik Festival, October 5, 1976, and a Kunstkopf recording is made. This concert gives us the popular Sense, #4 in the 1996 KS Circle readers' poll and #5 in the 1997 poll (found on ...Live...). Beginning with the mellotron choir, tympani, and the wave/thunder sounds of Mindphaser, the track gets off to a grand start. This use of mellotron predates it's appearance on Body Love I, although work on that album may have began by the concert date. The choir sound fades shortly into the track and at 3:25 an echoed sequence floats in and out giving some balance to the beautiful abstract synth sounds during the first ten minutes. At 10:50 a new sequence begins, followed by Harald's drums, which begin like the similar section of Floating. By 13:40 the sequence changes and sounds similar to the early sequence of P.T.O. from Body Love I. In many respects, Sense is similar to P.T.O. which was completed shortly after the Berlin concert. Sense continues to develop with changes to the sequence, drum fills by Harald, imaginative keyboard solos, and an abstract ending. In Sense we have all the elements that make KS' music of the 70's great: mystery, intricacy, rhythm, melody, and other-world sounds played with inner-world warmth.

The officially released live tracks from the end of 1976 feature the bright sequencer dominated sounds found on Body Love I. Both Nostalgic Echo and Titanische Tage from the Brussels concert November 4, 1976, (SE #3), feature delightful sequencer work. I am surprised that these two tracks are not more popular in the polls. The longer Nostalgic Echo has the advantage of a unique beginning, contrasting a beautifully calm sequence underneath a synth sound reminiscent of far off distant alarms. The Poet from the concert at Oberhausen three days later, (HE #8), is more Moondawn based than the tracks from the Brussels concert. The Poet was popular in the KS Circle reader polls, ranking #15 in the 1996 Poll, and mentioned in both the 95 and 97 polls. The Poet's beginning is very much like Mindphaser, but of course lacks the drums, and the midsection contains sequences that are similar but faster paced and more aggressive than Floating. These are pre-Shrieve inspired rhythms and may not be "walkable", yet their complexity somehow works along with soaring keyboard soloing on top. It is no surprise that The Poet is well appreciated. A technique that KS uses here and in many places in his live work is to increase the tempo of the sequencer as the instrument plays. This is never done in his studio work in the same way. The encore from that date, Das Herz von Grönland (HE #2), is very much a Stardancer inspired piece at its beginning, but has a different calm ending. Indeed a well done piece. The Other Oberhausen Tape could be from the day before the Oberhausen gig, from the Bochum Schauspielhaus (= theater). Because of technical reasons, it is a fragment and is faded in somewhere in the middle of the piece. It provides an interesting contrast to the later sections of The Poet as it has brighter uplifting sequences and is less aggressive. As Body Love I highlights the Big Moog's sequencer, so do these live performances from this period. KS quickly showed himself to be a master of this instrument in 1976.

As KDM notes in The Works, Berlin 1, recorded December 15, is similar to Schwanensee 1, which was recorded four days earlier. However, the live track, has faster paced sequences and more aggressive keyboard soloing. Though difficult to find as it was released only on the limited edition KLEM Jubileumcassette, this live track is well worth the search.

At the beginning of 1977, KS recorded Mirage. Many of the sounds heard on Mirage can be found in the atmospheric beginnings of the officially released live tracks from late 1976 and 1977. Yet none of the live pieces that I have heard reproduce precisely the atmosphere of Velvet Voyage or Crystal Lake. Making history, in April of 1977, KS performed two nights at the London Planetarium. We have four tracks from those two evenings, (JE #24 and #11). Der Ursprung der Welt closely resembles Mindphaser because Mindphaser's pre-recorded backing track containing drums and effects was used for the performance. It differs from Mindphaser in being more mysterious at its beginning, and the keyboard soloing shows the inspiration that the live crowd provokes. The appropriately named Midnight at Madam Tussaud's begins with a eerie and menacing tone. Although performed to complement star constellations in motion, the pace and mood of this piece could easily accompany a tour of the famous London Wax Museum (immediately next door to the Planetarium) from its tense beginning to its dark and thoughtful second half. Totally Wired begins with mellotron blending with EMS Synthi and other synths to create a beautiful atmosphere, despite the limited fidelity. This start is similar to Crystal Lake but the sequence that begins six minutes into the piece continues to percolate and develop, taking Totally Wired out of the realms of Mirage. This is a fine piece of music with many contrasting sounds and inspired soloing. Fear at Madam Tussaud's compliments the other similarly named piece of music making one think outer space (as exemplified by the Planetarium) inspires KS to a sense of mystery. Again, great music, but little to compare directly to Mirage. What would stop KS from recreating Mirage's sound on stage? Is this a reaction to the critics? I sincerely doubt it, rather I think that the live setting inspires KS to play his more rhythmic work.

After London, KS plays twenty more dates during the Spring 1977 tour. He participates in Go Too, and later embarks on a fall tour. We have three pieces from that tour. Re: People I Know (JE #2), was the first of three pieces played that night in Düsseldorf, September 30, 1977. Like Totally Wired, we have a Velvet Voyage style beginning full of beautiful atmospheric sounds and mellotron choir. Even the accidental conversation mixes in well here. By 7:30, the sequence comes in and eventually dominates the piece, with many changes yet to come. It is not just the rhythmic sequences that separates Re: People I Know from Mirage, but also the bright melodies, for example during the "Hartmut and Manuel" section. These melodies take the sound closer to Body Love II, but because the sequences and melody lines are not identical, Re: People I Know retains an independent sound of its own.

In Zeit Geist (HE #1), St. Michel Cathedral, October 17, 1977, we have a grand piece. This track is popular in the KS Circle Polls, at #9 in 1997 it is second only to Sense as the most popular live track. After its atmospheric beginning, acoustic cymbals from a pre-recorded tape can be heard, as they emerge on Nowhere, Now Here. But at 6:30, the grand bass theme and drum kit come marching in, giving the piece a deep melody line that for once is KS' music can be whistled. Mellotron highlights fill in with EMS Synthi effects. From this stately beginning, the piece quiets down for a thoughtful section. Drums quiet by 17:10 for three minutes of abstract electronic sounds held together in such a manner that only KS can muster. Drums return by 20:00 and we are treated to ten minutes of Stardancer inspired music. This burst of energy extinguishes itself in Stardancer style at 29:00, ushering in the Geist section. This beautiful and mysterious part is easily under appreciated unless you turn up your volume control. It is contemplative in tone initially, then by 34:20, a bass sequence percolates to the top, and by 36:30 a melody line sneaks in, although the piece remains slightly understated. Without question a fine and multidimensional piece. Inside the Harlequin (HE #2), is the calm second half of the encore from the same night at St. Michel Cathedral. This section is a definite throwback to the sound of several years before and reminds one of KS' early organ pieces.

Prior to the release of the multiple-disk sets, Sense in its shortened form was the only official representation we had of KS' live work before 1979. Although Sense may deserve well its place as KS' most popular live track, it is only a small part of the story, a story that must be heard. KS did not audition pieces for audience reaction, but I can't help believe that all those nights of improvisation affected the growth of KS' music and gave him ideas for future compositions. If nothing else, his own ears heard chance occurrences that either worked or didn't, and if it sounded right to him, a burst of enthusiastic applause might have helped him recall a certain melody or combination of effects that could find its way into a future composition. As fans of KS' work, we are indeed fortunate that KDM painstakingly collected and catalogued these archival recordings from KS' mid-late seventies live works. Not just for the sake of history, but the spontaneous expression of musical genius that cries out to be heard again after the live performance. I for one feel lucky to have heard such a cry.

[Part 2: 1978-1985]