The Shared Sequences of Contemporary Works  

The Shared Sequences of Contemporary Works

by David M. Cline (2001)

This article was inspired in part by Circle member Roland R. who discovered similarities between sequences found on previous Klaus Schulze solo releases and those on Contemporary Works (CW). My search for shared sequences began with creating a 2-hour digital audiotape containing 60-90 second edits of all KS sequences on CDs released from 1995 through 2000, including the solo releases, the two Wahnfried CDs, the two Ash Ra Tempel CDs, and some more. Using these 80+ sequences as a guide, I went back and compared entire compositions. As any KS fan knows, his sequences are complex and evolve over the course of a piece. KS discussed his method of composition for an interview published in the August 1994 issue of Keyboard (USA): "I start with something, sometimes just a string chord, and then build a sequence or percussion pattern, but it depends on the mood. Maybe I'll have recorded 30 tracks, for example, then I start reducing the piece by muting parts until it sounds right." Of course the computer retains the muted musical information, leaving it fresh for application elsewhere. Furthermore, an alternate mix can dramatically change the result, sometimes emphasizing the melodic elements of the sequence, sometimes the percussive parts, each creating a different mood. With all these possibilities at his disposal, no wonder KS uses variations of an original sequence in different pieces of music. Comparing sequences that evolve is problematic, and no doubt I am unable to detect subtle differences with my ear alone, but that is precisely the point. If I can recognize a pattern in two pieces of music as being nearly identical, than others can do the same, thus meeting my criteria for being worthy of discussion.

My first comparison is slightly off subject as the sequence is not the shared feature. In this case the entire piece was integrated into a new track. It takes us back to 1996 for Wahnfried's Drums 'n' Balls. The original title track was conceived years before KS collaborated with Solar Moon System. Drums 'n' Balls brims with rhythmic invention and is full of surprising sounds and effects. Prior to SMS adding "play along treatments" to create "Global Midication" (CW, CD 3), Drums 'n' Balls was held together by a subtle tapestry of quiet synth chords and a thread of KS genius. SMS integrates a bass and percussion rhythm track that captures the listener's attention, creating a new groove, effectively changing the original feel of the music. Rock guitar and vocals are added on top. Was Drums 'n' Balls a track crying out for more structure? Or, did SMS mask the original brilliance of Drums 'n' Balls with a new funky rhythm track? I would say that these two tracks are quite different in effect and I enjoy them both for different reasons. Like Drums 'n' Balls, there are many examples in the 70s of KS music that hangs together despite very little structure, such as the first one-half of "Velvet Voyage," (Mirage) or "Heinrich von Kleist," ("X"). In contrast, "Global Midication" is a structured piece that you can hum along with. I love the guitar, and the vocals have really grown on me. The shortened version, "Global Medication" (CW, CD 10) is a remix of the longer vocal track and takes the changes made to Drums 'n' Balls one step further. "Global Medication" begins at the 5:50 mark of "Global Midication", remixed vocals are brought in earlier, and the bass and drum pauses of the original track are removed (which occur just before the vocals start, and at 8:06 on "Global Midication"). "Global Medication" fades abruptly at the 11:18 mark of the longer track. These changes make "Global Medication" a nonstop groove, supposedly for the purpose of being "radio-kompatibler."

As KS says in his introduction to the encore at the Bologna concert (1998), "String sequencing" is "a bit different than I normally play," but how beautiful when he does so. Part 4 of "L'opera aperta", the "Ars magna lucis et umbrae" section (Ultimate Edition CD 46) and "Getting Near" (CW, CD 6) share an aggressive string sequence. Compare "L'opera aperta" at the 40-minute mark to "Getting Near" at 1:00. For the "Ars magna lucis et umbrae" section, the sequence is mixed at lower volume to allow the solo flute sound to float on top. "Getting Near" uses the sequence at a slightly faster tempo, and brings the string sound right up front at high volume. Seven and one-half minutes into the piece, about the time the bass strings begin to vibrate your skull's suture lines apart, a heavily echoed flute blows into the mix. Although no acoustic flute is given in the credits, the breath effects are striking and mesh into the reverberating panache. A very different mood is created during the "Ars magna lucis et umbrae" section of "L'opera aperta" where the flute is gentle and soothing. Turn up the volume on these two tracks to fully appreciate KS' sequencing mastery. Before I leave the concert at Bologna, I must compliment the entire composition. What a treat, from start to finish, a great Schulze work. The first section integrates earthly atmospheric sounds with other worldly Schulze synth tones. We move on to beautiful choir vocals that complement the tradition of Italian opera. We then are lifted on a blast of intense driving synthetic sequence in the "Scherzi a parte" section, complete with a Minimoog solo. Winding down somewhat, we are delighted by flute sounds over the string sequence (discussed above). Finally KS concludes with the soft landing of yearning flutes and strings for the final section, "L'arte de'cenni." I know I am not alone in my admiration of "L'opera aperta". Circle member Roland R. heard a shared element in this work and "Soft'n'Groovy," (CW, CD 9), but I was unable to identify this similarity with precision.

„The Schulzendorf Groove" shares its main sequence with "Kagi's Lament" (CW, CD 7) and "The Smile of Shadows" (CW, CD 7). This sequence in isolation is perhaps best heard on the "First Version" from the Lone Tracks CD (Ultimate Edition, CD 50). The sequence has a certain air of mystery as the listener wonders what direction the multifaceted rhythm will move next. The long version of "The Schulzendorf Groove", released on A Tribute To Klaus Schulze is my favorite of these four tracks. The 14-minute piece has a nice ambient introduction; the complicated sequence full of Moog sounds is ushered in with other abstract synth tones, then the fierce Minimoog solo quickly begins. The additional percussion added to the sequence (at 10:12) has enough play time to sound natural on this track, while on the "First Version," it appears too close to the fade out, leaving the listener wondering if the fade was intended. The long version also includes a nice ambient ending, giving the track a natural sense of completion. "The Schulzendorf Groove" indeed grooves. The effect of this sequence in "Kagi's Lament" is very different. One can imagine "Kagi's Lament" echoing up the steps from the basement of an old dark house. After the lonely violin introduction, the sequence begins to bubble up from deep down in the mix. The mysterious sequence remains submerged in a witches' cauldron [= Hexenkessel] of complementary sounds. The sequence eventually comes to the forefront, but never is allowed to create a groove; rather it provides a contrast to Thomas Kagermann's violin and vocals. The vocals on this piece are not my favorite. On "A Tiny Violin," from the "Adds & Edits" CD, (CW, CD 10), which is essentially the first four and one-quarter minutes of "Kagi's Lament," the fade occurs well before Kagermann's vocals appear. The short-lived cymbal/snare additions to "The Schulzendorf Groove" are incorporated into the sequence early on "The Smile of Shadows." The percussion is brought up front and eventually bongo and staccato synth sounds are added. Because of the steady beat of the percussion pattern here, much of the mystery of the original sequence is lost. The sequence primarily serves as the foundation for the solo flute. Kagermann's flute work is fine, (the flute works especially well on "J.E.M.," CW, CD 2) although I am partial to KS' Minimoog runs.

"Time Goes By," a last minute addition to The Ultimate Edition (CD 46), shares a basic sequence with six other KS tracks! Allow the first 30 seconds of the pulsating basic rhythm of the sequence to imprint your subconscious before listing to "Windy Times", "Castles", (both CW, CD 10) "Sacred Romance," (CW, CD-1) Ash Ra Tempel's "Reunion," (Friendship) and finally, the 14th through 28th minute of Gin Rosé. Like so much of KS' music, this sequence is much more complex and varied than the first listen reveals. The sequence evolves and builds upon the underlying rapidly repeating four-note phrase with an alternating bass throb, adding bass drum accents, snare, and finally high hat and bongo sounds. "Windy Times" is essentially the first four minutes and 50 seconds of "Time Goes By," (start "Windy Times" 2 seconds after you start "Time Goes By" to synchronize them). "Windy Times" sounds like it is subtlety re-equalized, but it is otherwise identical. "Time Goes By" continues with a gentle keyboard solo from KS. The short track "Castles" also uses the basic elements of this sequence after an abstract one-minute introduction. "Castles" uses a somewhat different snare/high hat sequence. "Scared Romance" uses the same sequence at a slightly faster tempo, and the percussive elements are introduced more rapidly. This track is the showcase for this sequence. KS integrates a dive and swoop counterpoint to the steady sequence with his restrained Minimoog solo. While much can be said for KS' live Minimoog solos, the studio environment may be the best for creating a long sustained run on this well-loved keyboard. KS switches to a Spanish guitar sound for the last four minutes of the track. I would imagine that KS is triggering this sound with his keyboard, but the result is amazingly expressive, as if it is an acoustic instrument.

Although the surrounding percussion patterns and other effects are different, the basic churning foundation from "Time Goes By" is used on both "Reunion" from Ash Ra Tempel's Friendship and the corresponding live version from Gin Rosé (roughly the 14th through the 28th minute of the live CD). You must dig down deep to listen for the similar pattern to the original. Compare "Reunion" at 13:00, and "Gin Rosé" at 25:00 to the beginning of "Time Goes By." Like "Sacred Romance," the tempo is faster than what you hear in "Time Goes By." The live version within "Gin Rosé" is rougher than "Reunion." Much of Manual's beautiful and atmospheric guitar sounds from "Reunion" are not reproduced live, which is not a criticism of Manuel's fine playing. The trade off is that KS plays a great Minimoog solo. The churning basic pattern that I refer to is only a small part of the complete evolving sequence in these two works. It is mixed louder in the live version, but can be heard beginning at 12:50 in "Reunion." Tom Dams, who is part of the Solar Moon Systems crew, mixed Friendship. I believe this churning sequence makes a return for the finale of Gin Rosé at 61:50, but I cannot be sure as the density of sound and the increased tempo makes it more difficult to recognize the sequence in the mix. What a finale it is, wild Minimoog and wailing guitar all supported by the driving sequence. This is Ash Ra Tempel for a new century. Some critics believe the name Ash Ra Tempel deserves to be locked up forever in Harmut Enke's old bass case. Did anyone expect Klaus and Manuel to wallow in the 1970's? What good would come from such a forced exercise? I am glad for the new collaboration and I know where to find my old Ash Ra Tempel CDs when my listening pleasure calls for them.

"Cum cello spiritu" or Part 1 of "The Cello" (Ultimate Edition, CD 49) shares its sequence with "Good Old 4 On The Floor" (CW, CD-2). In fact this same sequence continues on into "Cellingua," however, the sequence of "Good Old 4 On The Floor" is most comparable to "Cum cello spiritu" as all the elements arise in the same order. "Good Old 4 On The Floor" uses the sequence at a faster tempo, and what a difference it makes, as GO4OTF barrels along like a train. The constant thud of the bass drum sound is reminiscent of "Are You Sequenced?" In contrast, the slowed sequence in "Cum cello spiritu" allows every expressive stroke of Wolfgang's cello to be heard. My whole family loves "The Cello" CD, which is quite a feat. The pace and vocals of "Good Old 4 On The Floor" really move your emotions and your feet. I must admit I had to pull out my old vinyl copy of Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" to compare the vocals. Giorgio Mororder's use of the sequencer is almost comic compared to Klaus Schulze's artistry, but Donna Summer created a sensation with that voice of hers back in 1977. Julia Messenger stands up well in comparison, or is it primarily the expert use of echo and synth sounds that create that infectious groove? GO4OTF really flies when the Minimoog takes off at 7:15. The shortened version from the "Adds & Edits" CD misses this great section and is essentially the first five and one-half minutes of GO4OTF minus a few seconds. "I wouldn't take you" is the most recognizable lyric, but like most of KS music with vocals, it is the sound of the vocals that is most important. I haven't tried to look for the deeper meaning. This is one of my favorite tracks from CW.

The rhythm sequence and vocoder ramblings played at the beginning of the concert in Hamburg in April 1999 are used in both "From Words to Silence" and „To B Flat". At 10:45 in "From Words to Silence" an explosion is heard, the sequence is silenced and the piece quiets to a meditative Minimoog solo over moody synth chords. "To B Flat" begins abstractly with ominous tones, and then melancholy flute and string sounds appear and continue through the piece. The sequence does not appear until 4:00 (synch this time with "From Words to Silence" at 3:16 for a comparison). Except for the first three minutes, "From Words to Silence" serves as the foundation for the last 25 minutes of "To B Flat," where the flute, vocals, choir, and cello are added on top. Although "To B Flat" has a fuller sound and I like the added cello and choir effects, I feel that "From Words to Silence" is more successful. The flute in "To B Flat" sets an edge that cuts into the soothing aspects of the music, and the vocals, however sparse, are distracting.

The nimble sequence from "Pikant" (Ash Ra Tempel's Friendship) is altered slightly for inclusion on index six of Gin Rosé (42:04 through 54:24, the "Pikant" section), and "Wolf's Ponticelli" (CW, CD 7). "Pikant" begins with a ten-second mellotron introduction then the agile sequence begins and evolves. In its original form, the main melody theme of the sequence is carried by an organ like sound, and is accompanied by an array of percussion sounds including a great timbale counter rhythm (or is that a bongo sound?). Manuel's subtle and melodic guitar begins at 2:50 and gently delights the ear. The sequence pauses halfway into the piece to focus on Manuel's beautiful guitar, backed by mellotron. These understated and intricate textures are difficult to translate into the live setting. The sequence returns and Memory-Moog (I believe) is added to the five-minute conclusion. The live version begins as if it is starting at the quiet mid-point of the studio version. We hear two minutes of acoustic guitar accompanied by oboe sounds rather than mellotron, before the sequence begins. There are more choir sounds on the live version than on the original, which adds a nice atmosphere. At 49:18 KS adds guitar sounds to accompany the organ melody line of the sequence, which hints at what is to come on the altered sequence in "Wolf's Ponticelli." We find on "Wolf's Ponticelli" that the melody line of the sequence is all guitar sounds rather than organ. The percussion sequence is also slightly different than on the "Pikant" tracks. Comparing Manuel's guitar to Wolfgang's cello makes a tough choice for favorite. "Wolf's Ponticelli" has the advantage of a fine restrained keyboard solo by KS that provides a complement to Wolfgang's cello on the first half. Like what we hear on "Sacred Romance," the studio brings a different flavor to KS' improvised keyboard runs. While the live Minimoog solos are more exciting, this solo maintains the emotion for a longer period.

The bass sequence used in "Soft'n'Groovy" (CW, CD-9) is the same as that used in "trans 4 motion", credited to Wahnfried, (CW, CD-10). The percussion that accompanies the bass sequence is different, with a more flowing pattern used for the "trans 4 motion" track. The appropriately titled "Soft'n'Groovy" is very nice (mixed by Tom Dams). Kagermann's violin shines on this piece, and his vocals may actually work here. If I am hearing this correctly, the track presents a skilled mixture of violin, cello and Memory-Moog. The sequence and acoustic instruments make a slow extended rise in emotion as the track progresses. "trans 4 motion" is a rhythmic piece, with typical synth chords and buried hushed vocals. The synth solo is thoughtful.

To complete my consideration of the shared sequences within Contemporary Works, I turn to the final CD, "Adds & Edits" (for those tracks not discussed above). "Short Romance" is actually an edit of "Slightly Touched" (CD-6) and not part of "Sacred Romance" as the title suggests. The original 29 and one-half minutes of "Slightly Touched" are beautiful. The sequence, beginning with bass tones at 3:22, slowly evolves and complements well Wolfgang Tiepold's emotional cello. Some of the melodic themes that begin on "Slightly Touched" are reprised on "Agony", which follows it on CD 6. The edit "Short Romance" is essentially the first five minutes and forty seconds of the original piece. "Privatissimo" is taken from the first four minutes of "Privat," (CD-4). The original track offers a nice extended mix of beat and atmospheric guitar, but why not include an edit of one of the other tracks on the "U.S.O." CD. "Privee" with its up-tempo beat and great mellotron runs would be a better choice. Or why not try the more elusive and adventurous "Private"? "Deserve" is part of "You Get What…" (CD-5). The edit begins at the 2:27 mark of the original track. Some of the non-vocal sections are cut out and the result re-edited for the shorter track. This one drags a bit. Now "Strongly" and "Strong" (CD-5) are a different matter. I wasn't impressed on first listen but then I got hooked on the beat and found myself singing the main lyric the next day. Unusual for a Schulze track. "Strongly" begins at the 1:17 mark of the longer track and is edited in several places, selecting some of the vocal sections, and includes some subtle guitar from the ending of the longer track. "Short Rain" is part of "Let the Rain Come," (CD-5). The rhythm is simply unstoppable. It reminds me of Richard Wahnfried's "Druck" from Tonwelle, or more closely, the version on Michael Shrieve's Transfer Station Blue. Compare the backing chords of "Let the Rain Come" at 7:00 to "Communiqué" at 1:27. The sound is very similar, even though "Let the Rain Come" includes a guitar in the mix. Again, the shorter track is not a single edit, as vocal sections are selected for inclusion. "The Breeze" is part of "J.E.M.," (CD-2). The edit begins the 0:59 mark of the original and continues for the next five and one-half minutes. I really like this track with Kagermann's freewheeling flute contrasting the driving sequence. It reminds me of Didier Malherbe's flute work on Gong's YOU album. Of interest is the fact that composition credits on three of these "Adds & Edits" differ from the original tracks (3, 9, 16) giving credit to Tiepold and Kagermann on the shorter tracks.

So in conclusion, the comparisons I have made give us a clue into the working methods of Klaus Schulze where sound and sequence ideas are in a constant state of experimentation and perfection. As KDM pointed out in Circle #52, the computer provides an easy tool to store then reapply sequences and sounds. With the exception of "Windy Times," all of the sequence reapplications I have discussed found new settings with very different atmospheres or effects. KS should make no apologies for this methodology where (modified) recycled sequences find a new exceptional home, in such works as "Wolf's Ponticilli," or "Sacred Romance." I am confident that I have missed some shared sequences, so others may find them and comment. As the years before have shown, non-choir vocals in KS' music polarize his audience, some like them, and some strongly dislike them. While KS' vocal works are by no means universally successful (remember Aphrica), I believe that working with vocalists is an essential part of KS' art. Collaborating with Solar Moon System is no exception, and I am very fond of several of their combined efforts. This new millennium indeed looks bright for KS music, with a concert with Wolfgang Tiepold soon to occur. I hope KS will record and release the event.

Thanks, David, for another one of your carefully thought out studies.