Klaus Schulze, a German electronic musician whose hypnotic, thrilling, swirling compositions filled with five decades of solo albums, collaborations and film scores, died on Tuesday. He was 74 years old.
His Facebook page announced the death. The announcement said he died “after a long illness” but did not provide any details.
Mr. Schulze played drums, bass, guitar and keyboards. But he largely abandoned them in the early 1970s and turned to working with electric organs, tape recorders and echo effects, and later with early analog synthesizers. His music thrived on every technological advancement.
He played drums on the first albums of German bands Tangerine Dream and Ash Ra Tempel before launching a prodigiously prolific solo career. In 2000 he released a 50-CD retrospective of studio and live recordings, “The Ultimate Edition”. But he was far from finished.
While he announced his retirement from performing in 2010, he continued to compose and record. A new album, “Deus Arrakis”, is scheduled for June.
Mr. Schulze’s music encompassed the psychedelic jams of early krautrock, orchestral works, song-length pieces with vocals, electronic opera, and brief soundtrack cues. Much of his music was expansive and richly consonant, using drones, loops and echoes in ways that anticipated – then joined and expanded – both immersive ambient music and rhythm-based techno and trance music. .
He was usually reluctant to describe or analyze the ideas or techniques of his music. “I’m a musician, not a speaker,” he said in a 1998 interview. “What music alone can do is just one thing: show emotions. Just emotions. Sadness, joy, silence, excitement, tension.
Klaus Schulze was born on August 4, 1947 in Berlin. Her mother was a ballet dancer, her father a writer.
As a teenager he played guitar and bass in bands and studied literature, philosophy and modern classical composition at the University of Berlin. Attracted by the avant-garde scene around the Berlin nightclub Zodiac, he plays drums in a psychedelic rock trio, Psy Free.
He became the drummer for Tangerine Dream in 1969 and played on the group’s first album, “Electronic Meditation” a collection of free-form improvisations released in 1970. He was also experimenting with recordings of his last instrument, an electric organ. But Edgar Froese, the guitarist and frontman of Tangerine Dream, didn’t want to use Mr. Schulze’s organ tapes on stage and told him, “Either you play the drums or you leave,” Mr. Schulze said. in a 2015 interview.
Mr. Schulze is gone. He formed a new space rock trio, Ash Ra Tempel, and played drums on the band 1971 debut album before starting his solo career. Instead of playing drums, he recalls, “I wanted to play with harmonies and sounds.”
He did not yet own a synthesizer in 1972 when he made his first solo album, “Irrlicht” (“Will-o’-the-Wisp”). His three drone-centric, slow-moving tracks were made with his electric organ and guitar and with manipulated cassette recordings of a student orchestra.
Mr. Schulze began performing solo concerts in 1973 and amassed a growing collection of synthesizers. “By nature, I’m an ‘explorer’ type musician,” he told Sound and Vision magazine in 2018. “When electronic musical instruments became available, the search was over. I had found the tool I was looking for: infinite possibilities, unlimited sonic possibilities, and a rhythm and a melody at my complete disposal.
Using drum machines and sequencers, Schulze introduced propulsive electronic beats into his music. His dizzying album “Wind of Time” (1975) is widely regarded as its peak. In France, he won the Grand Prix du Disque International, boosting his record sales with mandatory orders from libraries across the country. He moved to Hambühren, Germany, and built the studio where he would record most of his music over the next few decades.
“Timewind” was dedicated to Richard Wagner; his two pieces were entitled “Bayreuth Return”, named after the city where Wagner’s operas are presented in an annual festival, and “Wahnfried 1883”, named after Wagner’s villa. Mr. Schulze would later record a series of albums under the names of Richard Wahnfried and then Wahnfriet. “The way Wagner’s music introduced me to the use of dynamics, subtlety, drama, and possible magnitudes in music in general remains unparalleled to me,” he said in 2018. .
Another recognized influence was Pink Floyd. From 1994 to 2008, Mr. Schulze and the German producer and composer Pete Namlook collaborated on “The Dark Side of the Moog”, a series of 11 albums inspired by the motifs of Pink Floyd.
In the mid-1970s, Mr. Schulze traveled to Japan to produce and mix the Far East Family Band, whose members included the electronic musician who would later go solo and achieve fame as Kitaro. He has also recorded and performed with Go by Stomu Yamashta, a band that included English multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Steve Winwood, American guitarist Al Di Meola and American drummer Michael Shrieve. And he continued to pump out solo projects, including the soundtrack of a pornographic film, “Love of the body” (1977).
He has collaborated over the years with Ash Ra Tempel guitarist Manuel Göttsching. In 2000, Mr. Schulze and Mr. Göttsching revived the Ash Ra Tempel name for a duet album, “Friendship”, and a concert recorded as “Rosé Gin at the Royal Festival Hall.”
In 1979, the German division of Warner Bros. Records gave him his own imprint, Innovative Communication, which had great success with Ideal, a band from Berlin. He started his own electronic music label, Inteam, in 1984. But he gave it up three years later after realizing he was losing money on recordings of all acts except his own.
Mr. Schulze announced his move from analog to digital synthesizers with the 1979 album “Dig it.” As sampling technology improved in the 1980s and 1990s, he incorporated samples of vocals, instruments, and nature sounds into his music. In the 2000s, as faster computers favored more complex sound processing, he turned to software synthesizers.
In 1994, he released “Totentag” (“Day of the Dead”), an electronic opera; in 2008 he started recording and touring with Lisa Gerard, lead singer and lyricist of the band Dead Can Dance. In the 2010s, he mixed his new compositions in surround sound.
Mr. Schulze is survived by his wife, Elfi Schulze; his sons, Maximilian and Richard; and four grandchildren.
Across his many projects, Mr. Schulze’s music has retained a sense of timing: when to meditate, when to buildwhen to step back, when to jump forward, how to balance suspense and rest, dissonance and consonance.
“I prefer beauty, I always have,” he told an iinterviewer in 1997. “Of course, I also sometimes use harsh or unpleasant sounds, but only to show variety. Beauty is more beautiful for a listener if I also show him the ugliness that exists. I use it as part of the drama of a composition. But I’m not interested in music that only shows ugliness.
“Furthermore,” he added, “I believe that ugliness in music is easier to achieve than – excuse the expression – ‘real music’.”