The Inspiration of Tangerine Dream
Posted on November 12, 2020
Hindsight can be entertaining, can’t it? I am a product of being a teen during the 1980s, but an oddity, too. I wrote my first puppet play in 1st Grade, and I continued to dabble in writing from then on. It wasn’t until the eighties I started feeling inspired by music, and actually listened to it when sitting down to write. Now, one of my favorite categories of music to listen to then and now is the Soundtrack. I’m not talking Footloose or Top Gun. I’m talking actual film scores. The rarer a soundtrack find back in the day, the more I had to have it. And the more a film inspired me in some way, the more I wanted its score so I could replay moments of the film over in my head, which inspired me. One of those early scores? Firestarter, by Tangerine Dream.
I had no idea who Tangerine Dream was, their history, or much else about them. I only knew I loved their sound and the imagery that sound evoked. TD also wrote and performed the score for the US version of Ridley Scott’s Legend. I saw their name on the cassette cover and bought it without having even watched the movie. Then came their score for Near Dark. Absolutely delicious!
It wasn’t until I attended University that the group found another way into my life. One of my professors invited a couple of us to stop by her house one evening—a rarity—and I attended. She was playing some music on her tape player and when I asked what it was, she handed me the case. Tangerine Dream—Lily on the Beach. No, it wasn’t a soundtrack. It was a regular album. They did regular albums??? I’m embarrassed I had this reaction because it was so obvious I’d barely dipped my baby toe into the world of Tangerine Dream.
Now, so many years later, I have started at the roots of the band and worked my way forward. We’re talking hundreds of albums, soundtracks, compilations, live recordings, bootlegs, etc. There’s no way in the world I can even being to scratch the surface of this band for you in a post this length. Suffice to say that founder Edgar Froese put the band together and created a legacy of sound for generations to come.
Entire albums and live concerts were based entirely on improvisation. That strikes me as something quite extraordinary. Writing is often improvisational. We may have an idea of the direction, but once it comes to typing the words in, that’s when the creativity takes over. Edgar Froese is very open in his autobiography about when this technique worked very well for them, and when it didn’t.
There’s an interesting development in Tangerine Dream over the years where things went away from improvisational and into shorter, more melodic pieces. They even experimented with vocals, which didn’t go over nearly as well. Fans seemed divided during these changes, but even more so with vocals. One thing TD can’t be accused of is phoning an album in or being afraid to try something new. They fed off inspiration to create their music, and it seems as if I’ve fed off of their music as inspiration for what I write.
I haven’t escaped the trappings of having favorite pieces I listen to. I have many. And many pieces have inspired scenes and moods in my books. I recently purchased a new box set, Pilots Of Purple Twilight, and discovered a massive gem. One of their live album, Logos, features some music from a still-unreleased score of their for Michael Mann’s The Keep. It’s gorgeous music. For some reason, though, the album always sounded a bit like a bootleg even though it wasn’t. Well, come to find out it was an edited version of a much longer concert. Pilots Of Purple Twilight contains the complete set of that show over 2 CDs, and it’s brilliant!
Of the rarities contained in the box set is a second version of the music from The Keep. The disc’s inclusion has been termed the Holy Grail of discs. Sadly, I don’t quite see it that way. It’s not the entire score used in the film. THAT will be the Holy Grail of discs and those tracks remain unreleased save for bootlegs. The other music is definitely a worth addition to their library, but it’s not what so many of us have still been waiting for.
I’ve been fortunate enough to interest a few friends with their music along the way, most notably author Eden Winters. I’d be curious as to her comments of what she’s gotten out of Tangerine Dream’s music. It occurred to me over the past decade that I would have loved to have had a conversation with Edgar Froese, only, after reading his autobiography, I think I would have been intimidated beyond belief. I liken it to a fifth grader who just learned how to play one of those little plastic flutes, and going up to Edgar and saying “I love your stuff! Let me tell you what it means to me!”
The truth is I am a fan, and Edgar’s son, Jerome, is creating a legacy of his own with solo releases and collaborations. As for Edgar, he passed away in early 2015. Jerome stated there is no Tangerine Dream without his father, and while I didn’t understand that then, I understand it now. The band does live on, though. It was apparently Edgar’s wish the band continue, and continue they have. Most interesting, they have been releasing a series of discs called Sessions consisting of improvisational music played during live concerts.
It’s almost as if Edgar is teaching them what he did, and watching from elsewhere to see where this version of the dream heads.
I continue to listen to them, and I continue to be inspired.
So, any fellow fans of Tangerine Dream out there? Or perhaps you’re as diehard a fan of another group? Any authors out there who might care to share any of their music tastes and how it inspires them?
Kristoffer Gair (who formerly wrote under the pseudonym Kage Alan) is the Detroit-based author of Honor Unbound, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To My Sexual Orientation, Andy Stevenson Vs. The Lord Of The Loins, Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell, several short stories featured in anthologies (to be combined in a forthcoming book), the recently re-published novella Falling Awake, its sequel, Falling Awake II: Revenant and Falling Awake III: Requiem.