30 Years Of TD: Some Impressions, A Balance And An Outlook
It is supposed to be a normal working day. Tangerine Dream was founded on September 29th, 1967, and exactly 30 years later, there will be no birthday party. "We will not celebrate this day like an old married couple", Edgar Froese said in an Dream Collector interview in spring. 30 years are usually regarded as one generation, and three decades after The Ones were replaced by Tangerine Dream with dozens of members joining and leaving the band in the meantime, TD is hardly an old married couple but in fact a real generation project.
Nevertheless Edgar Froese does not like the designation of Tangerine Dream as a family enterprise; he assures that the Froese & Froese work cooperation is based more on musical and conceptional correspondence than on any father-and-son relationship.
Thus, after three decades, the little boy once printed onto nearly all of the album covers of the early years has become a full band member, and more: Jerome Froese has long since brought his own input to the project still named Tangerine Dream. Thus, besides TD's daily work, both of them also found their own focal points when dealing with the band's history. While father Edgar has spent a lot of efforts within the last years in reworking and re-recording old material with today's technology and also assimilated to today's trends in taste, son Jerome has started his own kind of work with TD's well known music being used as some kind of raw material for The Dream Mixes in a techno-like style. Both activities of course led to controversial debates among longtime TD listeners.
This may be the result of a band history which was not only constant development but also included a number of musical, personal and technical breaks. Tangerine Dream have always kept their distance from the trends which seemed to be initiated or at least intensified by their own work: from "Kosmische Musik" and "Krautrock" in the seventies as well as from "New Age" in the eighties and "Techno" in the nineties.
With new musical ideas and new technical devices, they have opened several fields to pop music, but they have followed their own ideas and have not always researched for the frontiers in such new fields. This was up to others, at least in the Techno movement. Tangerine Dream are regarded as one of the "grandfathers" of this style; especially their older sounds have been sampled and copied with and without reference to the origin, but the Techno audience does not really take note of TD's work nowadays, and the other way, TD do not really participate in the Techno movement, even not with efforts like The Dream Mixes. This is a bitter experience from three decades in music business: While TD have continued their own way, others have profited from the ideas, sounds and trends created by them.
In the seventies and eighties, TD have invented music, and hardly anybody had the knowledge and technology or just the courage to duplicate their ideas. Today, with computers, samplers and CD productions getting cheaper and wide-spread, an armada of amateur and home recording musicians have started to reproduce on a low level what they think TD is, and thus they have rendered the whole style valueless. What had begun as avantgarde one generation ago has turned into cheap mass production.
And so there is only a small edge left between TD's work and some of the quick-selling commercial productions. There are only slight differences in sound and arrangement for exampie between Robert Miles' chart-breaker "Children" and some TD compositions of the nineties. Tangerine Dream are no longer alone.
This is the situation the band finds itself in today as a music project founded in a former generation: There is probably no more serious public demand for experimental productions like Phaedra or Zeit and for concerts filled with two hours of sequencer and guitar improvisation which made British music Journalist Lester Bangs write then: "I saw god and/or Tangerine Dream". On the other hand, the band is far away from the commercial success of the charts as well as from the real experimental avantgarde of the nineties - if there is any avantgarde left at all. Tangerine Dream still experience new sounds and technology, but they have moved themselves towards an ambitious modern art rock band: The music from Rockoon to Goblins Club would fit into situations and locations where Rubycon or Tangram would simply be out of place.
Times have changed and so have Tangerine Dream and their music. And more, also their audience. According to stereotypen ideas, "typical" TD-listeners of the seventies were revolting students and drug consumers, replaced by computer technology fans in the early eighties and New Age foilowers in the late eighties and early nineties. Today's public seems to be much more different; it consists of those who were left fom all the former groups and have become "civil" as well as of students. TD's concerts in Germany in spring gave an impression of an audience from 20 or 25 years up to more than 50; there were hardly any younger spectators. Talking about generations: Tangerine Dream's music reaches mainly "middle aged" people.
Probably there are only a few TD fans who have started listening to the music and collecting the records in the very beginning and continued until today. Most of nowaday's fans may have heard of Tangerine Dream for the first time in the eighties or nineties. "Many of the listeners discovered TD and felt addicted due to some reason; they followed our way for a few years or even decades. Some left, others joined, and some have stayed until today", Edgar Froese once said. Besides several hundred diehard fans worldwide there is a much bigger audience of people who buy only a few of more than 70 albums, but nothing is known about this majority of TD listeners. Anyway, with the changes of the band personnel as well as of the audience, TD are another project than they were decades ago. The time of Stratosfear, even if re-recorded in 1995, has passed. Tangerine Dream of 1997 are a product of and for another generation.
The only constant notability in this history is the person of band founder Edgar Froese. Beyond all influences brought in by all the band members more or less within 30 years, he has been the one to forward the idea of the whole project titled Tangerine Dream. Experts may discuss about the role and the input of important band members like Peter Baumann, Chris Franke, Johannes Schmoelling and Paul Haslinger, but in the end, TD has been all alone Edgar Froese's thing. Froese compares his work with the one of a craftsman: "He produces goods like shoes or tables, and I produce music, and both is for daily use by people or just for delight", the band head said to Dream Collector a few weeks ago. And Froese added: "If one day people didn't like my products any more, like every craftsman I would have to decide whether to change the products or to retire."
Actually, he is trying not to change but to improve the product. Tangerine Dream are still testing and developing new devices and new technology, and Edgar Froese has announced a deep musical break for the near future. This could allow the band to take over leadership again and to experience new paths beyond the one which led straight from Rockoon to Goblins Club. Once again it will be up to the audience whether to follow the new direction or not.
And only time will tell about the development of the band itself - and about the personnel. It was a few years ago when former sculptor and video enthusiastic Edgar Froese considered about handing the Tangerine Dream project over to his son Jerome and turning himself towards other artwork. They did not find a third person to fit into their plans, so they continued as a duet. This collaboration has brought an enormous output, and a lot of new ideas have been announced. These activities may fill years.
Beyond all this, Tangerine Dream will probably be taken over by Jerome Froese one unknown day in the future. The result will surely be a different band. But as Tangerine Dream in 1997 cannot be compared to Tangerine Dream in 1967, this would be just one more step in the generation project.