Conrad Schnitzler – The Cassette Concert (1989)

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Conrad Schnitzler is widely credited with being the godfather of German Industrial music. He’s had a pervasive, though somewhat off the radar, influence on German and international music throughout his 40 year career, from the early days of Tangerine Dream to the sound experiments he continues to carry out in the isolation of his home studio in Dallgow, near Berlin. His work prefigured many later genres from the explosion of industrial music in the 70s, the DIY electronic and post-punk experiments of the 80s, and the techno and electronica of recent years. Today, the composer is something of a recluse, but continues to steadily create and innovate.

Born in Düsseldorf in 1937, Schnitzler was a student of Joseph Beuys in the mid 1960’s. An autodidact from the outset, Schnitzler taught himself his first instrument, the cello, and cultivated an interest in free-jazz. Schnitzler started working with analog synthesizers and amplified acoustic instruments in the late 1960’s. Around the same time, he joined the then fledgling German rock band Tangerine Dream, adding a bizarre, conceptual approach that helped earn the band its legendary status.

Schnitzler left Tangerine Dream after the first album Electronic Meditation, a tape-collage Krautrock piece. He then formed Kluster with Moebius and Roedelius. The group recorded and released three albums before Schnitzler moved on again, leaving Kluster to continue as Cluster without him. Schnitzler also founded Eruption in 1970 as an adjunct to other projects. It was a free-form congregation of up to ten musicians rather than a tightly structured band, with a revolving membership that included Klaus Schulze, Manuel Göttsching, and Hartmut Enke, who would go on to form the trio Ash Ra Tempel; Dieter Serfas of the jazz band Embryo; Michael Gunther and Lutz Ulbrich of Agitation Free; Christa Runge (who had read the text on the first Kluster album); as well as members of Amon Düül. Eruption was notable for its role in incubating ideas and characters that would later contribute to the hugely successful Krautrock/Kosmische bands.

As early as 1971, Conrad independently released his own music in editions of as few as one hundred, all with handmade covers. He’s since released dozens of albums, cassettes and CDs, both on his own and on various labels around the world. Schnitzler’s work from the early seventies, including the experiments with ring-modulation, and particularly the solo recordings using the quirky ‘suitcase’ synthesizer, the Synthi A, are considered pivotal not only to the composer’s larger oeuvre, but to the development of early industrial experimental music. It is considered prescient work that had an influence stretching to Throbbing Gristle and Nurse with Wound.

In the 80s, Schnitzler engineered a way to create larger, more complex sound as a soloist for his live performances. He began recording patches, patterns, and textures onto cassette tapes, which he then used in combination with playing the synthesizer. He developed the concept into the ‘Kassettenorgel’ (Cassette Organ), two large black cabinets containing six stereo tape decks, which he would ‘play’ by making selections from cases full of carefully organized, pre-recorded cassette tapes.

Later, Schnitzler used his Kassettenorgel as a means for his music to tour without needing to travel himself, and the Cassette Concert was born. A performer plays recorded cassettes containing single tracks of a larger composition in various combinations, simultaneously. Performances can be given anywhere in the world, at any time, by anybody. As each tape contains only one component of the piece, the cassettes are selected and combined differently forming the same basic, but variable, composition.

Other composers including David Myers and Gen Ken in New York City, David Prescott in Boston, Michael Chocholak in Oregon, Giancarlo Tonuitti in Italy, Serge Leroy in Paris, and Jorg Thomasius in Germany subsequently put the concept into practice. Though CDs are used now instead of cassettes, techniques used in for Schnitzler’s Cassette Concerts remain unchanged. European concerts of Schnitzler compositions are usually performed by Wolfgang Seidel. [Source]

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