Berlin School of electronic music
|Stylistic origins||Krautrock, psychedelic rock, electronic art music, minimalism|
|Cultural origins||Early 1970s, West Berlin|
|Typical instruments||Synthesizer, sequencer, mellotron, guitar|
|Derivative forms||Ambient, electronica, new-age, trance|
|Düsseldorf School of electronic music|
The Berlin School was a style of electronic music that emerged in the 1970s. An offshoot of Krautrock, Berlin School was so named because most of its early practitioners were based in West Berlin, Germany. It was shaped by artists such as Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, and Ashra. Music from this school is sometimes considered a sub-branch of new-age music or ambient music, although it predates the widespread use of both terms.
The genre's identification with space music distinguished it from the more percussive and rhythm-oriented Düsseldorf School, which included Can, Cluster, Kraftwerk, and Neu!. These latter bands have had a greater impact on synthpop and techno, while the Berlin School was a wellspring for ambient, electronica, new-age and trance.
Early landmarks of the style include Phaedra (1974), Rubycon (1975), and the live album Ricochet (1975) by Tangerine Dream; Timewind (1975) and Moondawn (1976) by Klaus Schulze; New Age of Earth (1976) by Ashra (Manuel Göttsching); and Departure from the Northern Wasteland (1978) by Michael Hoenig. Tangerine Dream's next live album, Encore (1977), hinted at things to come with three sides of Berlin School and one side of proto-ambient music.
Vintage Berlin School tracks typically ran about twenty or thirty minutes, filling one side of a vinyl LP. With the advent of the compact disc, artists were no longer limited by the need to flip over a vinyl record. Consequently, some newer works run continuously as a single track for almost 80 minutes. Sound loops of unlimited length are now possible with MP3s. The music may also be tied to visuals, as in the 2008 project Via Lucis, an integration of ambient music by Berlin School musician Kirk Monteux and sculptor Siegfried Speckhardt.
Latter-day Berlin School
Several groups formed during the 1990s are still mainstays, including Radio Massacre International and Redshift (fronted by Mark Shreeve, who had worked in the genre in the early 80s as well). Many of them had a "retro" or back-to-basics approach, seen for example in Redshift's use of vintage Moog synthesizers, including a Minimoog and Moog 960 sequencers.
Klaus Schulze continues to work in the genre. While Tangerine Dream has moved on, it still sometimes nods in the direction of Berlin School, as on the album Mota Atma from 2003.
Notable latter-day artists of Berlin School include:
- Vladimir Bogdanov (ed), All Music Guide to Electronica, 4th Revised Edition (San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 2001).
- Interview by Paul Graham with Redshift (Mark Shreeve)