Exclusive: Michael Mann Mourns Collaborator Edgar Froese of Tangerine Dream
The legendary director shares his memories of joining Tangerine Dream in their Berlin studio to craft the soundtrack to his first film 'Thief.'
I was shocked to hear about the loss of Edgar Froese. It seems as if we were working together about fifteen years ago, not thirty-five.
It was on my first picture, Thief, and Berlin was still a divided city. I had culled music ideas from Tangerine Dream's Alpha Centauri and Phaedra, that I referred to constantly during shooting. In post, after shipping a dupe of the film, many phone conversations and cues back and forth, we spent a week together on the final in their studio. Their studio was amazing. It was a gutted cinema near the Berlin Wall.
Earlier, I had been divided between choosing music regionally native to Thief, Chicago Blues, or going with a completely electronic score. The choice was intimidating because two very different motion picture experiences would result. Right then, the work of Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk and Faust was an explosion of experimental and rich material from a young generation coming of age out of the ruins and separating itself from WWII Germany. It was the cutting edge of electronic music. And, it had content. It wasn't sonic atmospheres. There was nothing in the UK or the States like it.
Further, there was a relationship between the blues and Froese because he had started out as a blues guitarist. Even though their music was electronic, it had a twelve bar blues structure to most of it. More importantly he, as an artist and a man, was connected to the material reality of life on the street and he found musical inspiration there, as does the Blues. Culturally, he was attuned to the politics of the '60s and '70s. Berlin was still steeped in its recent history and its history… the Wall, shrapnel damage to building facades…was still evident.
The score was adventurous with some real voyages of discovery. Working with analog sequencers and synthesizers we were also processing sound effects, which I had brought in a suitcase on mag, so that ocean waves might crash in G Major, the same key as the cue. It was a wonderful artistic collaboration. Thinking back to what was at the time cutting edge technology but so primitive now, it was more fun. They were innovating processes and re-combining components to do stuff on frontiers that Moog never envisioned, as new ideas showed up.
It was Edgar's open spirit and embrace of possibilities that made it all occur. A somewhat unique soundtrack for its time was the result. Working together with band-mates Johannes Schmoelling and Christopher Franke with Froese in the lead in a gutted movie theater, hard by the Berlin Wall, it seems like not so long ago and it was the best of times.
Heartfelt condolences to his family and to all the talented people who knew him and worked with him over the years....