Conrad Schnitzler Obituary
Richard D Clouston
, August 8th, 2011 07:38
Richard D Clouston pays tribute to electronic music pioneer Conrad Schnitzler, who died last week
The exceptional electronic music pioneer Conrad Schnitzler has passed away. He leaves a rich legacy of remarkable work. As a young man in post-war Germany studying under Joseph Beuys, Schnitzler understood the importance of freedom and the vital role of the artist. In 1967 he and Hans-Joachim Roedelius set up the radical Zodiak Free Arts Lab in West Berlin, which became the centre for the nascent kosmische sound.
As a founder of Kluster and early member of Tangerine Dream, Schnitzler's experimental, industrial soundscapes defined the early releases of these seminal groups. Always moving forward, he embarked on a solo career that spanned five decades of invention.
In the 70s and 80s Schnitzler was a magnetic live performer. In his iconic stagewear of black or white leather jumpsuits and a motorcycle helmet with microphone and megaphone he cut a menacing, mysterious, and amazingly cool figure. He would also don black and white face paint like a star of German Expressionism.
A devoted family man and studio boffin, Schnitzler did not like to travel, so later developed a method for concerts where he would dispatch cassette tapes and compact discs with instructions as to how the recordings could be played simultaneously to create a potent sound collage. Long before the days of the internet he realised that the artist could have truly global reach without ever leaving home. Indeed in death Conrad continues to deal with this duality; with his 'Global Living' concept, DNA from strands of his hair is to be sent to different parts of the world so he can be buried and remembered in many beautiful places without leaving his final resting place. "Nobody must come to my grave in Berlin. My friends can visit me in the whole world now," he said before he died. See the full text here.
He released work on many labels but recorded much of his output as 'private works' onto tape and CD-R to be sent all over the world to the fans who contacted him directly. He understood the emancipation and purity of running one's own affairs.
His immense influence can be heard in Coil, Throbbing Gristle, DAF, Brian Eno and David Bowie, Drexciya, NEU!, all quality techno, house, ambient, industrial – he is one of the great sources from which electronic music flows.
Personally, Con's powerfully atmospheric albums have accompanied me on long flights and train journeys; I have a 'backwards watch' by Coil with the legend 'musick cures you of time' - aye, it does. Night drives on British motorways and the desert highways of the Mojave and Nevada have been rendered all the more exhilarating sound-tracked by 'Black Nails', 'Zug' and 'Ballet Statique'.
A copy of his awesome 1980 RCA 'Super-Sound-Single' 'Auf Dem Schwarzen Kanal' / 'Fabrik' is always in my record box.
I was fortunate to speak to Conrad via email in his last days. Unaware of his illness, I had contacted him with a few questions; he very kindly answered them but also bid me "so long", explaining that he was terminally ill and that he was ok, he would just "fade out". It was a touching correspondence from a kind and brave man facing his last days, and typical of him that he took the time to speak to me as he had with so many devotees of his work over the years. Also typical of his prodigious work rate that his last music, '00/830', was created just four days before his death.
The stoical final message on his website simply reads "The End Best, Con". Whilst the great man has gone he leaves an astonishing body of work ripe for (re)discovery and new beginnings…
Global living, in short................
Since some time, I globalize me. Why just living in one country, why just sleeping in one country, why just being buried only in one country, now that we think and live globally.
I would like to be at beautiful places in the world, without to move me from my place here. I send my DNA (my hair) to different places in the world. This means I'm all over the world. I'm everywhere, even when I'll be dead. Nobody must come to my grave in Berlin. My friends can visit me in the whole world now.
So if friends want to give me a place...., welcome. I'll send a DNA sample to bury me. I am in the whole world at home now. I love this feeling.
Intermedia – Life – Action containing the classic albums: Con, Con 2+, Con 3, and Electrocon.
The 80s Work Series a comprehensive collection of material including his collaborations with Wolf Sequenza and the excellent work with his son Gregor Schnitzler – Conrad & Sohn and the proto house of Berlin Express.