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Baker's Dozen

The Spirit Is The Thing: Irmin Schmidt's Favourite Records
Sean Kitching , December 4th, 2015 10:46

As the former Can man releases his Electro Violet box set this week, he boils his all-time favourites down to a 'records of the day' selection, taking Sean Kitching from albums to individual songs and classical compositions


Stockhausen - Trans
So, the next teacher I had was Stockhausen. Trans is a very peculiar piece, I love it very much. I have so much from Stockhausen, it's hard to say I love this more, but in Trans there's a symphony orchestra that plays hidden behind a curtain and there are loudspeakers on either side of the hall and... I don't have the English word, but there is a sound which crosses always from right to left...

I just looked it up. Apparently it's an old-fashioned loom shuttle, every 20 seconds or so, each stroke initiating a new note from the strings.

Yes, that's it... and this idea is so surprising, something totally new. It has something of a very mystical atmosphere, and on the other hand there's this industrial sound, which gives it a very mysterious element and which creates a great sense of beauty.

Was it Stockhausen's influence that informed the collage technique that Can used?

That was really right before starting with Can. I met Holger at Stockhausen's course and when we had formed Can, we still sometimes worked at night in the electronic studio with Stockhausen's allowance and Holger always stole tapes, because we were very poor and had no tape, so Holger would take used tapes. Even this Stockhausen knew and tolerated. Besides just the technique, we learned from him the broadness of what you can do with electronics, especially using field recordings and integrating them.

I wanted to ask, in relation to that, the 'thunder' that's at the start of 'Oh Yeah' from Tago Mago, was that an actual thunderstorm?

At the end of 'Mushroom' or the beginning of 'Oh Yeah' it was some kind of big bang, which was slowed down. I don't remember what it was but it was a concrete sound slowed down. Like the beginning of 'Oh Yeah' is backwards. The way Can made its records was a lot of collage. Cutting different recordings of the same pieces together. Like Tago Mago, sides three and four, those are pure collages. 'Oh Yeah' is a collage of at least four different recordings. Sometimes you can't realise and other times we made it obvious, cutting so suddenly into something that you realise it's an edit and it's meant like that. And of course, working with tape was one of the things Stockhausen did, which was very influential to us.