Last week, Edgar Froese, the co-founder of the German group Tangerine Dream, died of a pulmonary embolism. Tangerine Dream made plenty of impact as an electronic prog group, but their greatest legacy might be the dreamlike electronic scores they produced for movies like Risky Business, Near Dark, and Thief, Michael Mann’s classic 1981 directorial debut. Thief, in particular, is a masterclass in stylized tension, and Tangerine Dream’s score is a huge part of that. (The movie is streaming on Netflix right now, and you should absolutely check it out if you’ve never seen it.) In a new elegy for Froese, Mann has looked back on his experiences working with the group and on what their music meant to his movie. Here’s an excerpt:
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.
Read Mann’s full obit at Billboard.