A man in black motorcycle gear and helmet walks alone through a desert landscape. He scrambles up sand dunes, his breathing laboured and his heart pounding, before finally he reaches the sea shore. Flinging the helmet aside with relief, he surrenders himself to the waves and is quickly submerged.
This astonishing sequence opens Revolution Of Sound, a fascinating feature-length documentary on electronic music pioneers Tangerine Dream. The man in black is group founder and leader Edgar Froese, one of the most important figures in progressive music, something which this film by Margarete Kreuzer (and co-produced by his widow Bianca Froese-Acquaye) seeks to make abundantly clear.
Following Froese from his early years playing beat music in West Berlin up until his death in January 2015, it depicts him not only as the driving force behind TD, but also its philosopher-in-chief, an evangelist for the near-mystical power of the “regulated sounds” that new synthesiser technology could achieve. Indeed, images of the band’s latter‑day incarnation in flowing white robes suggest some kind of benign religious cult as much as a musical ensemble.
Throughout the film, TD are positioned as being explorers of both inner and outer space. In that opening sequence, we see that Froese has wired himself up, recording his heartbeat and breathing to be played back and manipulated later as part of his music, “experiencing oneself with the greatest possible intensity”, as he puts it. Elsewhere, Froese talks about how TD can help listeners escape their own “personal gravity”, but they must concentrate and collaborate with the music in order to achieve this. The flip side, of course, is the band as science fiction made dramatically real, “space adepts” sent to Earth to channel the universe’s cosmic waves.
The film benefits enormously from having a calm, lucid voiceover by Froese himself, created from a series of interviews conducted just prior to his death, which give it a wonderfully meditative feel – no tales of wild parties or groupies here. Instead, there’s Jean-Michel Jarre describing them as being a perfect combination of “poetry and mathematics”.
It’s by no means completely po-faced, though – there’s also a priceless clip of Froese dressed as an alien, complete with springy antennae, from a 1980 German sci-fi movie.
Featuring fantastic footage from late-60s happenings at Berlin’s Zodiak Arts Club, plus classic-era concerts and home movies, there’s plenty to delight the eye, but it’s Froese’s words that make Revolution Of Sound special. As he would say, it’s “a synchronised heart/music experience”.