Sub-cultures of the 1960s
Avant garde and popular music

The newly emerged youth and sub-cultures of the 1960’s entered popular music – popular culture and the avant garde met beyond the mainstream.

The Beatles cited Stockhausen’s Hymns and experimented in I am the walrus and Revolution nr. 9 with "musique concrète“. The prolonged tones of John Cales, who had studied with the minimalist LaMonte Young in night-long experiments, were drawn through the music of Velvet Underground. Stockhausen likewise influenced Miles Davis and his producer Teo Macero in, for instance, the 1973 production On the Corner. Davis understood Stockhausen’s works as "a process of taking away and adding to”. Thanks to the possibilities of over dubs, re-working and special effects, the studio became itself a musical instrument. The Beatles withdrew from stage performances because the effects they could achieve in the studio could not be reproduced at live concerts.

In 1967 appeared the first recordings by the "Buchla" synthesizer and in the following year those by the "Moog” synthesizer. With his machine, Don Buchla was oriented more to contemporary compositional practice, as Morton Subotnik’s "Buchla” composition Silver Apples on the Moon demonstrated. Robert Moog’s synthesizer, on the other hand, was conceived as a popular music instrument. It was intended to produce new sounds and at the same time to imitate conventional instruments, as Walter (later Wendy) Carlos demonstrated with his "Moog” version of popular pieces of music by Bach on his bestselling album Switched On Bach.


What is today identified as “Krautrock” is a highly heterogeneous scene in which bombastic classical jazz rock, psychedelic excesses and avant garde experiments are possible. Nevertheless, all contemporary canonical krautrockers like Can, Kraftwerk, Neu! and Faust share a certain "motorics”, as the British author Simon Reynolds calls the often uniform, non-expressive pulse. They perform funk borrowings with the precision of a metronome and do without the classical song structures and Blues orientation of rock.

Can was formed at the end of 1967 in Cologne. Accompanied by changing singers, the Stockhausen students Holger Czukay and Irmin Schmidt, free jazz drummer Jaki Liebezeit and guitarist Karoli recorded endless, intensive-rhythmic improvisations with a two-track tape recorder. From these, later pieces were spliced together, for which work they secretly used the electronics studio of the WDR. With this application of the Stockhausen-inspired splicing method, they became the rock forefathers of later "sampling” electronic musicians.

Measured against their later influence, Can’s success during its active years was modest. Still, in 1971 they scored a hit when they composed their single Spoon for the TV blockbuster Das Messer.

Without the abstract groove of Can, but above all with conventional instruments, Tangerine Dream (founded by Edgar Froese in 1969 in Berlin) experimented with noises (on their first album from 1970, alongside organ and guitar, there are the sounds of whips and parchment) and free structures. In 1971, they began to devote themselves more and more to synthesizers and other electronic instruments. In spite of increasing rhythmicisation, they kept on advancing the kitschy-ambient appeal of their music, which Klaus Schulze, another member of what is known as the Berlin School of "cosmic music” and briefly a member of Tangerine Dream, also pursued. Listeners cannot fail to recognise the influence of their wavering, hypnotic sound carpets on the contemporary trance-techno scene.