This page contains excerpts from various conversations between Deuter and his longtime friends and colleagues, Bhikkhu Schober and Waduda Paradiso. In these talks, Deuter shares his philosophy about music and its role in our world, his creative process and sources of inspiration, and anecdotes from his early life and time spent at the Osho ashram in India.
Philosophy & Inspiration
What inspires you to create music?
The music basically is made for myself. For me, music was always a bridge to reach the divine. Music helps me to get into silence, get into meditation and find myself. That’s what I make the music for. When I make music, there’s no thinking about the album, titles, the money, or the world. It’s just the music coming, I’m working inside this music and listening to what the music is saying.
My goal is to create a bridge from sound to silence, and to bring something from the silence to the listener. To create the silence in the listener. To create a moment of silence in the music. To create a vibration when you listen to the music, through the laws of resonance, we are all vibrating systems, and if you put one sound into another, you can create a certain frequency in the system. That frequency can bring you closer to silence. I have two principals in my music: one is entertainment, and the other is silence.
What would you consider to be the primary elements of your music?
I think I have basically two elements in my music: one is the constant dance on the edge of silence; it is almost like moving into the silence, moving out of the silence. Now, every tone does that, every sound does that, every sound starts and ends, and there’s always silence. When you hear the sound, especially the right sound, you experience for a moment the silence, which is always there, which is inside us, which is outside us, which is the big nothing that everything comes out of. In music I love to create a path out of the silence, a path to express the joy of being alive, the gratefulness of being alive, and also a path that reverts back into the silence and the experience of the silence.
I think these days, at least in my experience, everything in the world is going faster and faster. Lately when I watch TV, it’s almost impossible to see a picture longer than one second, it always has to be chopped up in smaller parts; the changes have to be faster, the editing has to be faster. At the moment, everything is going faster and faster in the world. I think it is really, really important that we create a balance to this—that we find a way for every person, somewhere and somehow, to have the time where we can experience our inner selves.
Being able to relax, feel ourselves, question what we are doing (if you really want to do it) and feel grateful to be alive.
How do you perceive sound, vibrations and the world in which you find yourself?
One way of understanding our world is through the understanding of vibrations. Everything vibrates in this world, everything has a different frequency and when we sit in a room with people who have a pretty low vibration, we get affected by it; there is no way—every vibration influences another vibration, every frequency melts with another frequency. There have been experiments with clocks, for example: when clocks in the room tick for a while, they start to adjust themselves to the same ticking, and that is a system which he have been using—sitting with a teacher, or master, or guru. For example, we have one person with a very high frequency and you just sit with them and if you are at least a little bit open you get affected by it; and your own vibration, your own frequency starts to be affected and rise into a different state of consciousness without doing anything. Well, music does the same thing, music is vibration—every instrument vibrates. When you touch the string of a guitar, and you have another guitar next to it, the second guitar also starts to play. That phenomenon is something that happens between people when they sit together and mediate, when they sit together and are loving—one person influences the other person, and the other person influences the next person. The understanding of vibrations within music—I think it’s a very important one. It can create a door, a gateway, to higher consciousness.
As you compose music, is there a specific intention that guides you?
I have none. I simply love to make music and I’m endlessly grateful that I have the opportunity to make a living from my creativity, and that the source of my joy gives something to millions of people all over the world.
Do you follow a particular spiritual practice in your everyday life?
No. I live the way of Wu Wei, the art of doing without doing; whether I’m tending to my bees, playing one of my instruments, working in the garden or drinking a cup of tea.
Do you have a specific meditation practice that you do regularly?
Meditation has to become more important in this world, because it’s the only antidote we have for the madness which is going on right now. I don’t have any particular meditation practice; basically, the music is meditation for me.
In different interviews you repeat the concept: “I love dancing on the edge of the unknown, to play around and open doors I haven’t walked through before.” Is this idea the root of your musical journey?
That is absolutely right. I like to explore new dimensions of music with different instruments, creating unknown and unique sounds.
On the New Earth Records website, an American journalist has written: “If music can take you to Nirvana: Deuter would be your conductor”. What do you think about this comment?
If they are speaking of a train conductor, then I’d prefer to just sit on the train and enjoy the ride myself. If they’re speaking of a music conductor, then I would say that I am conducted by the music itself.
The motto of a famous jazz label is “The best sound is silence.” Your music seems to have a special relationship with silence; do you agree?
Silence and sound have always held an equal fascination for me. I love to listen and feel the disappearance of a sound and try to stay with it as long as possible.
What is the relationship between the practice of Reiki and your process of creating music?
As a Reiki Master, the state of stillness and relaxation that is created in the practice of Reiki is in my opinion a profound way of healing and sharing inner peace. Music can be a tremendous help in this process.
How has traveling influenced your music?
I’m sure it has a lot, because I travelled for years, and mainly towards the Asian areas. I have travelled to Turkey and spent time with the Sufis there. I learned Sufi music, and also learned from the Sufis how to stretch time, in a way, to go out of the objective experience of time—of measurable time. I learned how with music you can create a totally subjective time, which the Greeks compared to chronos, they called it Kairos. Chronos is the time you can measure. We know how long an hour is, but in music, you can create a time which might be shorter, it might be longer—it’s totally a personal, subjective experience of time. From Turkey to Iran and Afghanistan, and then to India—really wherever I went, I made connections with Indians. I made connections with musicians, and musicians usually are very open to share things, to jump beyond the personal level, and to meet on the musical level. My time in India has been quite extensive—my time with Indian music, I’m sure it influenced the totality of the music, but I never really made Indian music. And Bali: I love the Balinese music. I spent some time there; I bought Balinese instruments and made really good friends with Balinese musicians. So I think all these experiences have influenced my music in a certain way, of which I cannot really pinpoint; I cannot really express what part did what. But it is the same way in which every day of our life influences our behavior, our outlook on life, and our expression.
Can you please tell us about your experience with India and Indian music?
Indian music was the calling in the beginning. Indian music is built totally different than the rest of the music we have here. It’s based on one note that stays through the whole piece of music; the focus is always on the oneness of the piece. This type of music doesn’t change the harmonies, like we do here in the U.S., and that was somehow fascinating. The other point that was fascinating for me was the instruments the Indians used. I managed to find a sitar in Paris and I bought it, but there were not any teachers available; so I started to just play around with the sitar. For me, all the instruments I’m using, they’re basically like colors in a painting. I’m not focused on one instrument specifically. I use many sounds and instruments; in some pieces it’s more of certain instruments, and some pieces are more of the other instruments—it’s like painting, what I’m doing, painting with sounds. That is also one reason I love to work by myself. Usually painters work by themselves, they do not have somebody else painting on the same work, at the same time.
Are there any musicians you’d like to mention that have had an influence on your music?
For Indian music, the first one who taught me something about the sitar was Nikhil Banerjee, who is unfortunately dead by now, he was a famous Indian sitar player, who has an incredible sweetness in his music. Also Al Gromer Khan, whom I met in India. My favorite music in the Western genre is Baroque music; I just love Baroque music. A big influence in Western music is definitely Bach—I think he is one of the greatest composers; also Mozart and Beethoven. All of the Italian composers make such incredible music; from Monteverdi to Vivaldi and also the Germans: Handel, Bach, Mozart… this is music which I am inspired by; I am not replicating, I am more so emulating the spirit of the music, the feeling of the music, and the level of consciousness which is expressed there.
How do you feel about working with other musicians, Kitaro in particular?
I met Kitaro in India; he came to India, actually to meet me, and we became friends. Later, when I moved to America, we actually did a concert together. He had planned a big tour and had invited me to come, but it was a one-and-a-half-year commitment and I was not interested. It was too much for me. I always prefer smaller concerts, where you have more direct contact with the people; but Kitaro liked huge concerts, he liked filled stadiums and he had the support of, I think, big companies so that he could go on tour, and that wasn’t really my thing—I prefer the smaller stages.
Did you ever have a sense of how popular your music would become?
Well for me it was never—there was never a vision of being famous. I mean, I’ve met musicians, worked with musicians, but the focus was different. For me, it was just about the incredible love I have for making music.
Are there any people you would like to acknowledge or thank?
Of course there’s a long list of people, a very long list. I am very grateful that I had a grandfather who loved music up to a degree. He played in the mandolin orchestra and when American bombs destroyed his mandolin, he bought himself a little banjo. I found the banjo in his house and started to play on it. That banjo actually disappeared much, much later; I took it to India and somehow it disappeared there.
My music teachers and people who have supported my music—there have been individuals, I cannot mention their names here, but people who gave support. When you start with something in the art world, you’re usually very insecure about it, in the beginning. You don’t know if it is anything really worth doing, if it’s a waste of time. But when somebody comes and says that he or she likes what you create, that’s great support in the beginning.
My first music publisher was ready to publish my material after only listening for a few minutes—that was a grateful moment there. And also right now, working with a record company [New Earth Records] in Boulder, CO where we all have become friends. Since 1994 we have been working together; I have received a lot of support and a lot of love in that time, and that of course brought the music out. I mean, I can make a lot of music by myself, but there has to be a door where it channels out into the world. To make this happen, there have to be people who are willing to help, willing to do the work, so I am very grateful for that, too.
Then there’s another type of gratefulness I have towards musicians from historical Western music; as I mentioned before: Bach, and the Italian composers, and many, many more people.
Do you have any message you’d like to share with the world?
You ask if I have any messages for the world… not really. But I have hope that we will find a balance for our lifestyle, that we can find a way to create more awareness and consciousness. Like instead of running from life, we find ways to celebrate our life—to be grateful that this planet exists, that we exist, that this incredible universe exists… that is my hope; but I don’t have a message for the world, no.
The Creation Process
Could you describe your creation process?
I just disappear, there is no feeling of me when I make music. That’s the blissful part in a way. I don’t have to discuss with someone about it. I go totally out of the mind and am in a playful listening space. I listen into what’s coming and move in this world and paint the picture.
You can hear melody. It develops and grows. You listen to it, and it turns into something else. I’ve had melodies in my head for ten or fifteen years, that keep coming back because I haven’t used them. And they just stay somewhere, like there is a garden of melodies. The music starts to become alive and new every time. There came a certain point where I felt like all these people were inside me and the music is moving them.
How would you describe your experience when creating your music?
How does this music happen? That’s a good question, and I’ve been asking myself that a lot lately—it basically has a lot to do with love. When somebody loves to do something—maybe football, or climbing a tree, or whatever, you try to do it as much as possible. If you love to play football, you go out and play football for as much time as you can spare. For me, I created a working environment that felt perfect; I talked about the experience in the big music studio—that this doesn’t work for me, so I created my own studio. It grew over the years, and for me it is just an incredible, blissful experience to go in the studio, to play around and start making sounds, noises, music, tones… mixing them together, seeing what comes out… So, any time I can spare, I love going into the studio. It doesn’t feel like work at all; of course it is connected with work, some of the stuff is tedious and must be done, but it is fundamentally an expression of joy and love.
Please tell us about your life and work in the hills of Santa Fe, New Mexico, where you describe yourself as a “hermit, monk, and wolf” who coexists with coyotes, deer, bears, roadrunners, and your beehives.
I love the big expansive sky here in Santa Fe, the wide-open spaces, as well as the silence and the music of Nature. I live far away from the noise and speed of human activity. Here I can work without soundproofing in my recording studio and can connect with the rhythms of nature. I often go for long hikes in the mountains and feel inspired by the raw and alive beauty of the wilderness.
Every day of my life I’m blessed to spend my time in the wonderful environment of this Land of Enchantment [New Mexico], where my daily communion with the spirit of Nature inspires my music.
Does your home environment facilitate the music you create?
These days I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which is a pretty empty state, so there’s a lot of space, which I like… a lot of blue sky, a lot of sunshine; and I built a house—which basically is a house built around a studio and a big piece of land towards the mountains. I can try out sounds without disturbing anybody and I have Nature right around the house.
I love Nature, so it’s definitely an influence. I use Nature sounds often in my music. I hear the music in Nature, and the music of Nature. The birds singing in the trees, or water running down a mountain stream. I love sitting outside and recording a mountain stream and listening to all the nuances, the water trickling down and across the stones. That for me is the perfect music. I love the silence of Nature.
Do you experience a connection with your listeners when composing or performing your music?
When I was doing concerts of course there was direct connection there; it was beautiful and I loved it… I remember, for example, a concert here in Boulder. After a while, there was a space of oneness: where I feel the people, the people feel the music, and it becomes one organism, one movement. But when I work by myself, there is no connection in a way, because I don’t exist. So there cannot be somebody who connects and there cannot be any connection, there is just the music, creating itself.
Could you please tell us about the opening track from the album “Reiki Hands of Love”?
For me it’s really hard to talk about single pieces, because when I make the music I’m just inside the music; I’m not thinking about anything. When we think how a piece of music develops, it’s like—in the beginning there is silence; there is nothing… and what I usually do is I will play one note, and I listen to this note, and this note tells me where it wants to go. It will tell me what the second note should be, and I just start to let things flow, to let things come… So the basic premise for this album is that it should help somebody with relaxing. And it could help in leading a Reiki practitioner in creating a space for the whole Reiki procedure, where relaxation can happen with Reiki.
Could you say more about why it is challenging to speak about specific tracks amongst your extensive body of work?
For me it’s almost impossible to analyze a piece of my music; the same way you would not be able to enjoy the fragrance and beauty of a flower by dissecting it. I just do what comes to me naturally and what gives me joy, and then the music takes its own course and decides where to go.
So to answer specific questions about the tracks on an album, it’s really difficult for me. First of all, when I make a piece of music, that is the only piece of music in my life, at that moment. I am totally immersed in this music. Once it’s finished, the music starts to go on its own course; it goes into the world; I essentially have nothing to do with it anymore… so looking back I can say I know why we did another Reiki album, because I love the whole space of the first one and I try to recreate the space again for people who love the first album.
Do you listen to your own music?
People ask me often, “Do you listen to your own music?” Of course, I listen to a piece of music maybe 1000 times while it is still in the creative process. Afterwards they go out into the world on their own, they do their own thing. And unless I get a massage somewhere, and they play my music, I don’t listen to my own music anymore.
You play a great variety of instruments. Have you had any formal musical training?
What I do with music is not the normal way. Usually, you play an instrument your whole life, and get better at it. That’s not how I do it. Of course, certain things are missing with that. I’m not able to play a Bach on the cello or piano. But I talk to certain people who can do this, and they envy me for what I’m doing, that I can just take the instrument and express the music. That’s why I have so many instruments; I consider them like colors. When you paint a painting, you have a whole palette of colors there. That’s why I like to add more colors, like cello. For me that’s like a flavor, it excites me to make music.
Now, when you play a lot of instruments you cannot become a master, like certain musicians are. They play one instrument, and their whole life their entire focus is on this one instrument. For me, I only had training in playing the flute, in the beginning. I come from a family where a lot of people play instruments; one of my uncles was a music teacher, so I learned to play the recorder when I was young. That was the first instrument I really learned. Then I picked up stuff from different people: learning to play the guitar…for a while I played classical guitar. The next lessons I received were in India. I had a sitar teacher who taught me to play.
All the other instruments, I approach the way a child does, like a toy. I play around and find some way to create something with it or build something with it; as I said before, instruments are like different colors in a big painting. On some days, red is more in demand, while other days the demand is for blue.
How do you feel about formal musical training versus picking up an instrument, playing with it, and seeing where it takes you?
I had a time when I wanted to go on a music conservatorium, and I had a friend who went there; I visited the conservatorium, talked to the people and I was very much intrigued to go there since everything was focused on music—what I love.
I got the feeling though that I was moving inside a prison with the whole thing, and I couldn’t really express it, but it didn’t feel right to me to do this. I did not see what my future might be; it was not very clear at this time. So, I didn’t go in the conservatorium.
I have learned from teachers so that I know how to hold an instrument; it is possible to make a lot of mistakes and sometimes you can avoid them if you learn from somebody who has experience. But the basic thing is that I want to experience the instrument myself—I want to hear what the instrument is telling me, and where the instrument is leading me.
Life in Pune with Osho
When and where did you first meet Osho?
I took Sannyas in February of ’73. I originally met Osho in Bombay. I had been looking for a master, following a feeling of a certain something and traveling all over Asia to find it. When I met Osho, it was like this instant “click”—I knew that was the guy I had been looking for. So I closed shop in Germany where I had been living and went to India. And from then on, he taught me to make meditation music.
Could you tell us about the origin of the music for the Kundalini and Dynamic meditations?
“Dynamic Meditation” was done to live music during the meditation camps we had with Osho. There were some Indian guys drumming like crazy—drumming and making noise! But there was no recording of “music”. Then in Pune in ’74, pretty much one of the very first things we did was to start working on music for the meditations. I remember that Osho had the idea of associating the flute sounds of a snake-charmer with “Kundalini”. So I went out onto the streets and found this snake-charming guy sitting on a pavement behind the Ashram, he did his tricks behind Lao Tzu House, and I recorded him playing while he was charming the snakes out of the basket. But it wasn’t the right thing, it didn’t work out, and so I started to compose the music myself.
Could you describe your collaboration process with Osho? Did he give you direct feedback?
Osho had the concept of the meditation. He explained to me what the meditation should do to the meditator and told me his ideas, what he thought might be good for it. And then, on my own, I either composed something new or took a piece from my existing collection. I would play it to him, and he would tell me this was not good, or that he couldn’t use some part of it. It was very much trial and error.
He would listen to certain things and then tell me basically that I should do what I felt like doing, and it was okay. In the beginning when we first started, he would tell me, “I have this new meditation called ‘Mandala’ and these are the stages and this is what it should do in people and the energy should flow like this.” The goal was to try to make music for that. I would then go to him and play it. Later, he didn’t listen to it. I guess he had to listen to it anyway, once we had the big speakers you couldn’t avoid the music anymore. You had to hear it from six in the morning on every day!
I was also editing Osho’s music. He loved Indian music and I made tapes for him. He would give me an LP or a tape and tell me he wanted this piece, and this piece behind this piece, so I was constantly working on making those special things for him.
One of Osho’s ideas, I remember you told me once, was that he wanted to have only musicians who were Sannyasins.
That’s right. He wanted the whole music done in the Ashram. In the beginning I didn’t have a studio in the Ashram. I just had this cassette recorder and it was really hard to do anything—you couldn’t cut anything, you couldn’t edit. If you needed ten minutes of music you would have to play these ten minutes and play the next ten minutes right behind it. It was really hard. Eventually, around 1974, or 1975 I had my own studio and that’s when I made another version of “Kundalini” and “Dynamic” and all the other meditations.
What other messages came straight from Osho?
He gave me very clear instructions. Osho said that once the music is done it shouldn’t be changed anymore. Maybe it should be improved a little bit, maybe technically. But he emphasized that it should stay the same music. Osho said that its effect in the meditation would build up over the years, that it would create its own energy field by itself. Over a thousand years the music would form a field of resonance that would deeply affect each person doing the meditation.
Osho said that the music used for each meditation would build up energy over time. I had wanted to change the music two years after it was first composed, because by then I had different equipment, different ideas and I thought, “Now I can make the music much better.” I went to Osho and said, “I want to do the ‘Kundalini’ again, this time differently” and he said, “No, we have to leave it. It stays this way. It’s good. It works and it builds up every day as it connects with more people and energy and it has to stay that way.”
Do you agree that the energy of “Kundalini” and the other meditations has been building up over the years?
Yes, I now know the “feeling” of Kundalini meditation immediately when I hear the music. He told me I could improve some things—if I had only pots I could use something else in their place to make the sound better but I couldn’t change the music at all.
What equipment did you have when you did the studio recordings in Pune?
The recording was very primitive because everything electronic in India at that time was very primitive. The Indian government didn’t allow electronic machines in. You weren’t allowed to import tape recorders and things like that.
I didn’t have a recording studio, just a tape recorder, and the tapes had to be smuggled in. We used to fight over tapes, we needed them for lectures. We also wanted to make music, but lecture tapes were number one. I didn’t have the right tools, the tools I would have loved to have to make this music.
In the beginning I bought Talis and pots, and went to the stores, and banged them, and bought the ones that sounded good. That is how I made the Nadabrahma meditation. Osho used to listen in the beginning, we would talk about it. He would listen on headphones, and then give me feedback. Then later, he said to just do what feels right to you, and he didn’t listen to it anymore.
Later, I went back to Europe and got my studio and brought it back to India. I shipped it over from Germany and it sat in Indian customs for almost a year. I had a four-track machine, a big Sony, and a mixing board and a Revox 2-track for mastering.
When I had the studio, I said we can do it again, and make it better. Osho said you can improve something technically, but it’s there and has to stay the same. In the beginning you’re nervous, there’s someone who you see as your master, and teacher. Someone who has something more than you have, and he tells you to do something that creates a certain anxiety or nervousness. But it was really fun to do this also. Once it was played there and people started to hop around to it and jump, that was a fun feeling.
Were there any challenges that came with creating music at the Ashram?
One thing that was certainly different was that it was much more difficult to make music, because of all the noise and disturbances—the Ashram was so crowded, it was so full of people. The noise of constant construction. The Ashram was constantly building one thing after another, there was always something going on. It brought me to tears a lot of the time. Jesus House, where I had my studio, was so full of people and activity.
Would you say that you enter a different dimension of “allowing” music more than “making” music?
Yes, and with Osho this dimension was even more clear, because there was the personal there, the real presence of the master—and thus there was a purpose in the music which felt absolutely right. I had had this feeling at the beginning already: that the music was doing something for me and to me, and that it was also affecting other people—healing, soothing, helping others to enter meditation. Somehow it felt really right for me to work in this way, allowing something to come through that was both touching me and others deeply. Within this context, it felt incredible to be doing this in the Ashram in the presence of a living Master, to serve the purpose of allowing it to come through which was also Osho’s purpose.
It felt great. I loved making music for him. I always felt that music was for me the equivalent of service, the expression of the worshipful heart. In the beginning when I started making music for the meditations under Osho’s guidance, I felt this already. There was a surrendering happening, there was something greater than me going on and I surrendered to it. And I felt like I was serving.
What else would you like to say about your experience creating music at the Ashram in Pune?
It was incredible. It was incredibly gratifying. I have always been playing the type of music which serves the purpose of healing or hypnosis. I love doing it. Osho used to say that music is the last bridge into meditation. It is the highest form of art which can take you into silence. And I was always fascinated with sounds, music and silence. It had always been a fascination to listen to where a tone came from. Suddenly it’s there and you become aware of it, and by listening to the tone and its disappearance, its fading out, you also become aware of the silence—the silence the sound was born from and died into. When you listen to just one sound, like the gurgling of a fountain, you suddenly become aware of the silence too.
How did this all begin?
It’s a good question how this all started… When we come into this world, I think that everybody comes with gifts. I was born in Germany after a really, really bad time in Europe; the Second World War was devastating to both the people and the country. One of the nicer memories I have from this time, besides walking through the woods and enjoying trees, I heard for the first time someone playing the flute. That was like a light coming from the heavens into this extremely dark world, and I really appreciated that. I enjoyed hearing the flute and I also wanted to play the flute. In my grandfather’s house, I found some instruments: one was an old banjo that he had played and the other instrument was an old guitar. So I started just to play around with them, playing without knowing anything; just listening to sounds the strings made. For one of my birthdays, I received a flute; I started to play around with it, and that was the beginning for me. This was during a time when there was not much music to be heard; we did not have stereos at the time. The basic drive in life was to find food and survive. So, music was the opening to a different dimension during that time of my life.
Can you tell us about when you first started playing music?
I remember being about four years old and starting to play with a little mouth organ and a little tin flute—I just loved the sound of the flute. It felt as though light were coming into life. From then on, I was always involved with any kind of instrument that appeared in my life, playing with all of them.
I also remember as a child, sitting at a grand piano. And playing a chord, and harmony, and closing my eyes, and listening to how these chords just disappeared and created a world somehow, and how it gets less and less sounds, but its infinite and keeps on going and I love that. First there is a sound, it develops and then it goes back into silence and nothing again.
Were there any early teachers who inspired you to begin your journey as a musician?
The teacher the whole time, is the music. The music is showing where it’s growing, and I’m following it. But also I had some teachers: an uncle who studied music who was a music teacher. He taught me for some time. I also went to school and learned the flute and recorder. Indian music was a strong influence for so long, more than Western music. The whole approach was different. That was a great influence in the 70s when the first Indian concerts were in Europe and Ravi Shankar came over. I heard the sitar played for the first time and fell in love with it; I traveled to Paris to buy one.
Did Nature inspire you then, as it does now?
Nature definitely plays an important part in my life and in my music. When I started recording, at the end of the 1960’s, I didn’t record music then; I recorded Nature sounds. I went out into Nature and recorded the singing of the birds, the wind in the trees, waves on the lake, waves on the river, and that for me—that was a connection to my childhood.
I was born in the countryside of Germany, and my first memories are of Nature, of sitting in the woods and enjoying being alive. Once I started to record the sounds of Nature, then I started mixing them together. The next logical step was to play an instrument on top of it. Out of this careful listening to Nature sounds came music—this type of music that I had wanted to hear but didn’t exist yet.
I was looking for it; I heard pieces of it in classical music, this type of sound: relaxing, soothing, and harmonious … so since I could not find anything that I wanted to use, I started to make this type of music myself. I started to experiment with making this type of music, even though in the beginning I didn’t know what really to do, or how to do it.
For me, an analogous story that I always loved takes place in Florence in, I think, the 14th or 15th century. These guys in Florence, they had this idea to build a big dome. They started trying to build it, but nobody knew how to create a dome on top of this big church. The church was built and for about forty years, I think, there was a big hole in the roof. Without the dome being built, there was no roof. Finally, Brunelleschi came, and he had this idea of how to build a dome, and it worked… That is basically the way that I do music. You start, and you don’t know how it is going to end—you don’t know where it’s going, you don’t know how you’re going to do it—it’s a total jump into the unknown, it’s an absolute play with silence, nothingness… basically it’s a play of life.
How did you go from recording Nature sounds to creating music in a professional studio setting?
After recording the sounds of Nature, I got into playing with these sounds; the emphasis moved from Nature sounds more towards music. I wanted to recreate what Nature was doing outside, for free. I was trying to do it at my place; at the time I lived in Munich and it was the end of the 1960’s, the beginning of the 1970’s. There was not really technical equipment available to record something by yourself; usually the musicians went into big studios and recorded there. I tried this in the beginning; I went into a big studio from United Artists and I realized very fast that was not the space where I could work. I needed something different, and I had to build it by myself; I had to find a way to do this so that I could work—so I could express what I wanted to.
Can you tell us more about the German musical landscape in the 1960s, around the time when you began playing music?
Well that was a time when big changes were happening on this planet; at that time there were musicians like Popol Vuh and Can, who were friends of mine. Can played a totally different type of music, but in a way, the spirit was still very similar. They came and visited me, and we played together, and I learned from them; I don’t know if they learned anything from me, but I learned from them! And there was Kraftwerk, I never met those guys—but they started around the same time, and Tangerine Dream were also in Berlin; they’re very similar. So, that was a time when something just blossomed there in Germany, and I was just one of the participants. Amon Duul in Munich—Klaus Wiese was a very good friend of mine who did very special work in the world, and unfortunately, he has left already. He was one person with whom I went out into Nature to record Nature sounds, and he was a very good friend—sitting out in the mountains somewhere for hours, waiting for the right sounds for the lark to sing. When you do those things, for example—recording larks—suddenly you learn that they always start singing when a plane is flying overhead, because basically they might perceive a plane to be a dangerous animal, so they try to draw the attention away from the nest. So you sit there and wait for a while, and finally the larks start singing, and the plane comes at the same time, and then the plane leaves, and the larks stop singing. That was always our experience.
So those were the 60’s, the end of the 60’s… things were changing in many parts of the world.