Burbling beneath the highly stylized visuals of the great filmmakers they have chosen to work with—among them Michael Mann, Philippe Garrel, and Kathryn Bigelow—Tangerine Dream’s audacious layering of sonic blips, spacey atmospherics, and intricate synth patterns has not only extended the vocabulary of modern film music, but also demonstrated the emotional range of the synthesizer—an instrument that in the 80s was still subject to swift changes in technology and was disdained by many serious music lovers.
In celebration of the band’s North American tour launching in June, BAMcinématek presents a week-long sampling of their work in film. In the line-up is a handful of rarities, including the North American premiere of Philippe Garrel’s surrealistic Le berceau de cristal, starring Nico and Dominique Sanda. Below we’ve gathered some of the band’s seminal tracks, from both their studio albums and their film scores—so get ready for some of the most otherworldly sounds ever put to wax. We’ve also spoken with writer/director Steve De Jarnatt about collaborating with Tangerine Dream on Miracle Mile, the film that opens the series this Friday, June 1.
Steve De Jarnatt on Tangerine Dream
I wrote the first drafts of Miracle Mile in 1978. Usually in the middle of the night—always with the Sorcerer soundtrack blasting away. The mood and momentum of that breakthrough work was a prime catalyst for me in imagining the dreamscape of an empty Los Angeles—the engine for envisioning the plight of my average joe character dealing with his apocalyptic "chicken little" knowledge.
It was such a coup to be able to get them to score the film almost a decade later. And even better I got to go over to work with them for several days in their studio outside Vienna.
For my little opus—the band was, of course, Edgar (Froese) who is Tangerine Dream. Others come and go but Edgar is the constant—the heart, soul and brain of beast. Also collaborating was a young classically trained prodigy, Paul Haslinger, and it was just the two of them together on Miracle Mile. Paul is now a thriving composer working in LA (after many years of being an A list programmer and often ‘ghost composer’ for many others, with the Underworld series of films among many other credits.)
It was one of my favorite experiences in my whole career. I had sent over a work print with temp music (85% theirs, with a bit of Peter Gabriel’s Birdy soundtrack I think)—just to give them my inkling of how I felt it might be scored, but every cue they did trumped those selections and brought everything to life. Heightened tension, covered myriad flaws. It was just a magical process to be able to work with them, they were so gracious and collaborative. I think I’d put in a cue from Risky Business (for the lighter earlier date sequence) and rather than perhaps be miffed by this, they would do an adaptation of that same feeling and create a different but equally effective sonic texture. The ticking clock motif used towards the end I am so lucky to have in my film—think its one of their most emotional and evocative pieces. Wall to wall—I love every note in their amazing score.