Edgar Froese on Lanzarote, 2002. Photo: Bianca Froese-Acquaye.
WHAT IS CALLED DRAMA in musical terminology is frequently valued but often overrated: too often associated with the operatically overblown or the whining catgut of suspense. Watching the nail-biting sequences in William Friedkin’s unjustly forgotten, jungle-juggernaut movie Sorcerer (1977), with its monster trucks teetering on rope bridges above a torrential Amazon in full spate, you’re struck by how much the background music—a gray, insistent hornet hum of synthesized sound—helps ratchet up the desperation of the scenario in a ruthlessly restrained manner that’s nothing like the Wagnerian meltdown you’d expect in such a scene from the Hollywood of today. Friedkin later said that if he had discovered the German musicians responsible sooner, he would have asked them to score The Exorcist (1973). The director had stumbled upon them performing in a derelict church in Germany’s Black Forest. They were Tangerine Dream, and their chief synthesist, Edgar Froese, died suddenly this January in Vienna, age seventy.
Born on D-day, 1944, Froese settled with his family in Berlin after the war and studied piano as a teenager. By 1965, he found himself leading a psychedelic band called the Ones, at one point performing at the request of Salvador Dalí at his home in Cadaqués, Spain. Two years later, Froese founded a new group with Klaus Schulze and Conrad Schnitzler called Tangerine Dream (after the British psych band Kaleidoscope’s debut LP). Their first, landmark album, Electronic Meditation, was recorded in a Berlin factory space in 1969. It’s a gas giant of a record, votive and solemn in mood, cosmic in scale, yet built of recognizable materials: Mellotron, analog rumbles, and amplified flute. Somewhere between improvised music, contemporary classical, and the future direction of progressive rock, the early Tangerine Dream revealed themselves clear-sighted as to what was to come.
Tangerine Dream continued as a working unit right up until Froese’s death, releasing over one hundred albums, touring all over the world, and contributing to more than sixty motion-picture sound tracks, including Michael Mann’s Thief (1981) and The Keep (1983) and Paul Brickman’s Risky Business (1983). For nearly five decades, Froese remained the group’s lone constant, holding them on course through continual sea changes in synth technology and audience expectations. The group’s watershed moment came in 1973, when Richard Branson signed them to his Virgin imprint, and their sound became incrementally less organic than on previous records such as Alpha Centauri (1971), Zeit (1972), and Atem (1973), the payoff being that they were suddenly exposed to a substantially larger international audience. The final incarnation of Tangerine Dream took great literature as its launchpad, from the Dante-inspired Divine Comedy series (2002–2006) to the group’s last major recorded statement, Eastgate’s Sonic Poems (2011–13), a series of tributes to writings by Joyce, Meyrink, Kafka, Poe, and others.
Froese himself hated his music being defined solely as “electronic,” considering the term too redolent of arid experiments. Instead he favored resonant, sacred locations for his concerts, notably one in 1975 at Coventry Cathedral, which had been razed to the ground by German bombs during World War II then rebuilt as a modernist shrine. Exorcising the wartime ghosts of bitter enmity, the concert was broadcast to a live television audience. “Thirty years ago they came to bomb the place; today they come with synthesizers,” Froese quipped at the time.
Tangerine Dream: Live at Coventry Cathedral in 1975.
Tangerine Dream played inside many of the cathedrals of Europe over the years, and Froese’s music—sometimes filed under “new age”—could be seen as a counterpart to the so-called holy minimalism of composers such as Henryk Górecki, Arvo Pärt, Giya Kancheli, and others, made by channeling electrical power instead of orchestral forces to feed its expanding universe. Humans, he once said, are “lost . . . in cycles that span hundreds and thousands of years,” but were blind to the environmental fate of the planet because they were too constrained by their own tiny life-cycles. Both sonically and philosophically, Froese was always seeking the biggest possible picture.
Rob Young is a writer, critic, and contributing editor of The Wire. He is currently writing a biography of the German group Can.
Jon Jerde. Photo: Joe Pugliese. Courtesy, The Jerde Partnership.
RAY BRADBURY, the science-fiction writer, lived most of his life in Los Angeles but never learned to drive. No wonder he wrote essays lamenting the lack of a town center. In 1970 Jon Jerde, a Los Angeles architect, read an article in which Bradbury described how a town square in the sprawling city might be organized. Jerde arranged to meet Bradbury over lunch, and the two men became friends. A few years later, Jerde was asked to design a mall in a derelict section of San Diego. Bradbury told Jerde that “one of the joys of travel is being lost in a great city and loving it,” and he recommended that Jerde design a place “in which people would be lost but safe and filled with joy.” The result, a mall called Horton Plaza (1985), has been called a “collaged fantasy land, where Spanish piazzas collide with Moorish souks” and a “carefully curated kind of trash.”
With Horton Plaza’s success, Jerde’s reputation grew. So did the size of his projects, culminating in Minnesota’s gargantuan Mall of America (1992) — some might think the name redundant. A few architecture critics might use the title of Bradbury’s 1962 novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes, to describe Jerde’s work, in which fake town centers replaced real ones. Still, Jerde was, according to one writer, the most copied architect of the last century. If that is so, it may be because his ersatz city streets, made with cheap materials and crude details, were easy to knock off, unlike the work of another Bradbury acquaintance, Frank Gehry, who also started out as a mall designer. (Gehry’s Santa Monica Place  competed, unsuccessfully, with Jerde’s Universal CityWalk  and Glendale Galleria –and was finally renovated by the Jerde Partnership in 2010.) Meanwhile, in a twist, Bradbury’s longtime home in the Cheviot Hills neighborhood of West Los Angeles was torn down in January, angering preservationists; the architect Thom Mayne is building a new house on the site. But Cheviot Hills is pure suburb, and nothing Mayne does will give it (or the city around it) any kind of center. That was the job of Jerde, who died on February 9 at seventy-five, having helped America trade city walks for CityWalk.
Fred A. Bernstein is a writer based in New York.
Rex Ray. Photo: Miriam Santos-Kayda.
I KNEW REX was going to be instant family. He had a big rubber smile, and an endless stream of wit, warmth, taste—and a bottomless knowledge of Warholiana. It was the mid-1990s, and I remember thinking, This is why it’s great to be an adult: because you get to know people like Rex Ray. Oddly, the night we met Rex said, “If you’d met me three months ago I would have been bitter, and you wouldn’t have liked me.”
“What do you mean?”
“I was working as a clerk at City Lights books, and I was the world’s bitterest clerk, and I decided one day that I’m not going to be bitter anymore.”
I found it difficult to believe that anyone as social as Rex could be bitter, but he said, “No, it’s a decision, and I decided to stop.”
Rex’s decision to stop being bitter coincided with his first big show of works in San Francisco. It was a charged event—everyone knew something special was being born; it was the new, unbitter Rex Ray with his first exhibition of works that would come to be known as his mature style. I thought to myself, You know, sometimes it’s just wonderful to see something effortlessly new in a gallery, its newness curling down off the wall like dry-ice fog.
After that first show, I only ever saw Rex blossom. He was a tree that only knew spring, and his work became bigger, more complex and more ambitious, and his studio grew with this drive. Everyone who knew him shared such unjealous happiness at his success.
And then it stopped. I don’t know if Rex always knew it was lymphoma or if he had a misdiagnosis at the start and then only learned the truth later. We had a dinner at Zuni near the end, and he was so embarrassed to be so frail, to have his feet hurt so much just from walking from the curb to the table. He looked at me and said, “I’m Mr. Burns!” And he made light of it, but it was impossible not to see the pain. Sometimes you say good night to people, and it only means good night, but sometimes you say good night and you know it’s actually good-bye, and that was how it was that night.
I miss the way Rex called you darling. I miss the way he analyzed Britney Spears’s career trajectory. I miss going into Jonathan Adler and seeing his new works on the walls—and there was always new work. Rex had more drive than any artist I’ve ever met, and he started so much later in life. He was a lovely human being, and why do they always go first? Idiots go on forever. Rex, darling, we all miss you very, very much, and say hi to Andy.
Douglas Coupland is a writer and artist based in Canada. He is currently artist in residence at Google’s Paris Cultural Institute.
Tomaž Šalamun. Photo: Roman Šipić/Delo.
TOMAŽ ŠALAMUN IS DEAD. On the other hand, as he put it:
The worst imaginable kind of fascism would be
if the soul belonged only to the living
and not to the dust and stones!
On the subject of soul, he also wrote:
The drunk sells his coat.
The thief sells his mother.
Only the poet sells his soul to separate it
from the body that he loves.
And around the subject of stones:
Red flowers grow in the sky, there’s a shadow in the garden.
The light penetrates, there’s no light to be seen.
How then can the shadow be seen, there’s a shadow in the garden,
all around big white stones lie scattered, we can sit on them.
The dust and stones of his poetry are here, his soul is scattered here, so no, I don’t think he is dead. That’s all I have to say about that. Here are a few poets I asked who had something to say about him. There are many others who do too.
—Abraham Adams is an artist based in Brooklyn.
I knew Tomaž Šalamun over a long time, but saw him relatively briefly on widely spaced occasions. Each time he came to New York we would get together for a little blast of Slovenian mirth and Sloveno-American poetry. And then he would be gone, leaving me with the illusion that a close friend had just come and left on another brilliant voyage. He seemed to be at home everywhere. Perhaps even Ljubljana, which to my regret I have never seen. They say it’s beautiful and sophisticated and yet obscure and off-the-radar, terms that might also apply to Tomaž and his crackling poetry.
—John Ashbery is a poet based in New York.
I have a hundred words. I met him in Slovenia, at Days of Poetry and Wine. There were dozens of us, drunk and full of sausages. “You are the strongest American poet” was the first thing he said to me. He was tanned and glowing, wearing white. I remember a brace and a cane. He had just come from China, where the Great Wall had somehow hurled itself against his leg. In the basement of a winery I pointed to his brow, with its elegant globule, and told him his third eye looked very auspicious. He pointed to my forehead and said, “Yours too.”
—Ariana Reines is a poet based in New York.
At the Movies with Louie & Purdey & Michael & Tomaž
It’s a new season starting
and they have to be in a different place.
—Au Hasard Balthazar
[a] Tomaž said, You’re Bob Dylan, but act like Llewyn Davis. [b] I cried afterwards in the bathroom. I thought if I left the room the insect in my head would leave too. I thought the room, I thought my eyeballs, the bee in my head would go away. [c] He told me I should go see it and that it reminded him of me. I thought how cool it would be to work at a little pie and coffee place underneath the track of an elevated train. We sat under a tree at night and remained silent for a while. [d] It was the first film I saw in French with no Subtitles. She’s eating spaghetti with sauce repeatedly and eating spaghetti with sauce and that’s delicious. She tongues her spaghetti off her face, and there is so much flesh she has to contain within her dungarees. She’s always pulling up her pants onto her hips, she has so much flesh she’s full of flesh it’s terrific. . . . [e] All I see are those coins bouncing in 3-D very slowly, like slow heavy rain. I was completely hypnotized the first twenty minutes, but we hated this movie. But it felt so good to see those first twenty minutes, it felt like a real life experience. And that’s the truth about it. [f] After we watched it, when I asked him what he thought about it he said the film made him really angry. The kids unbury the guns buried with the corpses on the beach. I left the classroom and cried in the bathroom for 15 minutes. [g] We saw it at Le Champot. [h] JFK in Asilah: “So this is America, this is how America really is.” “No sir, I heard three shots. Back, and to the left. Dadadadadadad you gotta go and get ‘em.” [i] El Topo was important. [j] I just remembered I was totally focused on the film. Remember there is a moment when his life passes and there is the snow falling? [k] The Social Network: Andrew Garfield drank a beer. [l] We saw this in Paris. The next day Tomaž and I ran into Werner Herzog eating chicken dinner in a train station brasserie. So when I came down the stairs, Daniel Payavis was saying they were chameleons in the scene, and I was saying they were iguanas, and then we couldn’t figure out what music there was that was playing.
[a. Inside Llewyn Davis b. Shutter Island c. My Blueberry Nights d. La Vie d'Adèle e. The Great Gatsby f. Come and See g. The Mirror h. JFK i. El Topo j. Un Prophète k. The Social Network l. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans]
—Michael Thomas Taren and Purdey Lord Kreiden are poets and cotranslators based in Aubagne, France.
Tomaž Šalamun was absurdly serious about poetry, about the absurdity of his pursuit, and about friendship in poetry. Of the great poets I’ve known that are recently gone, perhaps Arkadii Dragomoshchenko (if a little darker) had a similar seriously absurd spirit, which seems to require also uncanny generosity toward younger poets. What else of poetry can be passed on and who to pass it on to, if not those struggling to imagine a life in poetry, which is to say an absurd life with dubious honors? Tomaž was proud of the young poets he nurtured, whether close and constant in his life, or far away and fleeting—a modest patriarch recounting the talents of his progeny. At dinner he’d say, “Look what a great poet I found.” Yet, he never taught with his work and ironized any success of his own. Youthful, mischievous, and kind as an older brother, he was happy that young people dug him. He had seemingly no interest in his own talent—it was just there, he followed it, as if on “the tracks of wild game,” as he called an early collection, in which, as in Poker (2003), he was striking out on several paths at once. His poems are memories that come back and mix with the present. He transforms torments into lightness, but with a rocky weight, so you can feel it. After a bottle of Malvasia in the West Village, on a whim we ordered a second, and later stumbled out, smiling. With Tomaž, one felt like a poet. Or at least it made weird sense to keep trying.
—Matvei Yankelevich is a translator and writer, and a founding editor of Ugly Duckling Presse.
A memorial gathering with readings of poems by Tomaž Šalamun will take place at Ugly Duckling Presse on Sunday, March 8 at 4 p.m.
Robert Reed. Photo: Lisa Kereszi.
I was seventeen years old when I met you. You were wearing khaki slacks and tasseled loafers. You had round spectacles.
You bellowed your most infamous assignment, fifty 22 x 30" drawings of a New Haven park, astonishing us with its rigor. An everlasting mission. A page full of charcoal might qualify as completion, but the task was a catalyst. Trees are everywhere; they are a permanent subject and continuing metaphor for representation—their differences and their inherent incompleteness—growth, death, and perspective.
Your spirit is pervasive. But my loss of the gentleman, scholar, and artist grieves me. Since your passing, the trees are unfamiliar. And more and more often I see artists cloaking industriousness with style to hide earnestness.
I remember Drawing 1 in the basement of the gray cardboard of Paul Rudolf’s Art & Architecture building. Your “velvet hammer” tapped away at my malleable ego, forming it into something sincere.
You kept cynicism at bay. The trees, the charcoal, the paper, our peers, the paint were archetypical. I’ve never seen a bigger silver beech. We’ve never drawn more leaves. We could lean on the structure of your pedagogy. Its trustworthy edifices inspired quests into the woods. These same woods we would thin to furnish our studios as we graduated.
Drawing wasn’t easy. You had to repot me. My young habits were the wrong soil. And I dreamt of you recently. You had a tweed shovel. You were dumping out potted students and pointing out the light source. You reminded us to look at the object, not subject ourselves to the page.
Professor Reed, you sowed my ego deeper in the dirt than I wanted to be. Drawing, painting, germination, the vulnerable position of needing resources to represent pushed me up through knowledge to understanding. Like a giant old-growth shim, you continue to level this drawn world. Thank you.
Robert Reed, Sigh Less Green, 2000, collage, 20 x 16”. Courtesy of David Findlay Jr Gallery, NY.
Joseph Montgomery is an artist based in New York.
HE ASKED US to do drawings with coffee and tea, then paused and asked us in his most serious voice to consider what would happen if we added cream and sugar.
—Wiley Kestner, Yale University student, 1998
The passing of Robert Reed, a professor for almost fifty years in both the undergraduate and graduate programs at Yale University, is a great loss. A great loss not only for his wife, children, grandchildren, friends, students, and colleagues; not only for the fact that he was the only tenured African American ever in the Yale School of Art; but also for education itself as a profession, a concept, and a calling.
Reed’s significance as an educator does not diminish his accomplishments as an artist. A steadfast geometric painter, his work is included in the collections of such venerable institutions as the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and the Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia (to name a few). Bob, as he was known to many, fulfilled his role as a professor by placing his artistic ego aside—a notion that has become foreign, forgotten, overlooked, or simply unfashionable in art education today.
Robert Reed, Cabbage, 2000, collage, 20 x 16”. Courtesy of David Findlay Jr Gallery, NY.
Much has been said of Bob’s demanding teaching style. He famously expected his painting students to produce twelve paintings and his drawing students to produce fifty drawings by the second class. In addition, students were to attend a kind of weekend art boot camp at Yale’s Norfolk campus, where they worked from morning until night. He accepted no excuses for any work not fully done. Most apparent was that his methods displayed his belief in the connection between hard work and success. What was perhaps less obvious was his understanding and investment in his role as a mentor. You never found Bob in a public review making a show of his career, his knowledge, or his ego. More often than not, he remained rather quiet. He shared his wisdom willingly and rigorously in private. It did not happen in the hallways, a bar, or a restaurant. It was not confined to a class session, a semester, or a year. It was delivered personally with empathy and respect. It was not for show but for forming a dialogue, a conversation—extended, for sure—a foundation for a teacher-to-student, student-to-teacher relationship, one that continued and developed over time. Bob’s was a role that was not a choice but a given: professor as mentor. In his position as professor he deeply understood it not to be about him but about “us.”
Success in academia is so often measured in preapproved career checklists and awards. Bob had many of these, but they seemed to matter less to him than assisting and bearing witness to the progress of his students and colleagues. As a professor, he measured his own success by the success of those of us he had mentored. I am happy to say that I am one of the many who benefited from his generosity.
Twenty years ago, I met Robert Reed in a gallery in Charlottesville, Virginia, where I was exhibiting my paintings. He introduced himself, and a conversation began that led to many wonderful years of my teaching alongside him at Yale. As a very green professor, I watched all the notable artists I worked with for clues on how to be a better teacher, but I could not read Bob, due to the very private nature of his approach. I now understand how he embraced the role of the professor as mentor, something I still find difficult to consistently practice. Education is ultimately a conversation: a process of sharing, supporting, relating; in essence, a group activity. Bob understood this and resisted the impulse to make it into the singular, me-me-me agenda we see in so much of contemporary culture.
In the years since leaving Yale, I remained in touch with Bob. His continued support and belief in me as an artist and an educator never waivered. With each correspondence, I was reminded to try harder to be a more effective teacher and mentor. And even as I do strive to follow his example, I am sure that the hole Bob has left in art education will be very hard for all that follow to fill.
Lisa Corinne Davis is an artist and professor of painting at Hunter College in New York.