Beaver & Krauserocksampler
- Aldous Huxley
Special thanks to Julian Cope for allowing me the use of his long-standing suffix in the title of this compilation. I couldn’t resist and luckily, neither could he.
The Moog Machine Tunes In
This imaginary compilation, a 28-track odyssey of fantastic sounds sourced from nine albums, serves to underscore the pioneering talents and the recorded works of Moog synthesists Paul Beaver and Bernie Krause. From their individual session work to recording albums together as Beaver & Krause, this collection runs from 1967 to 1971 although Beaver’s career extends back to the 1950s and Krause’s up to the present day in the form of field recordings of natural habitats. For this reason, a complete discography would be impossible without listing scores of scores. Not only because Paul Beaver’s contributions to film and television soundtracks even prior to his introduction to the Moog synthesizer was so incalculably huge, but also because Krause’s track record was no mean feat either: with his scoring, synthesizer and/or sound effects work appearing on 135 films.
As a collaborative pair, Beaver & Krause’s highest profile work remains the trio of albums they recorded for Warner Brothers Records: “In A Wild Sanctuary,” “Gandharva,” and “All Good Men.” The first two hold strong and beautiful Moog-synthesized moments often overlooked because much of the flanking material is comparatively tame, non-electronic or just too diverse while the latter album was an ultra-patchy affair (and therefore, omitted from this overview along with any mention of George Harrison’s “Electronic Sound.”) Also highlighted are the pair of Beaver & Krause albums which preceded this series, “The Nonesuch Guide To Electronic Music” and “Ragnarök” as well as Krause’s contributions to the film soundtrack for “Performance” while kicking it all off are excerpts from Paul Beaver’s earliest and most out-there Moog sessions.
I’ve purposefully left out Beaver and/or Krause’s sessions on novelty Moog releases like The Sound of Feeling’s “Spleen,” a pair of albums by The Mystic Moods Orchestra, Martin Denny’s “Exotic Moog” (complete with a Mooged-up version of “Quiet Village”), Mort Garson’s satirical “The Wozard of Iz: An Electronic Odyssey” LP and The Zeet Band’s curious urge to set an album’s worth of boogie-woogie tunes to Moog accompaniment and call it (what else but) “Moogie Woogie.” With their value as kitsch culture artifacts far outweighing their breadth of vision, they’re only good for a season not a reason despite containing unheard-of sounds prior to the Moog synthesizer’s creation in 1964.
At its onset, the Moog synthesizer’s potential was held back not only by faddish exploitation albums but by academically-trained musicians who set about remodeling older musical idioms in the context of this brand new instrument. Like a candy-coated pill of culture employed to bring public consciousness up to speed by using familiar forms of the past as a platform to engage with this previously unknown keyboard machine, Wendy (then Walter) Carlos realized her (then his) best-selling 1968 album “Switched-On Bach.” Comprised in its entirety of Moog-synthesized interpretations of Johann Sebastian Bach compositions, it was a similar though far more commercially successful version of what Joshua Rifkin’s “The Baroque Beatles Book” album had attempted three years earlier: by translating Fab Four tunes into classical arrangements in an attempt to finally register them as ‘music’ and not ‘noise’ with the more skeptical older ears of the general public -- Wilfrid Mellers’ a notable exception.
Largely due to the efforts of “Switched-On Bach” on the East Coast and Beaver & Krause’s ongoing pursuits on the West, the situation came full circle in 1969 when the Moog’s rising popularity became a notable selling point and caused a stream of exploitation releases like Marty Gold’s “Moog Plays The Beatles.” Nothing more than a collection of Beatles covers performed instrumentally on the Moog backed by lightweight Mersey-style guitars and drums, it unsuccessfully updated “Eleanor Rigby” out of the graveyard and into the open air with the psychedelic colours of remedial electronic supplementation while entirely skewering the emotional context of the Lennon-McCartney original. But the tandem expertise of Beaver & Krause’s explorations were already yielding Moog examples beyond the ham-fisted commonplace and into the realm of unlimited and ever-subtle possibilities.
Among several other obstacles these Moog pioneers faced once its use proliferated in recording studios was one that caused an American West Coast musician’s union attempt to take legal action against Beaver & Krause: was a machine that could produce such a wide spectrum of sounds and effects capable of replacing strings or even entire orchestras? Instead of stating the obvious, once Beaver wisely pointed out a similar restraint-of-trade case that the same union had lost back in the thirties against the use of Hammond organs outfitted with rhythm boxes, the case was dropped. Also, the flurry of different credits on albums accorded to Beaver and Krause showed that many people viewed the Moog more as a gigantic outboard device for sound engineering than a musical instrument. On one album, Krause was credited as ‘electronic producer’ while on another the liners only noted that ‘Moog engineer Paul Beaver was in charge of plugging and unplugging.’ So it would take a sustaining effort on several fronts to overcome these and other constricted views. However, after several years of studio experience with many popular recording artists of the day, Beaver & Krause would often find most musicians and producers unwilling to experiment while requesting sounds previously used on other records. And even then, it was frustrating and often times impossible to recapture studio run-throughs of sample patches even minutes later. But despite these and other setbacks and suspicions, Beaver & Krause persevered to become the twin Johnny Appleseeds of the Moog -- with their main orchard blossoming on the West Coast of the United States and beyond.
The Moog Machine Turns On
Aside from their classical training, overall industriousness and American Midwestern roots (Beaver hailed from Ohio while Krause was a native of Detroit) Beaver and Krause were as unlikely a pair as they were wholly complimentary to each other’s musical talents. Beaver was single, bisexual, Republican, a member of the Church of Scientology and a UFO enthusiast. Thirteen years Krause’s senior, he also had decades of experience as a jazz organist, keyboardist and special effects man on countless sci-fi B-movie soundtracks and television shows such as “The Magnetic Monster,” “My Favorite Martian,” and “The Munsters.” A well-known Los Angeles session man, his sizeable personal inventory of keyboard instruments ranged from oscillators, theremins, novachords, ondes martenots, and electronic harpsichords to Hammond, Wurlitzer and pipe organs which dominated the huge floor space of his single storey warehouse in downtown Los Angeles. A smaller, adjacent space doubled as his personal quarters where his future Moog co-owned with Krause would be parked between sessions.
In direct opposition to Beaver, Krause was a straight, married, Democrat and German-Jewish agnostic who supported many left-leaning causes of the day. As a child prodigy, he studied music from an early age and then became interested in jazz, blues and folk music. After a stint in the latter-day lineup of the popular folk group The Weavers, he moved on to arranging and recording guitar sessions in Detroit for Motown Records before furthering his musical education at the San Francisco Tape Music Center at Mills College with a series of lectures and workshops on electronic music offered by Karlheinz Stockhausen. (Recent experiments had also been conducted there by Don Buchla, Ramon Sender and Morton Subotnick with Buchla’s prototypical synthesizer, soon known simply as the Buchla.) It was here Krause’s interest in electronic music came to the surface and he soon found himself in New York City visiting Eric Siday, a composer who had purchased one of the first Moog synthesizers from the R.A. Moog Company in Trumansburg, New York. Krause had heard how Siday earned $35,000 with a seven second Moog recording for a commercial spot and was intrigued with the machine with which he accomplished this. But when he experienced the massive Moog synthesizer firsthand at Siday’s studio, he knew he heard his future calling loud and clear.
Soon after Krause’s first interface with the Moog synthesizer came a second and even more significant event. It arrived in the form of a phone call from Elektra Records president, Jac Holzman who knew of his interest in synthesizers and arranged for him to meet a musician Krause had once glimpsed recording on a Hollywood soundstage. His name was Paul Beaver and he had recently been hired by Holzman for a special recording project that involved electronics, poetry plus a full band for a musical concept album based on the twelve signs of the zodiac called “Cosmic Sounds.” Upon their first meeting, Beaver and Krause immediately connected and were soon flying to upstate New York together to meet the inventor of the Moog synthesizer, Robert Moog, to discuss his instrument and weigh the benefits of purchasing one outright. They were immediately convinced of its potential and after pooling together all their available funds not only procured a top of the line Series III Moog Synthesizer, but Beaver also became assigned Moog’s West Coast sale representative.
Once set up with their own Moog to painstakingly examine and experiment with at their own pace, Beaver and Krause soon found prospects for employment with their new instrument extremely elusive. They met with media producers, wrote letters, shopped around demos, visited record and film companies to discuss their new sound but it was all to no avail. A flood of rejection notices boomeranged back to the twin Moogists throughout the first months of 1967 so that by late spring, the duo agreed on one last ditch effort before calling it quits. They decided to rent a small booth to preview the Moog Synthesizer at a three-day event Lou Adler and John Phillips of The Mamas & The Papas were organising called the Monterey International Pop Music Festival.
The Moog Machine Drops Out
On the flight down to Monterey from San Francisco, Krause was seated next to Jac Holzman discussing the many detailed notes he had taken during his and Beaver’s months spent learning the Moog’s various operations. Holzman quickly proposed a deal for he and Beaver to record a sort of Moog audio guide with accompanying notes that he would then release on Elektra’s auxiliary Nonesuch label. This idea would be ambitiously reworked as Beaver & Krause’s first album, the double LP “Nonesuch Guide To Electronic Music.” But this would be a full year later in the future and there was still much to do: There was a booth to set up.
By the time of the afternoon of the second day of the festival, their tiny booth was so swamped with people that security guards were assigned to the scene to manage the flow. A mob of musicians, producers and hippies all waited for their turn on the headphones to hear this strange, new and mind-blowing device produce all manner of strange, new and mind-blowing sounds. Beaver and Krause were soon dealing with either members or representatives of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Byrds and The Monkees. By the time it was all over, many artists had either arranged for Beaver & Krause to appear on their upcoming recording sessions, placed orders for their own synthesizers or both. As history would show, those three days were a total success for many artists and it was no different for Beaver and Krause: by the time they returned from Monterey to Beaver’s L.A. studio, they began work on their album for Nonesuch while the demand for their talents and equipment had already surged overnight. The previous flood of rejection notices from record, film and television companies were now all replaced by a matching flood of urgent calls scheduling them with studio time for sessions. A month after Monterey, Roger McGuinn and producer Gary Usher hired Beaver and his synthesizer to appear on tracks for what would become The Byrds’ “Notorious Byrd Brothers” album -- “Natural Harmony,” “Draft Morning,” “Dolphin’s Smile” and apparently; “Goin’ Back” -- while using their own a Moog to record the album’s closer, “Space Odyssey.” In November, Beaver performed on The Monkees’ “Star Collector” from their “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.” album and the same month, he set up a Moog patch for The Doors on the song “Strange Days” -- one that Jim Morrison triggered himself by hitting the keyboard while singing.
Four Legendary Sessions By Paul Beaver
Beaver also participated in four sessions that preceded the above and they rank as some of his earliest and most engaging Moog sessions, ever. These four sessions were for The Electric Flag’s soundtrack of “The Trip,” Hal Blaine’s “Psychedelic Percussion,” Emil Richards’ “Stones” album and The Zodiac’s “Cosmic Sounds.” Unlike most other sessions that only utilised his synthesizer skills for introductory or mood-establishing effects, these were arrangements that employed full Moog accompaniment. With sessions for “Cosmic Sounds” taking place in May of 1967, it’s often cited as the first appearance of a Moog on a Rock album but according to a recent interview with Emil Richards, the sessions for “Stones” apparently preceded it. So with the recording and release dates of these albums placed so tightly between the months of May and August of 1967, the albums are arranged here as close to chronological order as can be presently asserted.
THE TRIP Soundtrack by The Electric Flag
Sidewalk Records was a subsidiary label of Capitol Records’ formed by music producer Mike Curb in 1967. During its brief two-year existence, Sidewalk released a sizeable amount of soundtrack albums for American International Pictures and one of the more avant-garde ones was “The Trip.” All tracks were recorded by The Electric Flag with Beaver accompanying them with Moog applications on five instrumentals located on the more experimental first side. Except for the opening “Peter’s Trip,” the horn section was absent from the songs where Beaver was granted a free hand to synthesize exquisite components alongside a pared-down and hornless Electric Flag lineup of Mike Bloomfield (guitar), Harvey Brooks (bass), Barry Goldberg (organ, harpsichord) and Buddy Miles (drums.) And Bloomfield, Brooks, Barry & Buddy with Beaver were an ensemble that delivered deep forays into psychedelic abstractions unlike anything Electric Flag would ever commit to vinyl. On “Peter’s Trip,” Beaver used two distinct Moog parts in unison beside a third that patiently dripped a rhythm in leaky faucet time. Harpsichord runs by Barry Goldberg skate across the opening horn section theme that shore up the cyclical rhythm to alternate with Beaver’s thin, high Moog theme as tom-tom rolls of pounding surf all combine to unfurl visions of what one poster for the film proclaimed: ‘a Lovely Sort of Death.’
Threading throughout side one as alternating tracks of high weirdness are a series of three vignettes which, when separated out from their surrounding environments (like the purposefully banal “Psyche Soap” jingle) and strung together, pulsate effortlessly and quietly into one another. From “M-23” into “A Little Head” and then “Inner Pocket,” these tracks delve deeper and deeper into undulating worlds of disorienting pitch, oscillation and modulation. Like the echoed, spacey breakdown in Amon Düül II’s “Jail-House Frog” only stretched out into the longest single minute that a vignette in danger of floating away can contrive, “M-23” inhabits a low key and drumless place of mystery as Beaver’s Moog placements waft over everything in slow waves of magnetic energy. “A Little Head” opens with Barry Goldberg’s flickering Morse code organ, Bloomfield’s harmonic guitar feedback plus overdubbed and strummed Telecaster, bass and laid back tom-toms that operate as a canvas for Beaver’s undulations to sympathetically shift in pitch and streak ever upwards. “Inner Pocket” is languid and curling in a comfort zone all its own of reverberated stick hits, seamless background organ and a lonesome bass line akin to Jack Casady’s retention of stillness on “Bear Melt” off “Bless It’s Pointed Little Head” that resounds against background tom-toms roll while Moog notes bleed in and out of weightless pools. Everybody’s giving each other so much space to that even the ever-industrious Buddy Miles has reduced his contributions down to single, near-random snare hits. Swerving pitch shifting effects like those obtained from hitting half-filled metal pots of water with wooden spoons resound from the Moog while Goldberg dramatically holds to the back with ominous organ and flitting piano runs. These random piano notes quietly fill in the distance as the track gradually builds in speed as the blood beat pulsing increases in pressure...only to then shatter quickly into silence.
The side-ending, pop art-entitled eruption of “Flash, Bam, Pow” propels outward with an ELP “Pictures At An Exhibition”-styled freak-out of squealing Moog plus agitated drumming a full four years before that trio’s recorded performance in Newcastle, three years before their formation while at this very point in time: Emerson was still on Hammond organ with The Nice and asking the musical question, “Daddy, Where Did I Come From?” The main theme cuts in with a building, post-“East-West”-leavened burn-out featuring a dexterous Bloomfield-led guitar interplay that ends too soon with an abrupt cut back into hammering of handheld cymbals punctuated by fizzling and screeching Moog tempests that end the piece in squalling anarchy.
PSYCHEDELIC PERCUSSION by Hal Blaine
ABC-Dunhill Records thought enough of Hal Blaine’s session drumming on their releases by The Mamas & The Papas, not to mention his big beat contributions to numerous top 40 hits, to afford him the opportunity to record and release his second solo album on their label. Entitled “Psychedelic Percussion,” its instrumental tracks were parenthetically named for the twelve months of the year with suitably LA psychedelic mod-au-go-go-stretch-elastic-pants titles like: “Trippin’ Out (June),” “Tune In-Turn On (July),” “Vibrations (August),” etc. On this record, there are so many hitherto unheard of sounds produced by Beaver that there’s no readily available reference to confirm or deny if some of them even came from a Moog and not some other unique keyboard instrument from his warehouse-sized arsenal. Oddly, he was credited in the album liners on ‘the Beaver Electric Modulation Apparatus’ and not Moog synthesizer but two instrumentals strongly indicate a distinctly Moog-sounding presence. The first, “Inner Space (October),” comes on like the return of the son-in-law of Monster Magnet sprinkled with atmospheric organ and a thin fog of blanketing Moog, vibes, chimes, bells and cymbals that shimmer over Blaine’s reporting kit of fills, spills and thrills. The second, “Love-In (December),” kicks off with forceful, doubled up drums like the intro to Davie Allan & The Arrows’ epic “Cycle-Delic” as an establishing keyboard drone holds in the background for sleigh bells, marimbas, further cymbals and all other percussion save Blaine’s fixed drum kit to dance wildly around. While Beaver continues to storm in the background, Blaine hammers out a series of ever-steady reports from his small kit while that roomful of percussion still jingles and crashes in a variety of tones and rhythms. The listing on the back cover liners reveal the degree of paraphernalia involved, including (but not limited to): Siamese gongs, Chinese gongs, glockenspiel, stone chimes, Brazilian shakers, pistol, gloss chimes, tubular chimes, buggy whip (!), United States Navy gas alarm (!!), traumatonium (!!!), and even Tahitian pooee lee sticks (!!!!) The percussionist at large on this album and responsible for all this gear was Emilio Joseph Radocchia, otherwise known to the company of L.A. session musicians, producers -- and his friend Paul Beaver -- as Emil Richards.
STONES by Emil Richards New Sound Element
Contributing his magic vibes, marimba and percussion talents to a multitude of artists ranging from Charles Mingus to Frank Sinatra, Emil Richards also performed as part of The Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra on Frank Zappa’s “Lumpy Gravy” as well as contributing exquisite mallet work to the pair of instrumentals on The Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds.” In the course of his professional career, he would contribute musically to a staggering 1,700 film soundtracks, help Harry Partch relocate to Los Angeles and between 1963 and 1964: become involved in a short-lived project called Aesthetic Harmony Assemblage (or AHA) comprised of himself, Paul Beaver and future Mothers Of Invention synthesist, Don Preston. They staged live mixed media performances that included a presentation where junked wood hanging on conveyor chains revolved around a nude dancer painted black and white as they performed. In what was probably one of the earliest occurrences of improvised freak-out music in L.A., Beaver played various keyboards, Richards maintained a variety of percussion devices while Don Preston operated his self-made instruments constructed from junkyard materials such as porch swings, springs, bumpers and gongs. Unfortunately, there is only scant documentation and no recordings extant of what in all probability was a brilliant ensemble.
After AHA split, Richards continued with a series of stints performing in various groups while recording many other studio sessions. By 1967, he signed to UNI Records and recorded a solo album called “New Time Element” comprised of instrumental versions of popular hits and themes such as “Georgy Girl,” “Happy Together,” and “Take Five.” Swiftly renaming his studio entourage the Emil Richards New Sound Element with the near-identical lineup of Dave Mackay (piano), Bill Plummer (bass), Mike Craden (percussion), Joe Porcaro (drums) and Paul Beaver (Moog synthesizer, clavinet), Richards (on all mallet instruments plus synthesizer) created the stunning album, “Stones.” A preeminent statement of wild experimentalism, “Stones” bears much in common with “Psychedelic Percussion” except it had more psychedelia, even more percussion and a far scaled down degree of drum kit use. The twelve tracks were also named not only for the months of the year but with their corresponding birthstones, they never ran any longer than three minutes while at all times they held down a density twice their length as they showcased a wide variety of emotional tones and colours. “Emerald (May)” starts off with lounge-y vibes until soon spirited off into a world of quiet and mesmerising percussive twinklings and odd moods crossing into Beaver’s careening Moog accompaniments. Frequencies shift like waves of Moebius strips floating away in warm breezes until approaching a clearing in an exotic jungle of previously unheard and expertly wielded percussives. Skipping over to “Ruby (July)” comes the unambiguous highlight of the album as Beaver and Richards turn out a tour de force of combined marimba, mallet and Moog mischief with demented balloon gas giddiness. Over a tightly upbeat drum pattern, bells and innumerable gong crashes repeatedly smash then part for Beaver’s exquisitely pitch-controlled, pitch-bent and just-horribly-bent Moog scrawl to shriek in darting irrigation of call and response to the marimba Mama of Emil Richards. Highly clipped e-clavinet counterpoint then emerges in and out to eventually part for a Moog solo postscript that sounds as if it were recorded under conditions of severest duress as it contorts with varieties of rhythm and pitch. The entire track is wholly ill and fascinating as hell. Passing over to the far side of summer, “Sapphire (September)” is an equal work of high wire artistry. Commencing with the same struck bells that that bring to mind those that herald The Deep’s “Color Dreams,” it gradually builds into extravagantly complex circular layers of burrowing rhythms and tones that struggle to the surface all at once with xylophone, vibraphone, every other kind of phone; you name it. Meanwhile, Beaver’s Moog placements just sally forth with all the spry confidence of a concert pianist running through “Chopsticks” while the belfry keeps clanging and ringing throughout the ever-amassing chaos that surrounds it. Next up on the calendar of events is “Opal (October)” which is located somewhere on the same continent as “The Chrome Plated Megaphone Of Destiny” by The Mothers Of Invention minus all the varispeed sniggering plus dissonance cut with a professional improvisational flair. Clipped stylophonic tones and sparse piano clusters operate as percussion and...Hey, hey: what’s that sound? Oh, no...A wobble board! Great name. Man, that’s what it’s called?!! The Yardbirds used one on “Hot House of Omagarashid,” Keith Moon shook one on “Postcard” and I never knew what it was called but whatever it was, it approximated the sound of shaking a long handsaw by the handle and just letting it...wobble. Anyway, after a pronounced duration, the clatter fest falls away to expose Beaver holding the Moog to clipped, high tones that swerve in pitch until finally setting off on a trajectory of increasingly high timbre only to catapult into a shooting star descent. One final gong hit quickly draws the track into silence. Whew.
COSMIC SOUNDS by The Zodiac
It’s not difficult to view “Stones” and “Psychedelic Percussion” as companion pieces to The Zodiac’s “Cosmic Sounds.” Especially since Beaver, Richards and Blaine (well, overlooking Blaine’s absence on “Stones,” that is) had appeared on them all; all three contained themes comprised of a dozen tracks based on monthly phases and contained some of the earliest recordings of Moog synthesizer in proto-Rock environments. These guys could’ve easily played on side four of The Mothers of Invention’s “Freak Out!” album if their respective talents hadn’t been so proficiently measured. And it was with these same talents they shored up Elektra Records’ “Cosmic Sounds” album with exacting authority. The tightly-rehearsed performances of tracks that issued forth from Hal Blaine, Emil Richards, bassist Carol Kaye and harpsichordist Mike Melvoin were the result of a unique connection of familiarity since they had all appeared together on countless studio sessions. The finishing touch of Paul Beaver appearing on overdubbed Moog applications was the icing on the cake for the avant-garde credentials Elektra president Jac Holzman hoped to achieve with this project. One of the more prominent instances of Beaver’s presence on the album is the opening cut, “Aries: The Fire-Fighter.” The very first sound of the album is Beaver pressing the Moog elevator button going up until the song ignites with hissing, percussive Moog hits while a different Moog line wails a theremin-like, wavering melody against Hal Blaine’s drums driving down the middle until everything parts for a searing organ and the entry of Cyrus Faryar’s penetrating narration. Intoning impeccably sombre lines like “nine times the color red explodes like heated blood” and “incendiary diamonds scorch the earth” weren’t exactly Top 10 material, but they hold a poetic gravity hard to dismiss -- especially when he lets loose with “the cause is lost in smoke for only the friction is holy...” Lotta friction here, too, so I suppose this song is holy as well. Damn right it is...Especially when “PLAYED IN THE DARK.”
THE NONESUCH GUIDE TO ELECTRONIC MUSIC by Beaver & Krause
With their newly-acquired Moog synthesizer, Beaver and Krause spent months of thorough investigation of its modules and near-infinite variety of patches. It was a labourious procedure since these earliest models did not ship with a manual -- for the simple reason one did not exist. And even if one did, it could’ve run for hundreds of pages in length and even then cover only the most basic modes of operations. So while Beaver explained the various technical aspects, Krause took extensive notes. A few months later, a solution arrived with the suggestion from Elektra Records’ Jac Holzman to produce an album that would furnish examples of the Moog’s many applications with a set of accompanying notes. Technically, “The Nonesuch Guide To Electronic Music” was Beaver & Krause’s debut album and MAN was it technical. A veritable 2-LP boxed demonstration disc for the Moog Series III Synthesizer, its accompanying booklet was compiled from months of Krause’s exhaustive note-taking gleaned from Beaver’s technical insights and as stated on the back cover, it was “a meticulously prepared 16-page book containing notes on the recordings, an introduction to electronic music theory, glossary, bibliography, symbolic notation, and the score to ‘Peace Three’ – a new electronic composition presented here for the first time.”
“Peace Three” is also the opening and closing track of “The Nonesuch Guide To Electronic Music” as well as the longest. Then again, with nearly half the album comprised of tracks under 30 seconds in length, it’s also the only one that one could reasonably consider a ‘song,’ per se. (I mean, one title, “III: Control Generators A: Transient Generator, Amplitude, Frequency And Timbre Modulating In Slow-Motion” takes almost as long to read as its entire eight-second duration.) “Peace Three” begins with a spacey introductory element with rhythm Moog baby steps pass by a lead Moog line which burns through it. Soon funneling into shuddering tape delay echo that swirls all around like silvery wine flowing in a spaceship (gravity all nonsense now) with the emergence of an airy, high altitude melody creates an ever-widening space. Then, highly echoed notes once again shudder and fall apart as accompanying wah-wah-like tones invade to end the piece on a quizzical, decaying note.
Probably most useful when propped up in sight of a Moog patch bay, keyboard, amplifier or headphones while exploring its possibilities, “The Nonesuch Guide To Electronic Music” was a timely release as interest in the synthesizer had been peaking for months since Monterey. Released on Elektra Records’ offshoot Nonesuch label in 1968, it became a surprise hit when it lodged in the Billboard Top 100 for 26 weeks.
RAGNARÖK by Beaver & Krause
Subtitled “Electronic Funk,” Beaver & Krause’s “Ragnarök” album holds the highest ‘switched on’ ratio of all them all. A one-off release recorded for Mercury Records’ subsidiary Limelight label, it remains their single most cohesive work. Comprised nearly in its entirety of full-length Moog synthesizer realizations, Beatles producer George Martin was moved to comment in the liner notes that ‘these are grand examples of what can be done with a marvelous machine and first rate musical minds.’ One of the first of several such grand examples begins the album with the epic title track, “Ragnarök.” Here, swollen winds of time blow hard against lightning issuing from within darkened clouds of thunder in a psychic war dense, uplifting and full of explosions while high-pitched Moog clusters scan and dot the now agitated multi-tracked horizon as they dart against it and build into swarms of tiny monsters. Suddenly, an even greater wind of cosmic proportions blows against sinister chords that then build into a three-way descending Moog line that immediately parts for the triumphant finale...one that sizzles almost immediately into insensible reverberation. One of the longest pieces on “Ragnarök” is the terrifyingly psychedelic and mysterious “Circle X.” Initiating with low, echoed Moog footsteps resounding like unhewn rocks dragged across a stone dungeon floor that alternate in volume between approaching and withdrawal, a high-pitched Moog tone begins to burn fluorescently in the background. This is soon joined by an increasing thicket of multiple layered Moog clusters that build with nightmarish complexity. After culminating for an interminable passage of time, it gradually recedes to once again expose those low, unchanging Moog footsteps that have been continuing their menacing dance from mixed distances the entire time. “As I Hear It” is a brief Moog instrumental composed by Krause featuring modulations of becalmed, yearning expanses while more abstract and lyrical Moog overlays comprise the agile dance of “Fountains Of The Dept. Of Water & Power.” A Beaver composition, this beautiful track showcases his attention to detail as two separate Moog sequences run concurrently while echoing into spirographic whorls that shine and shimmer like springs of water arcing up and out in drops from fountains glistening in open sunlight. But despite these and many other beautiful and wildly experimental successes within, “Ragnarök” remains Beaver & Krause’s most obscure work and their only album still in an un-re-released state. Hopefully, this will be rectified sometime in the not-so-distant future.
IN A WILD SANCTUARY by Beaver & Krause
On top of their exhausting soundtrack and commercial workload, once Beaver & Krause signed with Warner Brothers Records the pressure was on to produce. So did they record an album comprised of instrumental Moog covers of “Hey Jude,” “Proud Mary” or “You Keep Me Hanging On”? Nope. Instead, they released “In A Wild Sanctuary,” a full LP of original material. With Moog synthesizer. And percussion. And electric guitar. And field recordings. And four additional musicians. It was as though they now set out to synthesize ALL sounds and not just the ones emanating from Robert Moog’s magic music box. As Krause penned in the liner notes, “In A Wild Sanctuary” is an album ‘comprised of many different kinds of sound trips; some hopeful, some happy, some parodies and some serious. In any case, they all try to communicate the same thing: A celebration of life.’
And although it remains a complete success on that level, it is the three predominately Moog-based instrumentals on “In A Wild Sanctuary” that remain that album’s most enduring moments. For however much the extended sound collage “Walking Green Algae Blues” was in the right spirit of combining natural and man-made sounds with excellent moments of audio verité, its constant digressions keep its rhythmic flow so partitioned it’s difficult to stay lost in it for any extended length of time. Oddly, the shorter pieces hold interest longer despite being far quieter, utilising more space than previous and with great compositional economy while the Moog parts were all tweaked with excruciating precision. Constricted by severe compositional parameters and pushed a further number of steps forward from all previous material in the Beaver & Krause canon, “Spaced” illustrates the severe reductionism they applied to the Moog-exclusive tracks. A thin, high and lonesome series of chords resound while the electronic counterpart of wooden chimes agitate gently. Sparse and indefinite Moog strands collect in the background as a gradual increase in amplitude sweeps dramatically upwards with an organ joining it in strength into a horizon smashing climax. “So Long As The Waters Flow” is a synthesized environmental piece that opens up with Moog thunderclap FX resounding as tinkling electronic pools echo far, far below a deluge of white noise. A brief fugue emerges against further sheets of white noise that roar like waves over linear patches of Moog that roil consistently. Closing the album, “Sanctuary” takes it all down to the album’s briefest and quietest moment. As peaceful, organ-like notes glide like snowflakes falling over becalmed pools, tones glide together harmoniously to create an atmosphere of quiet reflection before dropping off into a farewell of silence.
PERFORMANCE soundtrack by Various Artists
Besides Beaver’s previous work on “The Trip,” Beaver & Krause’s first major film soundtrack employing the Moog was in 1967 for “The Graduate.” This opened up a slew of film work for the pair collectively and individually as the remainder of that year saw Beaver, Krause or both contributed to soundtracks for “In Cold Blood,” “Point Blank,” and “Cool Hand Luke.” In 1968, “Rosemary’s Baby,” “Candy” and “I Love You Alice B. Toklas” followed and then the pace continued in 1970 with further session work for the soundtracks of “Catch 22,” “Love Story,” “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” and “Performance.” This last named soundtrack, released by Warner Brothers Records in-between the first two Beaver & Krause albums, was where Krause turned in several exemplary Moog synthesizer-based pieces. The title track, “Performance,” is a perfect synthesis of man-made and organic musical elements that combine the technological vibe of the Moog synthesizer with the rich gospel voicings of Merry Clayton. As waves of Moog continually punctuate and decay over a drone, a gradual rise in low tones emerges for Clayton’s wordless lamentations. This display continues with “Poor White Hound Dog” where Clayton’s gospel wailing weaves into Krause’s Moog seamlessly. The pitch of the Moog increases randomly, modulations fall and dip while startling electronic static bursts all over with no regard. The backing band, led by Ry Cooder’s trademark slide guitar, lay down a steady percussion-filled blues format for Krause to crackle against electronically. In the film, this track illustrates the scene where Turner is shown seated at a three-module Moog synthesizer just prior dancing with a lit fluorescent tube in order to freak out and transfer psychic vibes to Chas. Credited to composer Jack Nitzsche, “Natural Magic” feels like a ragged continuation of “Poor White Hound Dog” -- only several stoned minutes later when the jam starts devolving into a slowed, blurry coda that either forgot how to break down or remembered that it had broken down some time ago but continued on regardless of its scraped knees and head bruises. Whooshing whispers of Moog thread throughout like sparse audio exhalations which sometimes sound almost human and other times not. For all I know, it might not even be a Moog but Buffy Sainte-Marie possessed by a wind spirit but either way, it’s a class set-up for “Turner’s Murder.” Like industrial pistons of some great, cosmic dynamo steadily rising from the basement flat of Turner’s apartment house, the pitch and amplitude increase until breaking through the roof of Turner’s head and up into heavens for release -- signaled by the vocal benedictions of Merry Clayton and her choir of angelic sisters.
GANDHARVA by Beaver & Krause
The purely electronic tracks on “Gandharva” album went in a direction more minimal and reductionist than even that of “In A Wild Sanctuary.” Starting with the tiny but mighty “Soft/White,” there’s one bleep and then an eight second gap of silence. During the first half minute of the piece, only two further Moog vignettes zips across its broad canvas of silence. Then a note reverberates followed by more silence until suddenly, a huge white noise white-out sweeps upwards to become crossfaded right at the point of climax into the mid-tempo blues jam of “The Saga of The Blue Beaver” (where guitarists Mike Bloomfield and Ronnie Montrose exchange riffs over suitably compliant rhythm section backing.) Bearing a semblance to elements Krause incorporated into his themes on “Performance,” the instrumental “Nine Moons In Alaska” is exclusively comprised of rising drones and a low pulsation which gradually lifts off into a rising, supersonic jet as tiny notes sparkle all around in the background.
The ambitious second side of the album was the first ever live quadrophonic recording. Taking place on the evenings of February 11 and 12, 1971 inside of San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral, the acoustics of its ninety-foot nave provided a natural reverberation of astonishing depth and timbre which added greatly to the proceedings. Opening with the minute-long title track that begins this sidelong set of recordings is a sweet, gentle patch of gossamer nothingness flanking a slowly rising, rocket-launched sweep. Once it clears, brief pipe organ swipes run vertically while quiet Moog vignettes gather in darkened cathedral corners. And then it’s over.
“Walkin’” is probably the most elegant and emotional Beaver & Krause piece of them all. Like the ending wordless gospel wails of Merry Clayton that echoed from a lonely place throughout “Performance,” here it’s Patrice Holloway, the lady who also contributed to the memorable gospel coda of Neil Young’s “The Old Laughing Lady” alongside Clayton and her sister, Brenda Holloway. Her voice sounds like it was recorded at one of the sessions inside Grace Cathedral, but in fact was recorded in the studio in one take then processed via Moog and Echoplex. But in the meticulous hands and ears of Beaver & Krause, they recorded it with exacting echo while Beaver added a beautifully delicate and elegiac piano held to the distance in sympathetic accompaniment.
The Moog Machine Switches Off
Beaver & Krause’s fifth album, “All Good Men” was released in 1972. It was to be their final album and on every level was an artistically compromised one. For the first time, an outside arranger was involved and the results reflected a severe lack of direction in every way. An unreleased Scott Joplin ragtime piece bookends the album while the material within those confines were indifferent patches of acoustic singer-songwriter balladeering better suited for the likes of a more Joni Mitchell-inclined Helen Reddy while puzzlingly: the Moog accoutrements felt like token afterthoughts. With poor sales of the album, other business-related misunderstandings led to Warner Brothers dropping them quickly from their roster. Undeterred and probably relieved at the parting of ways, Beaver & Krause continued their work for films and commercials until while in the process of updating “The Nonesuch Guide To Electronic Music,” Paul Beaver died suddenly from a cerebral aneurysm on January 16, 1975. At the age of 49, one of the first and most unique American synthesizer players was gone forever.
A Krause Is Now Alone To Find Another Sanctuary
In the wake of the passing of his longtime friend and creative partner, Krause spent several years in search of a new direction. With Moog synthesizer work becoming tedious for him, after various special effects work and soundtracks (among them, the ambient sound environments for “Apocalypse Now”), he gravitated towards academia where he earned a PhD in bioacoustics, a field he was in the process of already defining, from Union Institute in Cincinnati in 1981 and he never looked back. Whereas his sound recordings of the past were synthetic or derived from nature, his present palette is now nature itself, or as defined by Dr. Krause: ‘the combined sound that whole groups of living organisms produce in any given biome.’ Travelling extensively, Krause has documented ecosystems from Borneo, Rwanda, Canada to Indonesia and many points between. He has recorded and produced a series of environmental recordings for The Nature Company and more currently, his own Wild Sanctuary label. Continuing to record in the field and produce soundscapes for public spaces, this veritable Henry David Thorough has amassed at this point in time somewhere in the region of 4,000 hours of archival field recordings of environmental sounds. Unfortunately, as of the time of writing of his 1998 autobiography, “Into A Wild Sanctuary,” Krause noted that twenty percent of the habitats he had documented had already become extinct or severely altered. And as of the time of this writing, with the worst ecological disaster in American history still growing with each passing hour in the Gulf of Mexico, one cannot imagine the music there but only the creeping silence replacing it with each passing day.
Paul Beaver and Bernard L. Krause: They came, they heard, they tweaked and in the process brought a high degree of intelligence, innovation and finesse to several strands of popular music of the late sixties and early seventies. As if messengers from some future time, they implemented methods in unknown or unchartered territory with a confidence that bordered on the supernatural.
-Dedicated to the memory of Dennis Hopper.
- And to think for years I thought it was tape echo, the same effect I mistook for years on the more electronically-enhanced portions of The Grateful Dead’s “Anthem Of The Sun” and “Aoxomoxoa” albums when it turned out it was Moog signal processing by their keyboardist, Tom Constanten. Incidentally, Constanten had attended the same Stockhausen lectures as Krause, accompanied by future band mate Phil Lesh.
- The driving mid-section of this track resurfaced two years later in the film, “Easy Rider” though not on its accompanying soundtrack album. Presumably, it was at the behest of Peter Fonda (who starred in both films) as The Electric Flag were his choice for the soundtrack of “The Trip” after Gram Parsons’ group, The International Submarine Band, submitted disappointingly un-psychedelic material. However, Parsons and his group did contribute by briefly appearing in the film in two scenes: early on in a rehearsal at the ‘trip house’ (the same interior set that appeared the following year in A.I.P.’s “Psych-Out”) and then halfway through the movie onstage at a psychedelic club miming to Electric Flag’s “Fine Jung Thing” while Fonda’s character is seen tripping on LSD in the audience.