Klangfarb: Bob Tiefenwerth, keyboards, Paul Rieger, guitar and bass, John Erdman, (and later, Gary Schwartz) drums and percussion, Rick Schmuff, woodwinds
Late Winter, 1977 finds Bob Tiefenwerth and Paul Rieger huddled over the console at the 16-track studio. They are mixing their Klangfarb track, Charnel Ochre, later included on the original Best of Baltimore’s Buried album. The engineer has just slashed his ballpoint pen through Paul’s carefully plotted chart of tracks and fade-ins. The chart was on a piece of a shelf paper, several feet long.
It’s later in 1977, a snowstorm, and Paul is in the basement “studio” editing the closest thing to a “klangfarbenmelodie” that Klangfarb would ever do. Bob’s Funky Tune was a series of four keyboard blends playing the melody of the song, but pieced together by splices.
Klangfarb was an offshoot of a band formed with my friend Wayne Kern in the Fall of 1974. Wayne and I were friends and classmates in the early 70’s at Loyola High in Towson. When we put the group together, I brought along a work friend, Rick Schmuff, an excellent sax and clarinet player. Wayne suggested another classmate, Bob Tiefenwerth. We had both heard that Bob was a phenomenal keyboard player. All three of us had taken the musique concrète course at Loyola, but neither Wayne nor I knew Bob very well. A mutual friend gave us Bob’s number so we gave Bob a call out of the blue to see if he wanted to “jam” with us. And Wayne knew a drummer who likewise agreed to give it a go. And I believe the drummer knew a bass player.
I’ve forgotten whether the aggregation even had a name, although I remember us practicing in a couple places on the Loyola High Campus. Rick, Bob and I eventually splintered off and formed Klangfarb in early 1975. With Klangfarb (which means “tone color” in German), we explored musique concrète, prog and even jazz. Wayne went on to have a stellar career in music, playing extensively in musical theater and in various ‘real’ bands; you know, bands that people pay money to hear? (A foreign concept to me.) And Wayne and I are still friends and hang out as geezers. We still talk endlessly about music and demo and compare tracks from various bands that we like. Happily, some things never change.
If you listen to the K-Farb stuff, you’ll hear plenty of musique concrète; tape loops, sound collages, random environmental sounds recorded and blended into more traditional prog and jazz sounding music. Our idea was to take both random sounds made by the group and more precise musical phrases, written by Bob, and create tape loops that would serve both as percussive and melodic components. "Freddy's Nightmare" (named so because Rick's full name was Frederick) is an example of an early blend of a loop and improvisation.
Bob’s masterpiece, “Charnel Ochre,” found on the “Best of Baltimore’s Buried,” features a musique concrète section where a recording of a marching band’s “Columbia the Gem of the Ocean” line is carefully timed to occur just before a dissonant crash, Charles Ives' style. We used loops of backward phrases taken from stenography instruction LPs – “sampling” c.a. 1975. The Cold War era stenography instruction LPs feature a stentorian-voiced narrator reciting sections of speeches taken from the Congressional Record. We used sections played backwards to create a 'foreign language' feel. (The narrator is saying, "Today, no nation, no town, no village, no acre of the world is safe from destruction from a determined enemy." ) An echoed guitar note acts as a pulse holding two sections together. Check out our stripped-down, 2022 remix with the musique concrète removed.
We remixed the musique concrète portion separately as Charnel Concrète.
Our ‘opus’ “In the Village,” uses tape loops extensively (including the stenography LP narrator) along with a recording we made of marching bands blending together as they paraded by, again in homage to Charles Ives. (And let's not forget the Maestro Theremin.)
If musique concrète is not your thing, you may enjoy “Klangfarb Kredo” which, ironically, has no musique concrète.
The track called “Solar Observations in Three Parts” was ‘performed’ by Bob, Gary and me in 1979 and is completely improvised. But, of course, I dubbed-in fake applause as a goof.
(Klangfarb never actually played live.)
As Gary arrived on the scene and K-Farb morphed into the Leisure Suited Executives and United States of Existence, we set aside most of the musique concrète approach, save the occasional ‘backwards' guitar and autoharp and feedback guitar.
We hope you enjoy delving into these Klangfarb concrète and other morsels.