Oct. 26, 1934.
That’s the birthday of composer Hans-Joachim Roedelius. A founding father of both krautrock and ambient music since the 1960s — both solo and with everyone from Brian Eno to singer-songwriter Lloyd Cole to Kluster, his group with the late Dieter Moebius — Roedelius is making a rare stop in Ojai during a six-week, 18-date tour of North America that would be grueling for a musician half his age.
That’s the thing about the avant garde. No one ever died young because of the lifestyle.
Communicating with Roedelius recently by email (while he traveled across the country), his answers to questions turned out more like the wisdom of the sages than an actual conversation. On the last big revelation he had about his music: “Every time, it’s somehow a revelation — especially when there’s a real good grand piano, like the Steinway at the New Forms Festival in Vancouver.” On the last illusion about himself of which he let go: “That’s a long time ago, back in the ’70s: I became aware that I am not the one who is doing it.” On the last sound that shocked him: “The H-bomb in North Korea.”
There’s another good thing about the avant garde: What you take away from a piece of music is an interpretation that’s entirely yours. Roedelius’ upcoming performance and workshop at the Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts — alongside tourmates and artists Martha and Rosa Roedelius, Vivek Chandra Shukla, Betty Nguyen, with an appearance by local ambient artistic artist Jim of Suburbanoid — is the essence of experimentation. There are no “answers” destined to be unveiled when the music’s over; no great revelation about life and art and everything. No right or wrong. Just beauty.
There’s a distinct and rapturous kind of beauty running through Roedelius’ music, like a river that gives life to all good things. At once pastoral and cosmopolitan, it also carries with it, traveling along electrified pianos that summon pulsing washes of glittering sounds, the kind of innocence that breathes in the body of young love, hurtling headlong into the kind of confidence that starts with that first love for another person and winds up loving the whole world.
Will he adapt his music to the environment of the concert space during this live action? “Not only that,” Roedelius replies, “the people as well that come and want to attend, to whether there was enough time before to relax after traveling so many miles in one run from one city to the other, to whether the venues that host us get us what [instrumentation] we asked for.” Every performance is a distinct experience, and something of an experiment.
It’s a far cry from Roedelius’ first experience performing in public. “I was just a little bit nervous,” he recalls, “about whether I would be able to manage playing the opening solo at the first Zodiak Free Arts Lab show with our group Human Being in Berlin back in 1968. After being a physiotherapist, a masseur for many years, and also a roofer, miner, animator, barkeep, chef and other, almost countless activities to earn my living before I decided to become an artist.” Those experiences all proved to be merely roads down which he traveled to reach his final destination as an artist — or, as he puts it, “I guess I’m well-prepared for what I’m doing, artwise, in general — whether in music or in poetry or prose or fine arts, after more than 45 years now of doing it!”
It’s a kind of homecoming for Roedelius to the Beatrice Wood Center. A decade ago, he partnered with the center on workshops for students and sound installations. Much like Beatrice Wood herself, who kept her own fires of creativity blazing until she was well into her 100s, Hans-Joachim Roedelius stands as living proof that unfettered artistic freedom and a staunch devotion to the creative urge are a radiant form of spiritual sustenance rarely equaled in our lifetime.
The Roedelius Festival happens on Saturday, Oct. 14, at the Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts, 8585 Ojai-Santa Paula Road, Ojai. For tickets and more information, call 646-3381 or visit beatricewood.com/roedelius_festival.html.