Bernard will be my guest from Paris on Music of Awakening today at noon pacific time, 3 pm eastern time, on Music of Awakening Radio.
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from an article by Amazing Sounds
Bernard Xolotl was born in France in 1951. At age 17 he realized that he needed more freedom to live and express his ideas than the one that old Latin Europe could provide him with. Therefore, he left his country and traveled all over the world. In 1974 he settled in California, where he has lived for 19 years. Currently living in France, he often travels to the United States. Anyway, he does not consider himself tied to any one place: “I never ‘decided’ to live in the USA, Scandinavia, Nepal or Polynesia, and I never wanted to ‘return’ to France or anywhere. Today, I am in California and I fly ‘back’ to Europe tomorrow afternoon. I am a complete nomad, an apatride, a citizen of planet Earth. If I had the funds of the Dalai-Lama or Mick Jagger, I would be commuting around the whole planet ceaselessly just as they do”.
In his teenage years, Bernard became interested in electronic music, which in France had its first pioneers working within the trend known as “Concrete Music”. “The first compositions of electronic music that I heard came from several works by Pierre Henry, Pierre Schaeffer and other pioneers, mostly French, around 1966-67, when I was 16. However, it was the first records by Pink Floyd soon after which fed my enthusiasm for electronic music, instead of Concrete Music, which in actual fact had never really interested me”. He studied Arts and Philosophy up to 1969, just at the time when the first analog synthesizers were commercialized. The type of studies that he was engaged in, and the books that he chose to read, shaped his taste for this new way to make music that was cropping up. From then on, he would begin his travels and his activity as a musician. In the early seventies he was at the core of the rising Cosmic Music, more particularly related to the most classical trend of the genre, the “Berlin School”. Xolotl met Klaus Schulze in 1972, during a festival in Switzerland, where he went together with Timothy Leary. He also made friends with Manuel Gottsching, Terry Riley, and other important leaders of the musical revolution of the seventies. He worked with some of them. For instance, he assisted Terry Riley and LaMonte Young during their European tours.
At that time it happened to be very difficult indeed for a musician who started, to succeed in having access to synthesizers and other innovative electronic equipment. In 1971-72, Xolotl used the electronic studios of a public character in Germany and Denmark. In the United States, he used the laboratories at some universities, often at night. Later, little by little, he established his own studio. In 1988, he said: “I have many synthesizers and my favorite one still is the PPG which I bought in 1983 and which was the first in America. I have many computers with every music software programs on the market and I spend so much time programming that my sixteen-track tape recorder does not get used very often these days. After all these years, I have become such an expert on computer music equipment that I am more often called for technical consulting work than for music which is a situation I find rather sad and want to change as soon as I can. The place where I live is the very heart of the technological ‘revolution’ and because of that, life here has become very expensive. The problem now is no longer to acquire more equipment but to afford a house to shelter it!”
Although the computer has lately become his main working tool, Xolotl feels far more attraction towards analogic synthesizers rather than the digital ones. In 1988, he said: “I prefer the old machines of Oberheim, Sequential, PPG, and others of this kind, rather than the new devices that cropped up after the appearance of the DX7 in 1983. These aren’t so expressive or spontaneous. Most of them are a bunch of presets made for a massive market of unskilled musicians. On the other hand, before 1983, the synthesizers used to be produced only for an elite of experimental artists. This is the circumstance that marks the difference between both types of instruments, and this is why I dislike these new synthesizers, not the fact that they produce digital sounds instead of analogical ones. I like beautiful sounds, whatever their origin”. About the digital medium he also comments: “This is a very interesting medium, and even though the sonic result can be debatable, there is no doubt that it opens new paths for the future. Given its numerical nature, everything digital is reduced to numbers. I’d like to remind you that Pythagoras was a good initial representative of numeric philosophy. I would also like to mention that my paintings, as well as my music, are carefully elaborated with respect to the harmonic progression of numbers as something fundamental. My album-painting Return of the Golden Mean refers to the renaissance of Phythagorical Philosophy throughout the Digital Era. ‘Golden Mean’ is the ‘sacred’ ratio 1.61809… which appears in the growth of shells, plants and galaxies”.
When we ask him about what he thinks on the contribution of computers to music, he replies, today in 1997: “After so many years and so many times that this question was asked, I can really think nothing about ‘computers in music’. Only the result matters. Who cares what it’s made with at this point? Music existed before electricity, before the orchestra and even before human beings. Music is like love: either you do or you don’t; whatever the cause, the cost or the consequences. As I predicted many years ago, everything has become computerized, but this changes nothing essential – you still need ears & loudspeakers. In 1870, Richard Wagner wrote that people had the impression that they traveled more because of the railroads, but that it was a complete illusion. Faxes and portable telephones are nothing more than the telegraph then and if you read the Diaries of that period, you will be amazed at the speed and amount of daily communications. The means are nothing without an end, and the end always justifies the means when Art is concerned…”
Bernard’s recording career began in 1976, with a collective record in San Francisco. Soon after, Music by Xolotl was released. In this work, the artistic path that was to follow years later could already be appreciate