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A Portrait of Andreas Vollenweider


Swiss Radio International gives you an insight into Andreas Vollenweider's successful musical development spanning the years of 1981-1986.

Since the 1980s Swiss musician Andreas Vollenweider, with his own special variant of the concert harp, has become one of the world's foremost instrumentalists. His music lies somewhere between classical, pop, rock and jazz. By interweaving strands from various musical cultures - Western, Oriental and Balkan - he has created a truly unique brand of sounds enriched with natural sound effects such as birds twittering and whales singing.

His meditative music has provided other world famous artists with inspiration and was recognized with a Grammy Award in February 1987 for his "Down to the Moon" album. This gentle reflected music took America by storm and led to record sales in their millions.

The origins of the Vollenweider sound

Andreas Vollenweider plays a normal concert harp with mechanical variations which allow him to combine the soft quality of the instrument with rhythmic sensous elements: the airy almost spherical harp music alternates with earthy bass tones.

His harp is supplemented with synthesizer sounds, percussion, wind, keyboard and string instruments. He works with "grooves" - rhythmic and harmonic patterns which are frequently repeated but are as well constantly changing. Added taped effects such as animal noises or the bubbling of water enable Vollenweider to achieve the "visual" quality he is aiming for.

Vollenweider sees his music not as "New Age" sound but as a "mind movie" that is meant to stimulate images and trigger associations in the listener's mind.

Biographical details

Vollenweider was born on 4th October 1953 into a musical family. His father, Hans Vollenweider, was a famous musician himself and former organist in the Zurich Cathedral (see also MUSICA HELVETICA - Prominent Swiss Organists (MH 6/1972))

But Andreas did not follow in his father's footsteps. Having no classical training he only believes in selfteaching. Through free improvisation, he gradually learnt the rules of rhythm and harmony without sacrificing his natural spontaneity. Since the age of 15 he has become a professional, playing in various jazz and rock groups. Before chosing the harp his main instrument, he played various other wind, string and keyboard instruments. So, not surprisingly, when he picked up the harp his approach was a totally unorthodox one. Besides integrated bass tones he began to use electric amplification in order to fully realize his ideas on sound.

His band in the formative years

Vollenweiders main musicians and contributors to his breakthrough during the 1980s were drummer Walter Keiser, percussionist Pedro Haldemann, keyboarder Christoph Stiefel and sound engeneer Eric Merz.

Production information

A Portrait of Andreas Vollenweider (1987). MH CD 68.2. Programme produced by Patrick Linder and Andreas Lüthi for SRI. Music produced by Andreas Vollenweider.

This compilation comprises its pieces from Andreas Vollenweider's recordings "Behind The Gardens", "Caverna Magica", "White Winds", "Down To The Moon" and the 12" single "Pace Verde".

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