Fricke’s interest in music and film manifested itself at the end of the 60s first in his work as a journalist for the Suddeutsche Zeitung, where he was offered a job by Roland Kaiser who was convinced of his journalistic talents.
Contrary to what many think, ‘Aguirre’ is not the first experience for Fricke as a composer of film music. It is a fact that the film ‘Wintermärchen’(1971) by Ulf von Mechow also features music by Fricke. Besides Siegfried Schwab, The Schlippenbach Family and Antonio Vivaldi, Popol Vuh is listed for the soundtrack. Whether the film contains unique music by Popol Vuh remains a question.
The name of Florian Fricke is also listed as composer (‘originalmusik’) for the 1971 tv-film ‘Antarktis’ by Georg Moorse. The same unanswered question here: does the film carry unique music by Fricke...?
In the same period Florian contributed some unique moog music for the Werner Herzog film ‘Auch Zwerge haben klein angefangen’. Listed for the soundtrack is Florian Fricke.
These three films were released in 1971 and produced when Fricke was experimenting with the Moog. I stick to the hypothesis that Fricke made some of the results available for these three films and that all three movies carry unique material.
Questions about the involvement of Frank Fiedler and Holger Trülzsch also remain unanswered. ‘Antarktis’ and ‘Auch Zwerge haben klein angefangen’ list Florian Fricke only, ‘Wintermärchen' lists Popol Vuh.
It all really started with the soundtrack for 'Aguirre'. This was the beginning of a long and fruitful cooperation between Herzog and Fricke.The story how this collaboration came into being is told many times by Fricke:
"Herzog war damals für die Synchronisation von 'Aguirre' in Rom und suchte eine passende Musik bei Ennio Morricone und fand sie nicht. Eine gemeinsame Bekannte machte Herzog auf mich aufmerksam. Er rief mich später in München an, und zwei Tage später war ich in Rom und habe mir den Film angesehen. Zurück in München habe ich dann eine Musik dazu angefertigt, die Werner Herzog auf Anhieb gefiel. Seitdem gibt es die Zusammenarbeit. So einfach war das." (Keyboards, p.22)
Or in the 1989-interview by Ian Laycock:
Florian Fricke: Werner Herzog had finished filming Aguirre and was in Rome doing the English sync for the film. He was desperately looking for suitable music. He tried with Morricone but couldn't find anything suitable for the film and was very unhappy about it. He was living in an albergo in Rome and was eating there one evening with a young actress from Germany. The conversation finally got round to this problem, that he couldn't get the right music and she said, "There's only one person, really, and that's Florian". So he rang me in Munich, I went to Rome and he showed me the film. I went home and wrote the music and from that point on I was the composer on Werner Herzog's films.
Keyboards: Schon recht früh, nämlich so ab 1972, begann deine Zusammenarbeit mit dem Filmemacher Werner Herzog, eine Kollaboration, die den Namen Popol Vuh auch über den Kreis der blossen Musikkonsumenten weit hinaus bekannt machte. Von 'Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes' über 'Herz aus Glas', 'Nosferatu' bis 'Fitzcaraldo' und 'Cobra Verde' hast du die Musik für Herzogs Filme geliefert. Wie begann eigentlich eure Zusammenarbeit?
Florian Fricke: Das hat - wie eigentlich alles im Leben - einen ganz normalen und unmystischen Anfang. Herzog war damals für die Synchronisation van 'Aguirre' in Rom und suchte eine passende Musik bei Ennio Morricone und fand sie nicht. Eine gemeinsame Bekannte machte Herzog auf mich aufmerksam. Er rief mich später in München an, und zwei Tage später war ich in Rom und habe mir den Film angesehen. Zurück in München habe ich dann eine Musik dazu angefertigt, die Werner Herzog auf Anhieb gefiel. Seitdem gibt es die Zusammenarbeit. So einfach war das.
On two places in 'Herzog on Herzog', Herzog explains that he had a clear picture of the music he wanted for his Agurire-film:
"Whenever you hear silence, you know there must be indians around, and that means death. We spent weeks recording the birds and the soundtrack was composed from eight different tracks. There is not a single bird that has not been carefully placed as if in a big choir. For the music, I described to Florian Fricke what I was searching for, something both pathetic and surreal, and what he came up with is not real singing, nor is it completely artificial either. It sits uncomfortably between the two". (p.80)
"In Aguirre I wanted a choir that would sound out of this world, like when I would walk at night as a child, thinking that the stars were singing, so Florian used a very strange instrument called a 'choir-organ'. It would sound just like a human voice but yet, at the same time, had a very artificial and eerie quality to it. Florian was always full of ideas like this" (p.256) From what Herzog suggests above, one is inclined to conclude that Fricke may have directed his attention to the choir-organ as a fitting instrument for realizing Herzogs vision. This instrument was played at that time by Jimmy Jackson in Amon Düül 2.
The film 'Aguirre' was premiered in Germany at december 29th, 1972. So it must have been in 1972 - the second half probably - when Fricke got this phonecall from Rome. At that time Fricke had lost his interest in the moog. But he had this instrument still around him, and used it for his guest appereance on 'Zeit' by Tangerine Dream, recorded in may 1972. Also he lend his moog to Amon Düül 2 for their 'Wolf City'-album that was recorded in july 1972. For this album Jimmy Jackson played the so-called choir organ.
What did Fricke actually compose when he got back from Rome. For sure there was not much time left for him, as Herzog was nearly finishing 'Aguirre'. In answering this question we will also answer two other ones: what music do we actually hear in the film? Is it identical with the music on the original album that appeared in 1975? Most of the music on the soundtrack-lp is not used for the film: 'Morgengruss II', 'Agnus Dei' and 'Vergegenwärtigung', do not appear in the film. The remaining pieces 'Aguirre I' and 'Aguirre II' do return in the film. Both pieces are very similar, and only their codas differ.
Since the SPV-rereleases are out we also know of 'Aguirre III'. Comparing the three versions one can conclude that Fricke did a lot of editing and mixing.
On two moments in the film an actor plays a tune on panflute. In other parts of the film we hear the theme again without seeing it played by the actor. The tune is played in slightly different versions. It's also on the soundtrack as the second part of 'Aguirre I'. After the choir-organ is faded out after about 6:10 minutes the panflute sets in after a short silence.I think it is safe to say that this tune is not played by a Popol Vuh member, but that it is taken from the film.On many moments in the film we hear a very peacefull guitarpiece. Alas this is not on the soundtrack, nor on any other Popol Vuh record.Also one can hear one or two other flashes of Popol Vuh music that I cannot identify and that are not on any record as far as I know .
There are two scenes in the film with tribal percussion music. I suppose they are taken from an ethnic recording. In any case, they are non-Popol Vuh.
So, I think it is a fair to conclude that only the 'Aguirre'-theme, plus the quiet guitar-interludes were intentionally composed by Fricke for the film.
[ To be continued ]