Chuck van Zyl: Spontaneous Spacemusic, live on Echoes.

Chuck van Zyl performs live on Echoes

Chuck van Zyl

Electronic music fans in the Philadelphia area (and thanks to the internet, around the world) know Chuck van Zyl as the long-time host of the radio show Star’s End, on WXPN in Philadelphia. Originally created back in 1976 by Echoes host John Diliberto, Stars End is one of the longest-running space music radio shows in existence. Chuck has been the sole presenter for many years, bringing 5 hours of ethereal ambiences, driving space music excursions, and abstract experimentations, every Saturday night through Sunday morning.

He’s also the organizer of The Gatherings, a live concert series that presents ambient, ethereal, innovative music in a church in West Philadelphia.

But since 1983, Chuck van Zyl has also been creating his own electronic music.  A fan of 1970s space music, especially the “Berlin School” performers out of Germany, such as Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream and Ash Ra Tempel, he was especially inspired by the D.I.Y. aesthetic of Philadelphia area band The Nightcrawlers. He became friends with the members of that group, and in turn, they encouraged him to buy  a synthesizer and make his own music.

He did, and ended up releasing a series of self-produced cassette releases, sometimes collaborating with members of The Nightcrawlers.  Over the years he’s continued to release solo music, and collaborative efforts as Xisle and The Ministry of Inside Things.   In the 1990s, some of his early cassette recordings were reissued on CD by the European Centaur label, and have more recently had limited-edition releases on the Industry8 label.  He has many CD releases on his own Synkronos label.

Over all these years, van Zyl has frequently performed live, both solo and in collaborations with other musicians.  Most of those concerts have been in the Philadelphia area, but he’s also performed in England, Holland and Canada. A common feature of all those performances has been his insistence on playing completely live, without recorded backing tracks.

In recent years, he’s delved back into an older style of music creation and performance, utilizing analog modular synthesizers and sequencers, allowing a kind of spontaneous composition. As he said after playing his piece “Force Field” live on Echoes, “I heard it for the first time too, just then.”

That kind of in-the-moment music creation can be heard on his recent CDs Recitals and Recitals Volume 2.  And it even more vividly can be heard on the Echoes broadcast of Monday, July 9, 2018.

Chuck carried a huge array of modules up to the second floor Echoes studios, practically filling-up our music library, spent several hours patching cables and tuning oscillators, and performed two pieces, completely live, for Echoes.  They don’t exist on any recordings, they truly are spontaneous creations.  But you can hear them on the Echoes broadcast, and even better, you can watch him perform the first piece, “Force Field” in this video.