Christopher Franke Biography
by Adam Walter
On April 6, 1953 “Christoph” Franke was born in Berlin, Germany. Called “Chrillie” as a youth, he was educated at the Berlin Conservatory of Music (now part of the Universität der Künste), where he studied classical music and composition. His mother, father, and older sister were classical musicians. This, combined with six years of classical education, soon became too monotonous for him.
At the age of 13, he switched to playing the drums, and formed a group called The Tigers (later called The Sentries) along with friend Lutz Ulbrich. Two years later, the group gained members and reformed into the avant-garde rock band, Agitation Free. In early 1971, Edgar Froese and Christopher became acquainted. At the time, Agitation Free was falling apart and Edgar’s group, Tangerine Dream was also losing two of its members. Edgar and Chris hit it off and the two wanted to get away from written music and make long improvisational songs.
In mid-1971, Christopher became a permanent member of Tangerine Dream. He originally joined the group to replace Froese as the drummer, but wound up becoming the group’s sequencer guru and was responsible for the pulsing rhythmic synthesizer lines that defined the band’s music. He spent nearly two decades with the group, who put out over 20 albums in that time. Unlike the other members of the band, Christopher hadn’t released any solo albums during those years. In 1987, Christopher left because he wasn’t happy with the “production line” that the group became and wanted to pursue his own musical visions.
For the next two years, he would spend time in Spain “recouping” from years of recording and scheduling, but most importantly, he would begin expanding and designing his own musical ideas. Christopher found himself in the United States in Los Angeles in 1990 where a profusion of composing work was available in Hollywood.
1991 was a big year for Christopher. Not only did he release his first solo album, Pacific Coast Highway, but he also founded the Berlin Symphonic Film Orchestra and held his first solo concert on October 16, 1991 at London’s Royal Apollo Theater. This concert is available on CD on Sonic Images Records, a record label that he founded in 1993.
Over the next decade, Christopher would release several solo works and soundtracks, such as Klemania, New Music for Films (Volumes One and Two), Tenchi Muyo! In Love, and Epic, a best-of compilation. From 1995-2001, he would also release 29 Babylon 5 soundtrack albums. The last release, Babylon 5: The Lost Tales, came out in 2007 and since then, no other soundtracks have been slated for release.
When the producers of Babylon 5 were scouting for a composer for their new TV series, Christopher was among a few others under consideration. They wanted music that was big and full, giving the show a sense of scope and scale. For the pilot, “The Gathering”, Stewart Copeland (founding member of The Police) was chosen to do the score. His music turned out not to be what the producers expected, and a new composer was chosen for the first season. Christopher became the sole composer on all 110 episodes of the series and also four TV movies. In 1998, a special edition of the pilot episode was produced. This time, Copeland’s score was dropped and Christopher produced a new soundtrack.
Babylon 5 is unique in that every single episode and movie has its own unique score. Whereas other television series recycle music throughout different episodes, Chris wrote an average of 25 minutes of new music for each Babylon 5 episode.
In 2007, Christopher completed his last(?) contribution to the Babylon 5 universe and scored Babylon 5: The Lost Tales. Since then, he has been busy in the movie and television industry producing soundtracks for films such as What the Bleep Do We Know?, Hooligans, and Firefighter. He’s also done some interesting television projects such as the failed NBC revival of “Hunter”. He can also be heard today scoring the ABC show, “Supernanny”.