Politically, Andreas Vollenweider is an outspoken pacifist and follower of the principles of non-violent conflict management of Mahatma Gandhi. On his website he features quotes from Gandhi (among others), and in an effort to spread awareness of the American war in Iraq, he has also posted a ticker reflecting the current number of casualties in the conflict, both American and Iraqi.
Vollenweider was born on October 4, 1953 in Zürich as the son of Hans Vollenweider, a composer and organist. Acquainted with many instruments and an autodidact, Andreas Vollenweider discovered the harp in 1975. This instrument – notably his self-modified electro-acoustic harp, would define the signature sound on all of his music albums. During this time Vollenweider also started composing for film, theater and TV.
Eine Art Suite in XIII Teilen, was his first album, released in in Switzerland in 1979. Pieces of this album were performed at a concert at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1981. This first concert preceded the release of Vollenweider's second album, Behind The Gardens, Behind The Wall, Under The Tree..., which was released worldwide in autumn of the same year.
His next album, Caverna Magica, was released in 1983. The single Pace Verde ("Green Peace") was cut from Caverna Magica and released in 1983 as a tribute to environmental and peace movements. In the same year, he received an Edison Award in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, for the Caverna Magica album.
The album White Winds was released in 1984 and was listed in three US charts. A US tour soon followed in 1985, including performances at the Kennedy Center (Washington, DC), New York's Carnegie Hall and Radio City Music Hall, and the Universal Amphitheatre (Los Angeles). Down To The Moon (1987), his fourth full-length album, received a Grammy Award. Vollenweider toured again in Europe, Japan, Canada and the US, and Australia.
His fifth album, Dancing With The Lion (1989), marked a change in the way Vollenweider produced his music. His previous albums featured a more or less fixed set of musicians, while Dancing With The Lion incorporated numerous guest appearances of musicians from all musical styles. For this album Vollenweider himself directed and produced two music videos, for which he was also heavily involved in writing the storylines, the choreography, and the design of sets and costumes. The album was followed by Book of Roses, released in 1991, which has a more symphonic sound than can be heard on the previous albums.
The album Eolian Minstrel, released in 1994 marked another change in musical direction for Vollenweider. Previous albums had been largely instrumental, sometimes including wordless solo and chorus lyrics. On Eolian Minstrel most of the songs feature lyrics written by Vollenweider and sung by Carly Simon and Eliza Gilkyson. Although the next album with a heavy focus on vocals would not appear until almost 11 years after the release of Eolian Minstrel, lyrics would remain an important part of Vollenweider's music.
The period of 1994 to 1997 was marked with a series of concerts, notably with Pavarotti and Friends in Modena, Italy, and at remarkable locations, including a concert at 2500 meters in Brunico in the Southern Alps with Zucchero and in a volcanic cave at the Festival Musica Visual on Lanzarote.
1998 saw the release of Kryptos, a largely symphonic album featuring guest musicians from all over the world. During the summer of the same year, he worked on his next symphonic project. Wolkenstein, which he calls a "symphonic mind movie", was first performed to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the canton of Zürich in 1998.
The 1999 Cosmopoly is a return to a more "world music" oriented sound and included guest appearances of Carly Simon, pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, singer and poet Milton Nascimento, Bobby McFerrin, duduk player Djivan Gasparyan and trombonist Ray Anderson. A Cosmopoly tour followed, featuring many of the aforementioned musicians appearing as special guests during the tour.
Vollenweider's "symphonic novel" "Tales of Kira Kutan" premiered at the Warsaw Film Music Festival in 2002. In the same year he composed and performed the music for the play "Socrates — Dawn of Civilization" with Rod Steiger as Socrates.
From 2002 to the present Vollenweider has been busy with performing his music at various festivals and releasing multiple compilation albums and DVDs. His second major foray into vocal work came with VOX in 2005, featuring Vollenweider himself on most of the vocals. Midnight Clear is his most recent full-length album, released in 2006.