Event Dates: 21 and 22 January 2015
Byng Kendrick Lecture Theatre (G11)
Main Building, Ground Floor
Birmingham B4 7ET
Industrielle Volksmusik for the Twenty-First Century: Kraftwerk and the Birth of Electronic Music in Germany
Kraftwerk have long been recognised as major pioneers of electronic music. The group attracted keen interest particularly in the UK, where their innovative sound had a decisive influence on the development of 1980s synth pop. While the announcement in 2009 of Florian Schneider’s departure from the core team of Hütter/Schneider initially suggested an end to the band, the now solely Hütter-led group has since made a stunning return to public attention.
Extensive touring attracted considerable audiences who, in many cases, were exposed to the band’s shows for the first time. The recent full move to 3D stage projections took their shows – once defined by Hütter as a succession of Musikgemälde (musical paintings) – to a new visual level. It prepared Kraftwerk for a string of appearances at international museums and leading art institutions, where, over the course of eight evenings each, they played retrospectives of their catalogue. These residencies in venues such as MoMA, Tate Modern and the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin in the week before the conference, have confirmed Kraftwerk’s position as major exponents of contemporary German art. Their unique standing in the twenty-first century underscores the band’s promise given in the 1986 song Techno Pop: “Es wird immer weiter gehen / Music als Träger von Ideen” (It will carry on from here / Music, the carrier of ideas).
While Kraftwerk’s recent activity rekindled interest in the band – as evidenced by David Buckley’s 2012 biography and the volume edited by Sean Albiez/David Pattie (2011) – there still remain many areas to be explored and many established views to be questioned. For example, a critical appreciation of their conceptual art or the contextualisation of the band in the wider framework of German cultural history are needed. To do justice to the many-facetted aspects of their œuvre and their artistic ‘corporate identity’ as a group of “sound researchers”, a pronounced interdisciplinary approach will provide the methodological framework to the conference. Kraftwerk specialists from Britain, as well as Finland, Austria, the Netherlands and the US, will present papers dealing with the band’s music and the impact it has had on other artists.
NB: We are sorry about having to edit out all musical examples due to copyright restrictions. Most titles are easily found on YouTube.
Introduction to the conference:
Stephen Mallinder (Brighton/Cabaret Voltaire) – Kraftwerk: Modernity and Movement:
David Stubbs (London) – The Archaeological Years: Kraftwerk before Autobahn:
David Pattie (Chester) – Ralf und Florian, Krautrock and Germany:
Nick Stevenson (Nottingham) – Cabaret Voltaire and Dada Modernity:
Melanie Schiller (Groningen) – Fun Fun Fun on the Autobahn: Kraftwerk Challenging Germanness:
Uwe Schütte (Aston) – We Are the Robots! On the Cultural-Historical Origins of the Man-Machine: