Thursday, March 31, 2011

Music And The Moving Image: Kraftwerk

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Like many other Krautrock bands - Kraftwerk drew on the influence of experimental electronic forces such as composer Karlheinz Stockhausen and Tangerine Dream to create minimalist music on synthesizers, drum machines and tape recorders.

Ralf Hütter listed The Beach Boys as a major influence, apparent in their 1975 chart single, Autobahn.

Wolfgang Flür also made a similar remark comparing Kraftwerk's German identity to the Kinks and their strongly-English brand of pop/rock

For their image Hütter stated that "The culture of Central Europe was cut off in the thirties, [as] many of the intellectuals went to the USA or France, or they were eliminated. [Kraftwerk were] picking it up again where it left off, continuing [the] culture of the thirties, and doing [it] spiritually".

Emil Schult, an electronic violinist, was seen as the man behind the image. He had a masters degree that covered many aspects of the visual media including painting, photography and film, but also brought him into contact with some of the more revolutionary political student movements of the time.


In the 80's Kraftwerk strongly influenced a generation of English new-wave groups like the Human League, Tubeway Army ( Gary Numan ), Depeche Mode and OMD, while David Bowie claimed to be have long been an admirer - this can be heard on his album 'Low' - Bowie asked to work with Kraftwerk, but typically, they refused the offer.

Michael Jackson who was a huge fan, evident on his album 'Bad‘, asked Kraftwerk to produce his sister, Janet’s album ‘Control’, but they also refused the offer.

The group are cited as a major influence on a host of electro artists, Afrika Bambaataa and Arthur Baker who produced their1982 'Planet Rock' single which was built around samples of both 'Trans-Europe Express' and 'Numbers'

This melding of European electronic music with African American music led to the development of hip-hop, House music, and Techno.


The lyrics reference the revolutionary technique of robotics, and how humans can use them as they wish.

"Я твой слуга" (Ya tvoi sluga, I'm your servant)

"Я твой работник" (Ya tvoi rabotnik, I'm your worker)

In the video Kraftwerk are communicating to the audience visually, although they’re not visible a representation of them as artists is shown.

A quote from The New York Times states that while all concert performances are mechanical to the degree that they repeat well-rehearsed music, Kraftwerk had its own wry twist. Its robots were far more demonstrative than the band itself.

Another article from The New York Times states that Kraftwerk is the most important music group since the Beatles. The band laid down a blueprint for the music's future, developing an automated, impersonal sound that although it seems ultra-intellectual and European, slipped across barriers of race, class and nationality...


Transferring the spirit from the body to the machine is often the main analysis, but it’s essentially an expression of technological spirituality. In this manner: "techno dance music defeats what Adorno saw as the alienating effect of mechanisation on the modern consciousness“

The equipment-free aspect of reality here has become an illusion; the sight of immediate reality has become an orchid in the land of technology. Pop illustrates and complicates Walter Benjamin’s theory of authenticity and the disappearance of aura in the age of mechanical reproduction. Although the notion of being ‘authentic’ is seen to be confirmed by the live performance, Kraftwerk used Robots instead of people. The audience isn’t going to be let down because everyone is used to the characters instead of the actual thing. Mona Lisa as an example; no one notices the real one from the fake.

We can also reference Jean Baudrillard’s work on “Simulacra and Simulation“ , where the distinctions between representation and reality disappear.

Both Adorno and Heidegger were concerned with false representation and distorting a more "authentic" relationship with the natural world