Florian Schneider (1947-2020)
Spotify Playlist reflecting on Kraftwerk's role in music history
Detroit’s first techno DJs played Kraftwerk records, and hip hop became big when Afrika Bambaataa sampled Trans Europa Express. Ralf Hütter's and Florian Schneider's Düsseldorf-specific sense for systematics, distilled from the psilocybin-induced loops of Krautrock, demonstrated just how far the author's gesture and body can be reduced – resulting in feedbacks loops where language, sound, image and living bodies circle around each other like Tom and Jerry or Laurel and Hardy, in an endless slapstick of media, gaining momentum with every rotation.
Autobahn, sings the voice. Autobahn, sings the music. Autobahn, says the first music video in history, focusing for twenty minutes simply on the scene of Ralf Hütter's Mercedes 600 Pullmann and Florian Schneider's VW Beetle overtaking each other.
It's a myth that Kraftwerk replaced humans by machines. Rather, they demonstrated that the futurist romanticism of contemporaries like Jean-Michel Jarre leads us nowhere. Only if you plug humans back into the circuit, you can generate works that both have and promote self-consciousness, by letting production tools make each other sing.
This is what I feel connects Kraftwerk to the humble permeability of premodern music like that of Bach's. For this reason I let Yo-Yo Ma's Cello Suite No. 1 open the playlist – an interpretation free of the romantic expressionism of Rostropovich and others that, seen from today’s perspective, take humans just too seriously.
An early synthesizer was the Trautonium by Friedrich Trautwein (1888-1956), for which Paul Hindemith (complice of Bertolt Brecht) composed a concert piece in 1931. From there, I speculate on how far Kraftwerk's sounds and systematics permeate even the latest music, from Kanye West's unleashing of electrosmog to Holly Herndon's AI experiments. I also included some musicians that wished to work with Kraftwerk but were turned down, such as David Bowie and Michael Jackson.
Kolja Reichert also writes texts and music for the band Format, who just released their first video: