Kraftwerk and the Birth of Electronic Music in Germany

The first ever international academic conference on Kraftwerk will take place at Aston University on Wednesday 21 and Thursday 22, January 2015.

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.

Registration here: http://www.aston.ac.uk/lss/news/events/indindustrielle-volksmusik-for-the-twenty-first-centuryustrielle-volksmusik-for-the-twenty-first-century/

Full Programme:

Kraftwerk Konferenz – Aston University, Birmingham

Byng Kendrick Lecture Theatre (G11), Main Building, Ground Floor

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

9.00 Registration

9.15 Welcome

9.30 Mallinder, Stephen (Brighton): Kraftwerk: Modernity and Movement

10.15 Pattie, David (Chester): Ralf und Florian, Krautrock and Germany

11.00 Adelt, Ulrich (Wyoming): Moving Up: Kraftwerk and kosmische Musik

11.45 Stevenson, Nick (Nottingham): Cabaret Voltaire and Dada Modernity

12.30 Concluding discussion

13.00 Lunch

14.15 Schiller, Melanie (Groningen): Fun Fun Fun on the Autobahn: Kraftwerk Challenging Germanness

15.00 Rietveld, Hillegonda (London): Europe Endless: Geopolitical Retro-futurism?

15.45 Schütte, Uwe (Aston): We Are the Robots! On the Cultural-Historical Origins of the Man-Machine

16.30 Concluding discussion

17.00 Launch of Midlands German Network (optional)

18.00 Buffet (MGN)

Thursday 22 January 2015

9.00 Springer, Johannes (Osnabrück): Kraftwerk and the Cultural Studies of Cycling

9.45 Monroe, Alexei (London): Trans-Slovene Expressions: Kraftwerk on the Sunny Side of the Alps

10.30 Stubbs, David (London): The Archaeological Years: Kraftwerk before Autobahn

11.15 Tea/Coffee break

11.30 Deisl, Heinrich (Vienna): Searching for Modernity: Socio-historical perspec-tives on techno music and »das Deutsche«. (Kraftwerk – Wolfgang Voigt – Dop-plereffekt)

12.15 Harden, Alexander (Surrey): Kraftwerk and the Issue of Post-Human Authen-ticity

13.00 Lunch

14.15 Grönholm, Pertti (Turku): Nostalgia For The Modern. Re-Imagining the Past Futures in the Concept of Kraftwerk

15.00 Albiez, Sean (Southampton): Kraftwerk in the context of the 20th century European avant-garde

16.00 Concluding discussion


 

 

[Original CFP follows]

Industrielle Volksmusik for the Twenty-First Century. Kraftwerk and the Birth of Electronic Music in Germany

 

Proposals are invited for the first international academic conference on Kraftwerk, taking place at Aston University in Birmingham/UK on Wednesday 21 and Thursday 22, January 2015.

 

Kraftwerk have long been recognised as the 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, or, most recently, the Viennese Burgtheater, 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 collected volume 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. Its goal is to attract papers not only from academics working in the areas of German studies, sociology, or cultural studies but also from scholars in disciplines such as art history, philosophy, and musicology.

 

The conference will explore questions relating to all aspects of the Kraftwerk Gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art) – music, visuals, design, and more. Topics discussed may include but are not limited to questions such as

  • Kraftwerk’s position in the context of German popular music in the twentieth century
  • Influence of German cultural history on their œuvre (Bauhaus, Wagnerian total work of art etc.)
  • Kraftwerk’s albums as mirrors to social trends and political debates
  • Kraftwerk in their European dimension/context
  • Kraftwerk and the (re)definition of German identity
  • Teaching Kraftwerk at British schools
  • Kraftwerk and the aesthetics of retrofuturism
  • Kraftwerk, androids, cybernetics and the cyber sphere
  • Kraftwerk and the development of musical technology (sound gear/processing, drum machines etc.)
  • Kraftwerk’s designs (website, box sets etc.)
  • Kraftwerk’s styling in their promo photography
  • Kraftwerk and their Krautrock peers
  • Kraftwerk and their UK imitators
  • Kraftwerk’s early works before Autobahn
  • Digital Kraftwerk – the Digital Remaster Series
  • Kraftwerk and their local context – Düsseldorf, Cologne and beyond (Karlheinz Stockhausen, Joseph Beuys, Emil Schuldt)
  • Transatlantic(ultural) repercussions & connections (e.g. Afrofuturism, Afrogermanism, etc.)
  • Kraftwerk and (early) techno/house (e.g. Drexciya, Underground Resistance, Francois K.)

 

Please send abstracts (of no more than 300 words) to Dr Uwe Schütte, Aston University (U.Schutte@aston.ac.uk) by 15 July 2014.