Electronic Music – Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk made crazy music.  At first people didn’t know what to think about it or how to take it in.  Florian Schneider and Ralf Hutter, who were primarily responsible for the formation of Kraftwerk and the music that followed, met in post World War 2 Germany while studying classical music.  They knew that something needed to change for German culture, as they feared it had become too American.  They made custom electronic instruments, which led to making custom music like no one had heard before.   The first two albums, Kraftwerk 1 and Kraftwerk 2 resulted from Ralf and Florian’s interest in minimalistic electronic music.  The group performed live successfully yet they were concerned that people did not take the music seriously.   Naturally they wanted to prevent they’re music from becoming a passing fad and began to develop their sound into more of a pop format.  The release of Autobahn in 1974 propelled them into pop culture.  However, the group was far from selling out, or conforming to any sort of industry standard image.  They performed in suits and ties rather than the typical leather and open chested blouses of the time.  The success of Autobahn facilitated an international tour, which was fitting since Autobahn was full of themes of the “road”.  Concept albums were popular at the time, largely due to the release of the Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper album.   Kraftwerk thought that making concept albums was relatively uncool since so many bands were making them, yet all their music contained distinct themes.  The 1975 release Radio-Activity was a pun discussing nuclear radio activity as well as communication via radio waves.  The album was not as successful as Autobahn in western markets, but it did fairly well in Europe.  Similarly, their next release, Trans-Europe Express was not an immediate commercial success, but it would grow to be known as one of the most iconic electronic music albums to date.   Trans-Europe Express contained themes of travel in Europe, particularly on the extensive European rail system.  Accordingly, the band did a press conference on a train for the album’s release. The next two albums, Man-Machine and Computer World continued the Kraftwerk’s progression into technology drive music.  Man-Machine was made almost entirely using synthesis and sequencers.  Computer World spoke of the technological takeover of society and appropriately contained a single titled “Computer Love”, which was a huge success.   At the origin of Kraftwerk, they had foreseen the inevitable progression of technology in society, which drove them to create their form of electronic music.  By creating their own synthesizers, drum machines, and other studio tools, they were able to create something uniquely their own.  Their musical ideas were ahead of their time and influenced artists such as David Bowie and Brian Eno and can also be heard in the music of modern electronic pop artists like Daft Punk and Radiohead.   These are a few of the reasons why Kraftwerk is regarded as the most influential electronic group.  As I was listening to Spotify this week Autobahn immediately stuck out to me.  It was clear right away that I had heard the sounds being made before, yet I had never listened to that particular song before.  This of course is due to the huge influence that Kraftwerk has had on electronic music, which I enjoy listening to.   To be able to create something new, while also making it marketable to pop culture, is a difficult feat to achieve and Kraftwerk did it brilliantly.  In a way, they made their own industry, which is the ideal way to be successful in any industry.


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