The cold German: The thermo-aesthetics of Kraftwerk. On the Obituaries on Florian Schneider

Florian Schneider Robot

Nothing is more German than Kraftwerk, not even Germans themselves. Kraftwerk has long since risen to national myth, with significant help from English-speaking writers with a certain affinity for everything German. The obituaries that appeared after the recent death of founding member Florian Schneider resemble the usual pieces written about the group. All emphasize the numerous popular references to the band and the influence their sounds, beats and melodies have had on the music world: from David Bowie’s “Berlin Trilogy” and “V2 Schneider” (1977) to the Kraftwerk samples in the early hip hop and techno tracks of Afrika Bambaataa’s “Planet Rock” (1982) and Cybotron’s “Clear” (1983) and the work of Daft Punk and Coldplay. What they do not mention, however, is that Florian Schneider, together with his long-time partner Ralf Hütter, managed to create an image that would prove to be Germany’s most internationally successful pop export: the cold German.

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Listening Again to Popular Music as History (CfA, Deadline: Sept. 2018)

Jeffrey H. Jackson and Stanley C. Pelkey open their collection, Music and History (subtitle ‘Bridging the Disciplines’, 2005) by asking: ‘Why haven’t historians and musicologists been talking to one another?’  They suggest that at the heart of this absence is a problem of communication, concerning the distinct methods, knowledge and skills employed in both disciplines: does one need to be able to read, play or even ‘appreciate’ music for instance in order to make sense of it historically? On the other hand, do musicologists need an understanding of historiography to write histories of music? The issue for scholars in both disciplines is the status of the musical object: how to account for music as music, without losing a sense of its historical specificity. Continue reading

Black Feminism et Antiquité dans la pop-music

Ces dernières années, l’Antiquité classique s’est frayée un chemin dans tous les aspects des musiques pop et urbaines : les héros de l’Antiquité et l’architecture classique sont omniprésents dans les paroles, les clips ou sur scène. Ce sont notamment les chanteuses blanches qui se sont approprié des schémas hérités de l’histoire de l’art et du péplum : Katy Perry incarne Cléopâtre, Lady Gaga et Kylie Minogue se disputent Aphrodite… Dans un mouvement parallèle, on repère également de plus en plus fréquemment l’Antiquité dans la communication de chanteuses de couleur, où elle se charge souvent d’un message politique. C’est notamment le cas chez Solange Knowles avec son clip pour Don’t touch my hair, paru en octobre 2016 et à l’origine de mes réflexions sur la question (lire mon premier post sur la question ici).

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Negotiating Machismo, ‘Exoticism’ and Feminism on the Dancefloor: Tango Argentino and Transcultural Encounters in the 20th and 21st Century (Review)

Federico Ribas, La Evolución del Tango …, Mundial Magazine, Nr. 28 (1913).

In the 20th century, tango argentino, Argentinean tango dancing, became a popular cultural practice in many metropolises all over the world. The image the broader public has of the traditional pair dancing style is, to a large degree, shaped by its depiction in mostly Western, but also Latin American popular culture. Movies such as Tango, no me dejes nunca [English title: Tango] (1998), Naked Tango (1998) and Scent of a Woman (1992) as well as celebrity dancing shows like Dancing with the Stars promote Argentinean tango as a highly sexualized, intimate and exotic dance oozing with stereotypical attributes of masculinity and femininity. In this sense, tango dancing can be fascinating and engaging, but may also be perceived as disreputable or discriminatory, and, thus, repelling. This tension makes for interesting and complicated characterizations of tango dancing, both when it first became a transnational phenomenon at the beginning of the 20th century and from a contemporary perspective. Continue reading

Research project: Estonian punk (1985-1995)

Punks in Tallinn, ca. 1982. Photo: Arno Saar, collection of Tõnu Trubetsky.

The first punk bands in the ESSR were established at the end of the 1970s. Punk was blacklisted in the ESSR, after youth riots erupted at a September 1980 concert of the punk band Propeller. During the first half of the 1980s the punk movement was small but steady in size. The punk’s main ways of expression were extravagant behaviour and clothes, organizing illegal concerts and social life in Tallinn’s cafés. Nevertheless, being a punk was socially frowned upon and meant problems with family, in school and in public where the youths were ofter arrested by the militsiya. Continue reading

Research Project: ENDZEITOPIA. Forever Celebrating The End. Post Punk, Goth and Avant Garde in East Germany (1982 – 1992)

The  punk scene was in a deep existential crisis when post punk, new wave and goth music and fashion trends finally reached East Germany in the Orwellian year 1984. For the punk community in particular, the prevailing mood was indeed a dystopian one (Pehlemann, Papenfuβ, Mieβner, 2015). Punk was not dead (yet), but East German punk (no) future views increasingly contained a sense of pessimist fatalism, while goths escaped any kind of future scenario by playing already being dead. In any case, change was happening within the cultural underground which corresponded with a broader societal change and a spreading Endzeitstimmung (Wirsching, 2006) during the final phase of the Cold War. This ‘global’ existential fear, caused by political, societal and environmental crises, like nuclear threat, AIDS and environmental pollution (for example the ‘Waldsterben‘: dying forests) inspired both avant garde artists and participants in protest movements on both sides of the Iron Curtain.

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Workshop: “How to Write and Conceptualize the History of Youth Cultures” (Berlin, 30.6.-1.7.2016)

Initially, delinquency and crime provided the lens through which academics discussed youth culture. Studying deviant behaviour ensured that criminologists focused on questions of re-education and the relationship between the newly-branded ‘teenager’, delinquency and youth culture.With the emergence of Cultural Studies in Britain, ‘youth’ was interpreted in generational terms, through which a critical understanding of the changing nature of British society could be inferred. Across the academic landscape of historical studies, however, youth cultures tend to play but a minor role in general overviews and historical narratives of the history of European societies after 1945.

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Lectures: Pophistory at the Institute of Historical Research (London, May & June 2016)

British pophistory is not just visible in London’s physical and cultural landscape. Upcoming events related to the history of pop culture at the Institute of Historical Research representing the long tradition of studying the everyday culture of people in Britain: Continue reading

Volume! Special Issue / numéro spécial “Beatles Studies”


Crédits : Matthieu Saladin 210 x 210mm – 242 p. – 19 € – ISBN 978-2-913169-40-1.

Nearly half a century after Luciano Berio praised the Beatles in his ‘Commenti al Rock’ (1967), this special issue of Volume! surveys the research carried out on the band that was, according to John Lennon, ‘more popular than Jesus’. In light of an extensive bibliography covering the first 50 years of what we now call ‘Beatles Studies’, one learns, for example, that the British Invasion originated in Paris, that Popular Music Studies began with the musicological study of popular music, that the theory of harmonic vectors can help analyze pop music or that Marshall McLuhan’s concepts shed an interesting light on albums such as Abbey Road.

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CfP: “Pop Nostalgia: The Uses of the Past in Popular Culture” (London, Deadline: 30.6.2016)

Pop nostalgia, we are told, is everywhere. Our current golden age of television—from Mad Men to VinylDownton Abbey to Call the Midwife—lovingly recreates earlier periods of the twentieth century, while club nights devoted to the 1980s or 1990s allow us to return to our youth. What is more, popular culture is, in the words of music journalist Simon Reynolds, addicted to its own past. It not only reminisces, it revives, reissues, remixes earlier forms and styles instead of coming up with genuinely new. Finally, our most modern technologies are always also time machines: producing sepia-coloured images of the present for an anticipated nostalgic recollection in the future.

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Séminaire “Histoire sociale du rock”: Programme 2016


30 mars 2016 : Metal studies

Gerôme Guibert (MCF, sociologie, Paris 3) : Qu’est-ce que le « heavy metal » ? Généalogie de l’utilisation d’une terminologie au cours de la décennie 1970-1980.

Simon Théodore (doctorant en histoire, Strasbourg) : Une histoire du viking metal (1970-2014).


13 avril 2016 : Rock en Méditerranée (exceptionnellement, séance de 15h à 17h)

Marilisa Merolla (professeure, histoire, “La Sapienza” Università di Roma) : Rock’n’roll, Italian Way. Propagande américaine et modernisation dans l’Italie qui change au rythme du rock and roll. Continue reading

Projektskizze: “Transnationalität populärer Jugendkultur. Jugendmedien in der BRD, Großbritannien und Frankreich, 1964-1981”

Das Projekt untersucht im historischen Vergleich und aus transnationaler Perspektive kommerzielle Jugendmedien, hauptsächlich aus dem Bereich Print, exemplarisch aber auch audiovisuelle Formate wie Jugendmusiksendungen im Fernsehen und Jugendfilme im Kino, aus der BRD, Großbritannien und Frankreich im Zeitraum von 1964 bis 1981. Als forschungsleitende Hypothese geht die Studie davon aus, dass Jugendmedien im Untersuchungszeitraum gleichsam als populärkulturelle Repräsentationsfläche, aber auch als aktive Konstrukteure sowie raum- und zeit-übergreifende Transmissionsriemen einer „mainstream-orientierten“ Jugendkultur fungierten und dabei ein synergetisches „Ensemble“ von Jugend(massen-)medien konstituierten. Continue reading

CfP: Wie klingt Demokratie? / Musiques en démocratie (Paris)

Philharmonie de Paris, vue de la Grande Salle depuis le parterre. Photo: Copyleft (CC-BY-SA 4.0)


Eine internationale Tagung wird sich vom 5. bis 7. November 2015 in der Philharmonie Paris mit der Frage „Wie klingt Demokratie?“ beschäftigen. Gefragt sind Beiträge aus den unterschiedlichsten Disziplinen der Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften. Mit der provokanten Frage möchte die deutsch-französisch organisierte Tagung einen Raum öffnen, um Konzeptionen und Funktionalisierungspotentiale von Musik innerhalb demokratisch ausgerichteter Gesellschaftsformationen zu diskutieren. Continue reading

Punk/Post Punk

Plusieurs manifestations autour des scènes punk/post-punk vont se tenir prochainement à Paris:
1) Le colloque Disorder: histoire sociale des mouvements punk/post punk les 27 et 28 mars à l’Université Paris Diderot et à l’University of Chicago Center of Paris. Toutes les informations en ligne, ainsi que le programme sur le site:
Attention! Il est fortement recommandé de se préinscrire en ligne à la même adresse:
(télécharger le formulaire en ligne et le renvoyer par mail à l’adresse indiquée sur le site).
2) La 2e journée d’étude du projet “Punk is not dead. Une histoire de la scène punk en France, 1976-2016” se tiendra le 27 juin au Centre musical Barbara Fleury à Paris. Plus d’informations sur l’affiche et le programme.

Histoire Sociale du Rock: Programme Séminaire 2015


Séance 1 : 18 mars 2015 : Musiques noires/Black Music
Sofia Solomon (doctorante, EHESS) : « Qu’est-ce que la black music ? Réflexions sur la catégorisation de la musique par la race à partir de la recherche de Karim Hammou sur Howard Becker et Aselm Strauss »
Emmanuel Parent (MCF en musicologie à Rennes 2, LAHIC-EHESS, conseiller scientifique de l’exposition Great Black Music) : « L’exposition Great Black Music à la Cité de la musique (Paris, 2014) : la question raciale dans la France postcoloniale » Continue reading