Histories of German popular music generally focus on examples of West German music which were commercially successful and/or are considered to be aesthetically and musically ground-breaking. Bands such as Kraftwerk, Can, Neu! or the Scorpions are the subject of many academic as well as non-academic publications, and they are considered as canonical as genres such as Krautrock or Neue Deutsche Welle. East German musicians or movements, on the other hand, tend to be overlooked, as do specific artistic forms of expression which were developed in response to authoritarian leadership in the socialist German Democratic Republic (GDR). The examination of a relationship between the GDR and the arts is almost altogether absent from a pan-German popular music history. Continue reading →
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.
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 →
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.
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 →
Pop nostalgia, we are told, is everywhere. Our current golden age of television—from Mad Men to Vinyl, Downton 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.
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 →
Am Ende des derzeit viel diskutierten ZDF-Fernsehspiels „Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter“ gibt es eine bemerkenswerte kleine Szene. Im Jahr 1945 kommen drei von fünf Freunden von der Front in ein Berliner Lokal zurück, in dem das Drama 270 Fernsehminuten zuvor im Jahr 1941 bei fröhlicher Tanzmusik begann. Mittlerweile sind sie von den Grauen des Krieges gezeichnet. Für ein paar lange Sekunden bleibt die Kamera an einem Detail hängen, das verlässlich immer wieder dann auftaucht, wenn es um Kulturpolitik des “Dritten Reiches” geht. Auf einer Emailletafel steht in blutroten Fraktur-Lettern: Continue reading →