Special Issue “Popular Music History”: Narrating Popular Music History of the GDR: A Critical Reflection of Approaches, Sources and Methods (CfA, Deadline: January 29, 2021)

Background

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

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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