Has Flo died from Progressive

What connects "Kraftwerk" with Richard Wagner

Why did the big German electronic band suppress their early work? On the death of her co-founder Florian Schneider: a memory.

Richard Wagner's music-dramatic work is performed every year in Bayreuth. Stop, not quite true. First: This year there is a Corona break. Second: Not all Wagner operas are considered Bayreuth-compatible: “Die Feen”, “Das Liebesverbot” and “Rienzi”, to name just the completed ones, are not played there. Wagner himself had once decreed that they did not belong to the canon.

It is similar with the work of a band that - like Wagner - is often (and hardly ever disrespectfully) associated with the adjective “teutonic” in English-speaking countries: Kraftwerk never had their first three albums from 1970 to 1973 released on CD , they are also missing in the edition “3-D Der Katalog” published in 2017, which just contains only the eight “official” albums in new live recordings, some of which have been made programmatically in museums.

You understand it. How Wagner made his early operas uncomfortable because they are too reminiscent of his roots in the French grande opéra, one hears from “Kraftwerk”, “Kraftwerk 2” (already with titles like “Wavelength” or “Spool”!) And “ Ralf und Florian “too clearly where this band came from: from the crazy wonderland of Krautrock, as this is still called today, based on English-language models, but very peculiar music from Germany in the late sixties and early seventies. You can hear the Kraftwerk piece “Ruckzuck”: the academically trained flutist Florian Schneider plays the flute in the hard percussive style of the British band Jethro Tull, which creates the ostinate rhythm that is typical for many Krautrock bands (e.g. Neu!), The gradually machine and anticipates the sound of the “Trans Europa Express” railroad. But the scenario is still playful, psychedelic.

German machine romance

Or “dance music” from the album “Ralf and Florian”: a puppet theater like later, for example. B. in “The Robots”, but even more lovely, yes: more romantic.

Whereby: Isn't Kraftwerk's canonized work basically romantic? “In front of us lies a wide valley, the sun shines with glittering rays”, it says in “Autobahn”, and then, in an equally monotonous voice: “The road is a gray band, white stripes, green edge.” This is where the idea of ​​the picturesque Landscape expanded - with what was called the “miracle of technology” in the 1950s. This enthusiasm was already waning - the anti-nuclear power movement in Germany was already strong in 1970 - when Kraftwerk set their timeless monuments. So their aesthetic was progressive and nostalgic at the same time: the modern in retrospect. And with a consistency that British and American colleagues did not dare. Kraftwerk no longer wanted to be brilliant rock musicians, but rather sound engineers with honest hairstyles and suits. Schneider, an early nerd, preceded his partner: Wherever he wore feathers for a long time on the cover of “Ralf and Florian”, he showed himself with a side parting and a tie.
With this consistency, Kraftwerk put all “natural” instruments aside and replaced them with machines that they, the machine people, operated. And that at a time when synthesizers were still quite unreliable fellows.

David Bowie's tribute to tailors

Florian Schneider took care of the mechanization of the voices, he called it Robovox, today, strangely enough, a company for vacuum cleaner robots (or robot vacuum cleaners?) Is called that. David Bowie, a great admirer of Kraftwerk, imitated this vocal aesthetic in 1977 in "V-2 Schneider". You can now hear this piece in memory of Florian Schneider.

In addition, of course, “Autobahn”, “Radio Activity”, “Trans Europe Express”, “Man-Machine”, “Computer World”, “Electric Café”, “Tour de France”, in their cool yet euphoric minimalism, all of them are masterpieces that were discovered again and again by new generations. As early as 1982 hip-hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa quoted Kraftwerk extensively in “Planet Rock”. Although this is also a parallel to Wagner, no one has decidedly followed in their footsteps: anyone who wants to know what the future sounded like when it was still shining has to listen to Kraftwerk to this day.

The modest-looking, taciturn tailor did not participate in the musealization of the Kraftwerk canon, which was consistently pursued by Hütter. In 2008 he got out without a fight. He last appeared public in 2015 for a project to protect the oceans with the piece “Stop Plastic Pollution”. It sounded, how could it be otherwise, like Kraftwerk. Then Florian Schneider withdrew into private life. Now he has died of cancer. He was 73 years old.