Karl Bartos: German Traditionalism In Kraftwerk’s Music

Quietus has an interesting interview with Kraftwerk‘s Karl Bartos.

One of the most interesting sections of the interview looks at traditionalism in Kraftwerk’s music:

Karl Bartos: We felt that really World War Two had wiped out German heritage because of all the Jewish people who emigrated to the States or other parts of Europe. We all felt that Germany’s cultural heritage was very strong in the 1920s and before we had this Nazi regime and everything went ridiculous.

So we always thought we were closing a gap, rather than playing the blues or imitating The Beatles – which we loved a lot of course but it’s not in our genes and it’s not our native language. And we don’t have the blues in our genes and we weren’t born in the Mississippi Delta. There were no black people in Germany.

So instead we thought we’d had this development in the 1920s which was very, very strong and was audio visual. We had the Bauhaus school before the war and then after the war we had tremendous people like Karlheinz Stockhausen and the development of the classical and the electronic classical. This was very strong and it all happened very close to Düsseldorf in Cologne and all the great composers at that time came there.

During the late 40s up until the 70s they all came to Germany; people like John Cage, Pierre Boulez and Pierre Schaeffer and they all had this fantastic approach to modern music and we felt it would make more sense to see Kraftwerk as part of that tradition more than anything else.

When you first heard Kraftwerk, did it make you think of the German classical music tradition?

5 thoughts on “Karl Bartos: German Traditionalism In Kraftwerk’s Music

  1. actually yes.. Kraftwerk is most definitely based in a very German aesthetic. not just the music style, but the overall audiovisual presentation. it seems like the perfect music to listen to in a Bauhaus structure while sitting in a Mies van der Rohe Barcelona Chair.
    the word “tradition” is somewhat misleading– its more of a tradition of experimentalism and innovation.

  2. I don’t like Stockhausen’s “music” because while he was experimental, he lacked a sense of melody. My favorite music combines bold innovation with catchy songwriting, and Kraftwerk had a gift for that. I do think there is a connection to a lot of Teutonic classical greats who had a talent for catchy tunes.

  3. I first heard Kraftwerk when I was in College, I was enrolled in the electronic music program at CMU (a Moog shop) and they were a real eye-opener for us. We never brought them up in class, but we ALL listened to them in the dorm – – Ah College. What we liked best was the sound of course, but it was that nerds (didn’t have that word in 76) could be “rock stars” – of a sort, it made us “dorks” think there was some hope for us to score with the babes. It’s funny listening to the music today though, it sounds very simplistic, almost boring . . . but you can sure trace a line from them to a lot of work being done today, IMHO. -BD

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