CfP: Industrielle Volksmusik for the Twenty-First Century: Kraftwerk and the Birth of Electronic Music in Germany (Aston University)
“Industrielle Volksmusik for the Twenty-First Century: Kraftwerk and the Birth of Electronic Music in Germany”
21 and 22, January 2015 – Aston University, Birmingham, UK
Deadline: 15 July 2014
Proposals are invited for the first international academic conference on Kraftwerk, taking place at Aston University in Birmingham/UK on Wednesday 21 and Thursday 22, January 2015.
Kraftwerk have long been recognised as the major pioneers of electronic music. The group attracted keen interest particularly in the UK, where their innovative sound had a decisive influence on the development of 1980s synth pop. While the announcement in 2009 of Florian Schneider’s departure from the core team of Hütter/Schneider initially suggested an end to the band, the now solely Hütter-led group has since made a stunning return to public attention.
Extensive touring attracted considerable audiences who, in many cases, were exposed to the band’s shows for the first time. The recent full move to 3D stage projections took their shows – once defined by Hütter as a succession of Musikgemälde (musical paintings) – to a new visual level. It prepared Kraftwerk for a string of appearances at international museums and leading art institutions, where, over the course of eight evenings each, they played retrospectives of their catalogue. These residencies in venues such as MoMA, Tate Modern, or, most recently, the Viennese Burgtheater, confirmed Kraftwerk’s position as major exponents of contemporary German art. Their unique standing in the twenty-first century underscores the band’s promise given in the 1986 song Techno Pop: “Es wird immer weiter gehen / Music als Träger von Ideen” (It will carry on from here / Music, the carrier of ideas).
While Kraftwerk’s recent activity rekindled interest in the band – as evidenced by David Buckley’s 2012 biography and the collected volume by Sean Albiez/David Pattie (2011) – there still remain many areas to be explored and many established views to be questioned. For example, a critical appreciation of their conceptual art or the contextualisation of the band in the wider framework of German cultural history are needed. To do justice to the many-facetted aspects of their œuvre and their artistic ‘corporate identity’ as a group of “sound researchers”, a pronounced interdisciplinary approach will provide the methodological framework to the conference. Its goal is to attract papers not only from academics working in the areas of German studies, sociology, or cultural studies but also from scholars in disciplines such as art history, philosophy, and musicology.
The conference will explore questions relating to all aspects of the Kraftwerk Gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art) – music, visuals, design, and more. Topics discussed may include but are not limited to questions such as
- Kraftwerk’s position in the context of German popular music in the twentieth century
- Influence of German cultural history on their œuvre (Bauhaus, Wagnerian total work of art etc.)
- Kraftwerk’s albums as mirrors to social trends and political debates
- Kraftwerk in their European dimension/context
- Kraftwerk and the (re)definition of German identity
- Teaching Kraftwerk at British schools
- Kraftwerk and the aesthetics of retrofuturism
- Kraftwerk, androids, cybernetics and the cyber sphere
- Kraftwerk and the development of musical technology (sound gear/processing, drum machines etc.)
- Kraftwerk’s designs (website, box sets etc.)
- Kraftwerk’s styling in their promo photography
- Kraftwerk and their Krautrock peers
- Kraftwerk and their UK imitators
- Kraftwerk’s early works before
- Digital Kraftwerk – the Digital Remaster Series
- Kraftwerk and their local context – Düsseldorf, Cologne and beyond (Karlheinz Stockhausen, Joseph Beuys, Emil Schuldt)
- Transatlantic(ultural) repercussions & connections (e.g. Afrofuturism, Afrogermanism, etc.)
- Kraftwerk and (early) techno/house (e.g. Drexciya, Underground Resistance, Francois K.)
Please send abstracts (of no more than 300 words) to Dr Uwe Schütte, Aston University (U.Schutte@aston.ac.uk) by 15 July 2014.