Kraftwerk Conference at Aston University

laser show

9 January 2014

Aston University is hosting the first international academic conference dedicated to German electronic music band Kraftwerk. 

Kraftwerk have long been recognised as major pioneers of electronic music. Their innovative sound and conceptual approach to making music had a decisive influence on 1980s synth pop and techno music and has been cited as a source of inspiration by megastars such as David Bowie, Depeche Mode and Daft Punk. 

The conference will cover a wide range of topics, discussed by academics and enthusiasts from around the world. Stephen Mallinder, former lead singer of seminal Sheffield art pop group, Cabaret Voltaire, will present a keynote talk entitled ‘On Kraftwerk: Modernity and Movement’, dealing with their enormous impact on dance music. Other talks will touch on Kraftwerk’s formation and early years, their work in the visual arts and their vast legacy. 

Legendary DJ, Rusty Egan, responsible for introducing Kraftwerk to the British club scene and influencing the early 1980s ‘New Romantic’ movement that included Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran, will perform an audio-visual presentation at the conference. He will also play at Aston University Students’ Union, which for one night only will be transformed into club night ‘The Electric Café’, in homage to Kraftwerk and the bands that followed them. 

Dr Uwe Schütte, Reader in German at Aston and convener of the conference, is a fan of Kraftwerk from a young age. He said: “I must have heard their record, ‘Autobahn’, aged about seven when it was released in 1974. As it was so much unlike the rest of pop music at the time, it inevitably got stuck in my head. Also, Kraftwerk’s great strength is to be avant-garde yet accessible at the same time, even for a child.” 

The band has toured the world extensively, attracting considerable audiences and creating a loyal fan base. Their recent move to incorporate 3D stage projections has led to a string of appearances at museums and leading art institutions. Performances at the Tater Modern, MoMA and the Viennese Burgtheater, have confirmed Kraftwerk’s position as major exponents of contemporary German art. 

Uwe feels that a thorough academic examination of the band is long overdue and that they need to be assessed in the wider framework of German cultural history. 

He said of the conference: “To do justice to the many-facetted aspects of their œuvre and their artistic identity, a pronounced interdisciplinary approach will provide the methodological framework to the conference. It's goal is to attract papers not only from academics working in the areas of German studies, sociology, or cultural studies but also from scholars across the world in disciplines such as art history, philosophy, and musicology.” 

The conference is on 21 and 22 January at Aston University. The Electric Café night will take place in the Students’ Union on campus from 7pm on 21 January. 

Full programme of the conference, prices, and booking available here.