Kraftwerk conference at Aston resounding success

Kraftwerk_astonimage

The Kraftwerk conference held at Aston University on 21/22 January 2015 was a resounding success, attracting an audience of over 160 participants. Particular highlights were the keynote address given by Dr Steven Mallinder (formerly of Cabaret Voltaire) and a lively presentation by DJ Rusty Egan (formerly of Visage) who also DJed at the after conference party in the student union bar. The conference attracted considerable media coverage by a number of publications and on several BBC radio channels as well as the BBC Breakfast TV programme.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03rlLjppzz4&spfreload=10

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-30907513

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/features/the-kraftwerk-conference-why-a-bunch-of-academics-consider-the-german-electropoppers-worthy-of-their-own-symposium-9993879.html

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Aston to host first ever academic conference on Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk performing their retrospective at MOMA Photo: ©BOETTCHER
Kraftwerk performing their retrospective at MOMA Photo: ©BOETTCHER

On 21 and 22 January, 2015, Aston University is hosting the first-ever academic conference on the groundbreaking German electronic band Kraftwerk. Uwe Schütte, organiser of the conference: “I think Kraftwerk are fascinating, and deserve critical, scholarly attention. They’ve received that, but only a little.”

Founded in the early 1970s, they were ahead of their time with regard to the use of technology in producing music. To quote the conference website,

Kraftwerk have long been recognised as 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.

Over two days, a diverse group of scholars will speak about such diverse topics as “Fun Fun Fun on the Autobahn: Kraftwerk Challenging Germanness”, “We Are the Robots! On the Cultural-Historical Origins of the Man-Machine” and “Cabaret Voltaire and Dada Modernity”. And instead of the usual sit-down conference dinner, participants will get the chance to shake it up at the Kraftwerk Disco.

The conference has garnered great international attention, with a host of international speakers and more than 200 registered participants from across the world. It has also been reported on in the national and international press, for example in The Guardian, leading music magazine NME and German music platform Ampya.

German Popliteratur star Thomas Meinecke at Aston University

Thomas Meinecke_plattenspielerIn Germany, Thomas Meinecke is known for many things: He has been the frontman for postpunk outfit Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle (FSK) for several decades already and has advocated techno music during his regular radio slot for the Bayerischer Rundfunk. For the last decade, he has also made a name for himself as a distinguished novelist. To date, 7 novels have appeared with the prestigious Suhrkamp publishing house. The recent upsurge of Popliteratur in Germany would have been impossible without his literary contributions. Last but not least, he is also regarded as Germany’s leading male feminist. Beat that!

In late October, Meinecke will be visiting Aston to take part in a number of seminars in Sociology and German. The highlight of his visit though will be our very own edition of the famous Plattenspieler events that he regularly stages in Berlin and elsewhere: Inviting a guest, he plays records on stage and discusses music and contemporary pop culture with them. At Aston, our resident pop music expert Uwe Schütte will join him, so make sure you don’t miss out.

Follow the links to find out more about our visitor:

Author profile, Suhrkamp website

Interview on Meinecke’s last novel, ‘Lookalikes’, in Die Zeit

Interview with the author on YouTube

 

German Pop Music Podcasts

Are you not happy anymore, just listening to Rammstein all day? Would you like to know more about other German bands? Ones which are less well known in Britain?

Then you are in luck! Deutsche Welle offers monthly podcasts –  in English! –  which provide a concise 20 minute introduction to influential contemporary German music artists. So if you would like to find out more about bands such as Wir sind Helden  or Jupiter Jones   just click here – and set out on a musical journey of discovery!

Thirty Years of A Little Peace

©European Broadcasting Union 1982

In a few days, Eurovision Song Contest enthusiasts across Europe will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the success of Ein bisschen Frieden (A Little Peace), lyrics by Bernd Meinunger, composed by Ralph Siegel, and sung by the German singer Nicole at the European Song Contest held on 24 April 1982 at the then brand-new Harrogate International Centre.

The song conveys a simple, emotional message of peace, presented from the individual point of view of a “little girl” – the singer was then only 17 years old and still went to school. The melody, likewise straightforward in its simplistic beauty, is predominantly carried by an acoustic guitar, which also makes it possible for soloists to replicate (or parody) the song with relative ease.

 

Nicole. © BBC 1982

On the day of the contest, the successful combination of text, melody and interpretation certainly did its magic on the international television audience. The song received top marks from no less than half of the then 18 participating countries and at least some points from every other participation country except Luxembourg. The song won with 161 votes – 61 more than were received by the Israeli contribution in 2nd place. This result remained a record for more than 20 years until the European Song Contest grew exponentially when East European broadcasting agencies started to participate in the 2000s. Back in 1982, the British audience in Harrogate was enthralled too, not least since Britain had been at war for three weeks at the time, following the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands on 2 April 1982.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVdxwDT2ohY According to the rules of the contest in force at the time, the original song had to be sung in German. However, the subsequent international success of Ein bisschen Frieden, with approximately 5 million singles sold and top placings in eight European national charts, is also due to the fact that the song had been designed as a truly “international” one: it was instantly translated into seven languages (English, French, Dutch, Danish, Italian, Russian and Spanish), and Nicole personally sang the song in all these languages, including a four-language version right at the end of the Harrogate concert.

Throughout the 1980s, and until the end of the Cold War in 1990, the song’s title, A Little Peace / Ein bisschen Frieden became a catchphrase among ordinary folks in West and East, hoping for peace while being afraid of a nuclear inferno. Political peace movements and governments on both sides of the Iron Curtain, however, remained less enthusiastic. While governments dreaded an undermining of fighting morale among their troops, peace activists were of the opinion that the song wrongly portrays the individual as helpless in the face of impeding existential threats. Song writer Meinunger, composer Siegel and Nicole later responded to this challenge. Not least in the context of continued threats to peace after the end of the Cold War, in 1996 they released a sharpened-up version Mehr als ein bisschen Frieden (More Than A Little Peace), which concludes with the words “Ein bisschen Frieden ist nicht genug” (A Little Peace is not enough). Unforunately, however, this version was only produced in German.

Nevertheless, in an interview with the German broadcaster Westdeutscher Rundfunk, Nicole stated in 2010 that she still likes to sing Ein bisschen Frieden, and often does it in her concerts – not only because the audience practically expects it every time, but also because in the 30 years of its existence the song’s message has lost little of its impact, now also having won an audience among the next generation.