Kraftwerk’s Influence as Electronic Pop Music Pioneers + MoMA Ticket Blues

Kraftwerk Sells Out MOMA Performances

A few weeks back our social media channels were buzzing from the announcement that Kraftwerk, rightful godfathers of electronic music, would be performing a series of 8 performances at New York’s Museum of Modern Art this coming April. MOMA‘s press release explained, “over eight consecutive nights, MoMA presents a chronological exploration of the sonic and visual experiments of Kraftwerk with a live presentation of their complete repertoire in the Museum’s Marron Atrium. Each evening consists of a live performance and 3-D visualization of one of Kraftwerk’s studio albums.”

While we witnessed the excitement for these shows spread like wildfire across our Facebook and Twitter accounts, it seems that MOMA and ShowClix (the company handling ticket sales) did not anticipate the popularity of the events as ShowClix’s servers crashed when thousands of would-be concert goers tried to buy tickets. The shows immediately sold out and most people were able to enter credit card numbers and then waited while the site “processed information” and eventually logged off due to the server shut down. Some people we know got tickets but most did not, which prompted a series of videos and songs that make light of the event. In response, ShowClix CEO Joshua Dziabiak posted an open letter to customers to apologize for the debacle.

“First and foremost, we are deeply sorry for the frustration and massive inconvenience that yesterday’s on-sale for Kraftwerk caused for many of their great fans around the world. I recognize that so many of you spent hours in front of your computer watching a spinning wheel—or watching the page go blank.”

Reclusive and Robotic

Although Kraftwerk have influenced countless musicians and pioneered electronic music as pop music, the band often seems to slip beneath the radar of popular culture. A live Kraftwerk concert is a very rare occasion. They’ve performed at Coachella and they toured for their 2003 album, Tour De France Soundracks, but they’re otherwise enigmatic with both live appearances and in the media. This is, of course, they way they’ve been since the inception of Kraftwerk in 1970. They’ve always been reclusive, spending much time in the studio engineering sounds and equipment and speaking to the public only through recordings and rare appearances. When they did perform live, the show would often feature robotic versions of the four band members instead of their human human forms.

Originators of Electronic Pop Music

Kraftwerk began their long and steady career in the early 1970s, when music was starting to be influenced by technology and many musicians were starting to break out of the mold that rock had created in the decades previous. While the most obvious cultural movement at this time was punk, there was another movement happening in Europe that gravitated towards using electronic sounds instead of guitars. Until this time much electronic music was experimental in form. Kraftwerk are considered to be the originators of using electronic instruments to create pop music.

Kraftwerk helped launch a musical revolution that started with new wave and extended itself through hip hop, techno, electro, house music and just about every variation of electronic music that is created today. The group was formed by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider in 1970, and was fronted by them until Schneider’s departure in 2008. Artists that cite Kraftwerk as influence include Depeche Mode, Gary Numan, David Bowie, Vince Clarke, Daniel Miller, The Orb, New Order, and Joy Division. Much of Kraftwerk’s sound comes from the Arp Odyssey and Moog synthesizers as well as a custom-made vocoder that appears on many of their songs.

Influence on Modern Music

To say that Kraftwerk influenced the birth of electronic music does not do justice to their legacy. Kraftwerk are responsible for our love of electronic music. As one of the most sampled bands of all time, Kraftwerk songs have appeared in and helped construct many songs in the early 80s. Even today samples from Kraftwerk songs appear in popular music and the idea of creating an all-electronic pop album is part of what they helped the world realize.

To explain Kraftwerk’s extended influence on modern music I’d like to call attention to a song you’ve most likely heard over the past five years: Fergie’s “Fergalicious.” While the song has become eponymous in its own right, it would never have been created without Kraftwerk’s music. Here’s why: In 1981 Kraftwerk recorded “It’s More Fun to Compute.”  Around the same time samplers became available and in 1987 a South Florida duo called Afro Rican sampled that song to create “Give it All You Got.”  In 1988 an all girl rap trio called JJ Fad sampled Afro Rican’s track to create “Supersonic,” a hit on radio stations. This track was obviously part of Fergie’s own musical heritage and she sampled “Supersonic” to create “Fergilicious.” While the latter track doesn’t actually sample Kraftwerk, the groove of all these songs comes directly from Kraftwerk’s 1981 album, Computer World.
. “It’s More Fun to Compute” (1981)

Afro Rican “Give it All You Got” (1987)

In addition, you’ve more than likely heard Africa Bambaataa & Soul Sonic Force’s “Planet Rock.” Produced in 1982 by Arthur Baker and hailed as one of “Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time,” this song owes it’s legacy to samples from Kraftwerk’s “Numbers” and “Trans Europe Express.” Around the same time the rap artist Egyptian Lover released a track called “Egypt, Egypt” that went on to become a break dancing theme of the early 1908s. This track heavily sampled Kraftwerk’s “Tour De France” for its groove.

Kraftwerk “Trans Europe Express” (1977)

Africa Bambaataa & Soul Sonic Force “Planet Rock” (1982)

Kraftwerk “Tour De France” (1983)

The Egyptian Lover “Egypt, Egypt” (1984)

MOMA Presents Kraftwerk

While you may not be able to get tickets for the series of shows at MOMA (don’t feel bad, we didn’t get tickets either), you can check out the museum’s presentation of Kraftwerk’s historical audio and visual material that will be on display from April 10–May 14, 2012 view at MoMA PS1. Kraftwerk will also be performing at Miami’s Ultra Festival this March. We’re hoping some new U.S. tour dates appear soon.

Over eight consecutive nights, MoMA presents a chronological exploration of the sonic and visual experiments of Kraftwerk with a live presentation of their complete repertoire in the Museum’s Marron Atrium. Each evening consists of a live performance and 3-D visualization of one of Kraftwerk’s studio albums—Autobahn (1974), Radio-Activity (1975), Trans-Europe Express (1977), The Man-Machine (1978), Computer World (1981), Techno Pop (1986), The Mix (1991), and Tour de France (2003)—in the order of their release. Kraftwerk will follow each evening’s album performance with additional compositions from their catalog, all adapted specifically for this exhibition. This reinterpretation showcases Kraftwerk’s historical contributions to and contemporary influence on global sound and image culture. Read more

Kraftwerk – Retrospective 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Performance Schedule

Tuesday, April 10, 8:30 p.m.
1 – Autobahn (1974)
Wednesday, April 11, 8:30 p.m.
2 – Radio-Activity (1975)
Thursday, April 12, 8:30 p.m.
3 – Trans Europe Express (1977)
Friday, April 13, 10:00 p.m.
4 – The Man-Machine (1978)
Saturday April 14, 8:30 p.m.
5 – Computer World (1981)
Sunday, April 15, 8:30 p.m.
6 – Techno Pop (1986)
Monday, April 16, 8:30 p.m.
7 – The Mix (1991)
Tuesday, April 17, 10:00 p.m.
8 – Tour de France (2003)

All performances are SOLD OUT