parodies by nacrowe
the late 1960s and early 1970s was an interesting time for creativity across the arts in WEST GERMANY. you had this whole generation of visual artists, writers and musicians that came of age in the wake of WORLD WAR II and their parents involvement to varying degrees with the NAZI regime. its a very interesting sociopolitical situation whereby in essence you have a whole cohort of peers that have roundly rejected wholesale the traditions of previous generations. AMERICAN history and culture is complicated enough, but art and music (from BLUES to JAZZ to ROCK 'N' ROLL to HIP HOP and beyond) is somewhat of a unifying force that delineates an evolving national identity.
but what if you started over completely. from scratch.
that "year zero" mentality is largely what is at heart with KRAUTROCK, or the experimental WEST GERAMANY music scene of the late 60s and early 70s. previous classical and folk musical traditions were now tainted and sullied by their association with NAZISM. bands associated with the KRAUTROCK movement included the likes of KRAFTWERK, NEU!, FAUST, CAN, HARMONIA, AMON DUUL II, POPOL VUH, TANGERINE DREAM and CLUSTER among others. some of these bands employed JAZZ FUSION popular at the time in the UNITED STATES, but most sought a new tone, musical lexicon and identity in the emerging world of SYNTHESIZERS and SEQUENCERS. these new instruments had less of a history and understand "proper" usage tradition like say guitars or brass instruments. and they went after such with gusto creating new textures and sonic juxtapositions that influenced everyone over the years from DAVID BOWIE, DAFT PUNK and AFRIKA BAMBAATAA to DEPECHE MODE, SWANS, STEREOLAB and the POST-PUNK movement in general (JOY DIVISION, THE FALL, PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED, etc.).
with the rise and ever-present existential threat posed by TRUMPISM in the current AMERICAN political climate i really wonder what traditions will be abandoned by their association with this failed demigod should he gain power again. his reemergence to power is a frightful but very real concern almost two years out from the next presidential election. i could go on about all the loser musicians that have supported him over the years but im not trying to provide them any oxygen, they should drown in permanent cultural irrelevance. what interests me is the possibility that some future REPUBLICAN-led FASCIST state will bend our cultural traditions to its will, leaving later generations having to parse through the rubble since at that point the legacy of such will be irreparably warped. will a generation of artists need to adopt a "year zero" mentality and adopt new AMERICAN traditions?
just a thought.
also definitely check out this embedded episode of DEER GOD RADIO from january 2020 on the nonprofit radio station MAKER PARK RADIO with a playlist celebrating KRAUTROCK and all said bands associated with the movement. i am ever fascinated by the experimental nature of the music and what it meant to the emerging consciousness of a new nation that sprang forth from the darkest recesses and indignity of human imagination.
photo by nacrowe
as we are quite possibly reaching our own cultural YEAR ZERO with the ever-present threat of a future TRUMPOCALYPSE, its more timely then ever to consider the example of the former WEST GERMANY and the dilemma its artists felt when working on new projects in the 1970s. for them it was paramount to culturally start from scratch, literally.
the stellar documentary KRAUTROCK: THE REBIRTH OF GERMANY (BBC, 2009) deftly examines how progressive bands like CAN, NEU!, KRAFTWERK, FAUST AMON DUUL II, TANGERINE DREAM and CLUSTER went about creating music who no direct antecedent in GERMAN folk or music traditions. In the process they influenced a whole wave of BRITISH and AMERICAN POST-PUNK bands as well as peers like DAVID BOWIE and IGGY POP, who specifically sought out BERLIN and the scene for some of their most fruitful collaborations.
basically the KRAUTROCK bands grew up in the post-WWII generation, meaning that they were born with the guilt of knowing that the generation before them had either tacitly consented or directly participated in the war effort of the NAZIS. for them, understandably, everything before their generation was tainted. this included famous composers celebrated by the NAZI PARTY such as LUDWIG VON BEETHOVEN, RICHARD WAGNER, WOLFGANG AMADEOUS MOZART, JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH, JOSEPH HADYN, JOHANNES BRAHMS, RICHARD STRAUSS and ANTON BRUCKNER. even GERMAN folklore was a no go because of its perverse transformation by the NAZIS. to save GERMAN culture they had to essentially rip it up and start again.
what came out of that was a music rooted in the lexicon of AMERICAN BLUES, R&B, JAZZ, FUNK and ROCK & ROLL traditions but with a sense of experimentation and abandon yet unexplored previously. to my ears the music of CAN or NEU! is a about sonic textures and group improvisation, not too unlike the FREE JAZZ of someone like ORNETTE COLEMAN, just more intense. there is a real aggression there. even in the case of KRAFTWERK, who went the other direction sonically with a sound constructed specifically to be devoid of humanity, there was still a tension.
i definitely recommend this documentary if you are unfamiliar with KRAUTROCK or the bands associated with the scene. in my estimation, it is a storied music scene both because of its sonic experimentation and its political consequences. WEST GERMANY was very much in the process at the time of self-determining into something new. the KRAUTROCK scene being backed by the STUDENT PROTEST MOVEMENT of the time was very much a part of that process. beyond interesting and worth watching.
parody by nacrowe
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO focused on the influential, experimental WEST GERMAN music scene from the 1970s known as KRAUTROCK. this was no doubt one of the more challenging shows of recent memory, but well worth exploring. enjoy.
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST, THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW and CLASSICAL-ISH WITH NUTMEG are available here at the DEER GOD website.
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