Kraftwerk (1974 – 1981 Period)

Kraftwerk is a pioneering electronic music group from Germany founded by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider (Duarte et al., 2011). Although they produced albums prior to 1974, it was with their 1974 release “Autobahn” that they first received significant attention (Duarte et al., 2011). With this album, Kraftwerk demonstrated that electronic music had legitimacy in the musical arts. Their presentation during the United States 1975 tour was similar to factory workers; the members dressed in business attire as they perform on stage (Johnstone, 2008). But Kraftwerk’s image would continue to evolve towards an “artist as machine” motif (Duarte et al., 2011).

Starting in 1974, Kraftwerk’s albums were mainly concept in nature. “Autobahn (1974)” concerned itself with transportation and traffic on the Autobahn. “Radioactivity (1975)” had as its main theme an interplay with radio technology and radiation. “Trans Europe Express (1977)” expressed European connectivity with a train as its metaphor. However, both “Radioactivity” and “Trans Europe Express” were not successfully commercially when they were released (Johnstone, 2008). It was with their 1978 album “The Man Machine” that Kraftwerk once again found success on the radio and clubs (Duarte et al., 2011). And in 1981, “Computer Love” was released as celebration of computer technology.

One of the more significant aspects of Kraftwerk’s place in popular music history is their use of cutting-edge technology. By 1978, Kraftwerk was using sequencers for their drum patterns as well as other synthesizer instruments (Johnstone, 2008). It kept the music and their image appeal sounding futuristic. Also, Kraftwerk’s music grew from more experimental pieces on “Autobahn” to club-friendly singles on “The Man Machine.” They brought electronic music out of the labs and into the charts.

On a personal note, I have always been enthusiastic with Kraftwerk’s music. My first love of music involved synthesizers and drum computers, and their artistic sensibilities were always appreciated by me and became a significant influence to my style of productions. And over the years, I have read that many of the electronic music acts I have enjoyed have stated Kraftwerk as an influence. I am thankful that Kraftwerk was the focus of our studies this week.

Shannon McDowell


Duarte, M., de Conti, & D. Matten, D. (2011, January 28). History. Retrieved September 16, 2012, from

Johnstone, R. (2008). Kraftwerk and the electronic revolution. Viewed September 16, 2012, at

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