German music pioneer takes aim at modern electronica

Wed Oct 1, 2008 9:53am EDT
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By Dave Graham

BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - Most modern electronic music relies so heavily on technology and presentation that the content is becoming increasingly irrelevant, according to one of the elder statesmen of experimental pop music in Europe.

Hans-Joachim Roedelius, co-founder of Cluster and Harmonia, pioneering electronic bands from the German experimental scene often termed "Krautrock", told Reuters too many modern acts were taken in by the idea that "instant art" is possible.

"Krautrock", whose roots go back to the late 1960s, has long enjoyed great influence abroad yet was often overlooked at home. This is now changing.

Roedelius, 73, continues to perform and make new music.

Q: How has music changed for you since 1968?

A: In the bulk of contemporary electronic music especially you can see what's changed, or has even taken root as an expression of a certain lack of direction and vacuity. On the one hand, this takes the form of overwrought sounding-off, debilitating volumes and attendant lurid sensationalism. On the other, you have this unbearable regurgitation and extreme refinement of existing cliches and technical perfectionism which only rarely produces significant artistic results.

Q: To what extent did Germany's role in the World War Two affect the attitude of post war musicians?

A: It's barely possible to put right what Germans did under Hitler, and this psychological burden made it a lot harder for those people who were shaping culture, who lived through the madness and who had to deal with it, to make a genuine new beginning. Being from East Berlin originally, I wanted to be a doctor at first and probably would have been if the Stasi (East German secret police) had not got in the way. I was able to start from scratch as an artist because I knew nothing about music or art, and hence had to teach myself my trade.   Continued...