From 1970, Florian Schneider-Esleben and Ralf Hütter in Düsseldorf designed the electronic sound of Kraftwerk in the legendary Kling-Klang-Studio. Now the avant-garde has died.

Florian Schneider-Esleben, co-founder of the legendary Kraftwerk group, died at the age of 73. The music company Sony announced in Berlin on Wednesday, citing Kraftwerk founder Ralf Hütter (we reported). Schneider-Esleben had already died in Düsseldorf at the end of April after a short cancer in his family.

It all started in 1970

The collaboration between Schneider and Hütter began in 1968 with the music project “Organization”. In 1970 they founded the famous Kling-Klang studio in Düsseldorf and started Kraftwerk. Schneider-Esleben, son of the famous post-war modernist Paul Schneider-Esleben, is one of the pioneers of electronic music.

imago images / Stefan M Prager

Schneider 2004 on the far right. Photo: imago images / Stefan M Prager


He was on the groundbreaking Kraftwerk albums “Autobahn” (1974), “Radio-Aktivity” (1975), “Trans Europa Express” (1977), “Die Mensch-Maschine” (1978) and “Tour De France” (2003 ) involved. At the end of 2008, he left the group at the age of 61. In 2014 he received the Grammy for his life’s work.

Condolence of a great Frenchman

“My dear Florian,” tweeted the French music star Jean-Michel Jarre (71) on Wednesday, “Your highway will never end, the Tour de France will never be the same.”

In the inconspicuous Düsseldorf studio, the group tinkered with their fully synthetic, electronic and minimalist sound. Not even David Bowie is said to have been admitted when he was visiting Düsseldorf.

Thousands of young musicians then appealed to the discreet and publicly shy Düsseldorf avant-garde, who gradually became world famous. Juan Atkins, who coined the term techno in the early 80s and is considered the “godfather of techno”, described the band as his “gods”. The group’s musical influence is considered epochal.

At their first appearances, the Düsseldorf “Ton Architects” were booed. The break with the dominant skirt was too big. Kraftwerk’s international breakthrough came in 1974 with “Autobahn”. The album was the first export hit of German pop music to the USA.

Appointed professor

In 1998 Florian Schneider was appointed professor at the University of Design in Karlsruhe. He was supposed to teach “media art and performance” there. “As far as we know, he never took up the professorship at the time,” said a university spokesman on Wednesday.

The worldwide musical influence of the musician and his group is now undisputed. Kraftwerk’s retrospective was performed in some of the world’s most important art museums a few years ago.

In the art world, alongside Mondrian and Kandinsky, Kraftwerk is sorted between minimalism and constructivism. As catchy as their digital sound, their rhythms and melodies are today, they were so revolutionary and outrageous in the 1970s.


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