Posts Tagged ‘Kraftwerk’

What If Kraftwerk Made a Doctor Who Cover?

August 11, 2017

This comes from the Georgecmusic channel on YouTube. Georgecmusic makes various arrangements of the Doctor Who theme in the style of other rock/pop musicians, including Tangerine Dream and Jean-Michel Jarre.

In the piece below, he imagines what it would be like if the great German ‘engineers of sound’, Kraftwerk did one.

Well, it’d fit. They were one of the very first pioneers of synthpop, and their stage performances were also quite minimalist and mechanical. To the point where in one performance they were replaced by robot replicas themselves. One of the band – I’ve forgotten whom – has written his autobiography. Its title, at least in English, is ‘I Was a Cyborg’. It’s very fitting, therefore, that the title for this piece has the robots from the Tom Baker serial, ‘The Robots of Death’, instead of the band’s faces in imitation of one of their album covers.

The title’s also in German. Instead of ‘Doctor Who’, it’s ‘Doctor Wer’, which is a straight translation.

Delia Derbyshire, who arranged Grainer’s theme into its electronic form, was also a pioneer of electronic music. Alas, she died a few years ago, so we can only wonder what it would have sounded like if she and they had met in a lonely radiophonics workshop in a Galaxy far, far away…

Robots at the Philippe Plein Fashion Show in Milan

December 27, 2016

And Courtney Love, always assuming that she isn’t an android, of course.

I’ve got zero interest in fashion, but this is interesting as it’s stuff of Science Fiction today. I found this video of a fashion show in Milan for the designer Philippe Plein. This was based very much around robots. As you can see, Courtney Love and the models don’t come down a catwalk, but instead move along a conveyor. The music is provided by the German robot heavy metal band, Compressorhead, as well as a recording of Kraftwerk’s The Model, appropriately enough. Kraftwerk saw themselves as engineers of sound, and have performed with robots on stage themselves, or rather, with robotic versions of themselves, as well as cultivating a very robotic image themselves personally. A few years ago one of them published his autobiography, entitled I Was a Cyborg. As well as the robots of Compressorhead, there are big industrial robots moving about the stage filming the proceedings.

The Italian Futurists of the early 20th century would have really dug all of this. They were a militant artistic movement which celebrated war, masculinity, the new machine age and the speed of modern mass communication, like cinema newsreels, newspapers and radio. Their founder, the poet Marinetti, celebrated the motor car as ‘more beautiful than the Battle of the Samothrace’ in his Founding and Manifesto of Futurism, and declared that his movement ‘looked for the union of man and machine’. They dreamed of creating a world of biomechanical toys, designed ‘noise machines’ to be used in their musical concerts, and wrote pieces like The Agony of the Machine. One of their plays was about the love of locomotive for its driver. Plein’s fashion show clearly isn’t about aggressive masculinity, but feminine style. Nevertheless, the performance by the machines does take part in the spirit of Futurism as the art of the modern, industrial, machine age.

This fascinates me, as I think that there is room for the use of robots in serious art. Indeed, a feel that artists, musicians and choreographers have made all too little use of these devices in their performances. I know that at a time there was a vogue for people performing dances using forklift trucks to music. Many of these used to appear on children’s programmes, like the awesome Vision On. But this also shows that the artistic potential offered by machines really isn’t taken that seriously. These were amusing diversions for children, rather than serious art. But the potential to use them for high art is there, as the performance art and explorer of cyborgisation, Stelarc, has shown. His performances are, however, a bit too avant-garde for most people. I think, however, that it’s possible to use robots and cybernetics in traditional artistic forms, like music, drama and dance. A little while ago I blogged about a performance of Karel Capek’s robot play, R.U.R. in Prague, by an artistic group dedicated to exploring the implications of robots, using Lego robots. There are already machines like the British Robothespian, which act as guides in science museums. It should be possible to use robots like these in more serious artistic works. The only real problem with this, however, is the cost. These robots at the moment cost tens of thousands of pounds, which makes the use of more than two of them prohibitively expensive.

While I appreciate Plein’s artistic use of robots in his show, I also found them very slightly frightening. This points to a future, perhaps only a decade or so away, in which humans share the world with increasingly sophisticated machines with a great degree of autonomy. It is no longer a wholly human world, and people have to make their way amongst these sophisticated, and physically powerful devices. I don’t believe we’ll ever see a robot revolution, like R.U.R. or The Terminator, despite the pessimistic forecasts of Kevin Warwick in his March of the Machines. But this does seem to prefigure a future in which humanity has to share the planet with its mechanical creations, who have surpassed it in physical power.

Robot Rock Redux: The 1950s French Robot Band ‘Les Robots’

December 8, 2013


As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve got an interest in the use of genuine robots in pop and rock music. I’ve previously posted up pieces about the German all-robot band, Compressorhead, who naturally play Heavy Metal. I also put up a piece about how the Ur-androids of synth-pop, Kraftwerk, also used robot replicas of themselves on stage on one of their tours. Now it seems the use of robot musicians goes back even further than that by a couple of decades. The French engineer, Edouard Diomgar, toured fun-fairs, open air markets and even railway stations in the 1950s and ’60s with his robot trio, Les Robots. Called Oscar, Ernest and Anatole, these metal musos played the drums (Anatole), accordion (Oscar) and saxophone (Ernest), so weren’t quite ‘rock’n’roll’. The robots were operated by a series of punch-cards, where were read by photo-electric cells that then passed the information to the robots’ arms and fingers. Diomgar had been a POW of the Germans in World War II. He created Les Robots as a fund-raising exercise for his own charity, which raised money for other POWs. They even pressed a disc, available from Diogra himself. Most of the tracks were pieces composed by other musicians. There was a piece, Rock-Des-Robots, which Diomgar himself had clearly written for them.

There’s a short piece about them on Retronaut. This is a Tumblr site specialising in images from the past. These are often quirky snippets of social or technological events or developments, of which Diomgar and his mechanical musos are clearly one. Photos and descriptions of Les Robots and their record can be found at

Robot Rock: Kraftwerk

November 5, 2013

Okay, I’m aware that I haven’t put any stuff up on here for a little while. I’ve been busy with a few others things, so I’ve been away from blogging. There is, however, a lot of stuff I’d like to reblog here from other sites, like that of Johnny Void and Vox Political, and comment on as well as my own material. So, hopefully, normal service will be resumed as soon as possible, as they say in TV land.

I’ve previously put up a piece on the all-robot band, Compressorhead, whose drummer definitely looks like something 2000 AD’s art robot Kevin O’Neill used to draw for the Ro-Busters, ABC Warriors or the Metalzoic strips. Compressorhead appear to have been constructed by two German robotics engineers. The Ur-robot band of them all, the classic Kraftwerk, also came from Germany. One of their songs had the title, The Robots, and the band was so identified with the robot aesthetic that one member even gave his autobiography the title, I Was a Robot. Kraftwerk were one of the pioneers of the use of synthesizers in rock music, and based their robotic image on their use of the instrument and the new, electronic music it could generate. I also read somewhere that one of the other forms of electronic music, Techno, has its ultimate origins way back in the 1930s in one of Arthur C. Clarke’s predictions, this time of what the music of the future would be like.

Kraftwerk themselves were, of course, entirely flesh and blood, despite the title of the autobiography, though their uniform clothing and static immobility does indeed make them almost android-like themselves in performance.. For the Mix tour, however, they had robot copies of themselves constructed, which were programmed to respond to the music in ‘The Robots’. You can’t call it dancing – the machines really don’t have any legs, and just seem to be waving their metal arms around. Despite this, it is an interesting attempt to realise the robotic aesthetic the band expressed in their music. As an aside, the lyrics for ‘Robots’ include two lines of Russian. One of these, pronounced ‘Ya tvoi robotnik’, simply means ‘I am your worker’. ‘Robotnik’ comes from the word ‘robotatch’, to work, and is related to the Czech word, ‘robot’, which itself means ‘serf’ or ‘slave’, which Karel Capek used for the artificial humans in his classic play Rossum’s Universal Robots, and which then entered the English language to describe such machines.

Here’s Kraftwerk’s ‘Robots’ with their robotic dancing . I hope you enjoy it. The video’s on youtube at