Tribute | Kraftwerk and Design. A look at the work of Emil Schult

Everybody knows that Music and Design had a strong relation along their evolution. The best example is to analyze Electronic music and its artworks, contemporary design used to promote the innovation.

Kraftwerk are the fathers of modern electronic music, and in this post we will show a bit of the design and art responsible behind them, we will talk about Emil Schult. In a conversation with the german magazine Electronic Beats.

kraftwerk design and music. Emil Schult

I started my studies at the art academy in the sixties under Diter RotJoseph Beuys and Gerhard Richter, who had been extremely influential in terms of my artistic career. That’s also when I first met Ralf and Florian and became involved with Kraftwerk. In general, the art world in Düsseldorf was a pretty competitive and it wasn’t always easy to find people you could work and get along with, especially in terms of feeling comfortable enough to show your art.

kraftwerk man machine design and music

At the time, Ralf and Florian were already innovative and advanced, musically speaking, and I had long been fascinated by electronic music. They were gracious enough to allow me to come by and take part. My input with the band was always part of a larger artistic dialogue, which included visual ideas that were developed together. It wasn’t just give and take; it was also about developing things conceptually in parallel processes. A good example of that is the “music comics” developed for the album Ralf and Florian, where, if you know the group, you can really see what a mix of ideas and input it is, visually speaking. Interestingly, the same was also true for developing some of the musical instruments and electronic sounds. Whenever Kraftwerk wanted to redesign an acoustic instrument to make it electronic or somehow create an electronic simulation, then a visualization, a sketch or a notation was part of the process.

kraftwerk design music robots 3d

Electronic music makes use of a sound spectrum that’s larger than acoustic music. It’s enabled humanity to expand mental processes and to imagine the future, which is why I think there’s always been such a strong connection between electronic music and science fiction. For example, at the World’s Fair in New York in 1964, I saw a pavilion called Futurama that featured visions of the future—cities in the ocean or in the sky, advanced forms of transportation—and these were accompanied by electronic sounds from some of the earlier synthesizers and electronic instruments put together by Raymond Scott. This is the tradition in which my contribution to Kraftwerk can be seen. I think there are two main metalanguages in this universe: music and image.

When I create an image and put it into the world, then people understand it non-discursively. You know, people tend to say an image is worth a thousand words, but music is even further along in that sense: when I play a series of notes in a certain order, then people immediately relate to it in some way, they have immediate associations. That’s why progression in music and art is strongly connected to human progress.

kraftwerk cover
kraftwerk tour de france design

You can make destructive music, but you can also make music that pushes things forward. Electronic music is the music for modern times, the music that allows us to meet the standards of today’s technology. The Internet and other forms of digital communication demand a language sophisticated enough to process and interpret it. Progress in art, music and society are also necessary to balance the madness of excess and greed, which leads to landmines, radioactivity and destruction of living cosmic tissue. You can see the balance and progress in children, especially in their acceptance of electronic beats. They are far less biased than older people, far better able to perceive things intuitively and far more likely to see art and music as a reminder of paradise.

Here is a video review of Kraftwerk performance at Tate Modern London, presenting their 3D Show.