Kraftwerk’s Elements

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Kraftwerk’s music is more electronic than industrial because of their focus on synthesizers, and lack of focus on anti-music.  Bret Woods, in his article “Industrial Music for Industrial People: The History and Development of an Underground Genre” defines four “core fundamentals of what makes industrial music a standalone genre,” two of which are “the use of synthesizers and anti-music” (41).  Kraftwerk is however more electronic than industrial because it does not feature many elements of anti-music.  For example, there aren’t many random and non-electronic or non-vocal sounds in the music of kraftwerk.  They do constantly have a stream of music coming from synthesizers to keep the beat of the song, making the music electronic.  The group Kraftwerk did display shock tactics as seen in the above image and in their public dress.  While they weren’t as abominable or shocking as some other bands and artists, their actions were noticed and purposeful.  They were decidedly independent from popular music and made sure to be seen that way.  One element of anti-music is completely absent from Kraftwerk music that I listened to– industrial sounds and purposeful silence.  There are some strange synthesizer sounds in kraftwerk music, but they don’t seem to go against the trend of popular music to the extend that those sounds do.

Sources:

Woods, Bret. “Industrial Music for Industrial People: The History and Development of an         Underground Genre.” 2007. Florida State University.

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Challenging the Social Order Through Industrial Music

2. “The members of Throbbing Gristle were dedicated performance artists who vigorously challenged social order through deviant acts not only on stage, but in their imagery as well” (Woods 39). What kind of social order was prevailing at the time of Throbbing Gristle’s beginnings, and what were they hoping to change or bring to the public’s attention with their performances?

At the time of Throbbing Gristle’s beginnings during the 1970’s, Americans were still critical of the government and searching for new means of expression. As Bret Woods describes in his thesis Industrial Music for Industrial People: The History and Development of an Underground Genre, “The Futurist movement began to challenge the conventional notions of music, sound, and noise” (38). Here, the “Futurist movement” is defined as the pre-cursor to industrial and electronic movement. The main goal of futurism and industrial music was to experiment with unusual, often mechanical sounds to create a new understanding of music. Artists such as Throbbing Gristle wanted to change the traditional idea of music from soft, beautiful instruments to incorporate harder, every-day sounds, while still being enjoyable to listen to. One of the early influencers of modern electronic musicians, Luigi Rossolo, wrote a letter that mentions “humans’ collaboration with machines is most likely among the first acknowledgements of technology with expressive art” (38). The innovative music, coupled with the bizarre performance art of many artists, attracted the public’s attention. “The logo for [Throbbing Gristle’s] record label itself is said to depict a chimney stack at an Auschwitz death camp–a clear provocation of social order” (39). The experimentalist nature of industrial artists were meant to call attention to a dystopian reality that many people experienced, but few were openly discussing.  Additionally, “[industrial] acts were rooted in synthesizer and electronic music traditions, not rock,” which made it even more difficult to fully integrate industrial music into a mainstream culture that was so accustomed to rock-based music and idealized realities. (40) Essentially, industrial musicians were attempting to de-stigmatize “ugly” sounds and images, as well as assert their individuality as a genre.

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Group 1: NIN and the Industrial Music Scene

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Group 1: Woods described electronic music and experimentation as the two elemental influencing aspects which comprised the identity of industrial music (38). By comparing Nine Inch Nails’ earlier work with their later albums, how do you see these influences manifest throughout their musical career? Do you think that NIN can be categorized as industrial, considering their use of catchy hooks and the mainstream fame they achieved over time?

Industrial music has a very unique following from fans outside of the mainstream as most artists and those who listen to this genre form a subculture outside the popular hits of the day.  it is not in the popular mainstream and according to Woods, “Industrial music exists in a nebulous realm to those who concern themselves with thinking about it. As a genre of music that has never pervaded the charts of popular music, industrial is often overlooked by scholars and casual listeners alike” (Woods, 1).  Nine Inch Nails started in this niche realm and became respected as industrial artists within the industrial scene.

In their earlier albums, listeners can expect to see certain techniques and styles can be found throughout Nine Inch Nails’ catalog.  The Nine Inch Nails songs such as “Wish”, and “The Day the World Went Away” exhibit terraced dynamics, which is a characteristic of electronic industrial music (Woods, 39).  The lead singer, Trent Reznor’s singing follows a similar pattern, frequently moving from whispers to screams.  He also has used software to alter his voice in several songs which is common in the industrial music scene.   Therefore, when experiencing their albums, listeners can see this change from older to more recent songs by noticing the use of more traditional instruments to electronic/synthesizer sounds common in various aspects of industrial music experimentation.

Although Nine Inch Nails grew in mainstream popular culture, I believe they should still be considered industrial music due to their roots and influences as a band, despite evolving/changing their sound.  Woods discusses how electronic music and experimentalism are major aspects of industrial music which Nine Inch Nails still continue to do despite their use of catchy hooks and mainstream framing (Woods, 24).  This shows that even through the evolution of their music, they still have various major aspects of industrial music stemming from their work, which I believe qualifies them to still be in the scene, even with their growing popularity throughout the 2000s.

Citations:

Article: Woods, Bret, Industrial Music for Industrial People. The History and Development of an Underground Genre. (Florida State University Library, 2007).

Picture 1: https://www.thecurrent.org/feature/2017/08/15/mary-lucia-interview-with-trent-reznor

Picture 2: http://blog.sfgate.com/culture/2005/09/30/nine-inch-nails-rescheduled-not-because-of-drugs/