Kraftwerk performing as part of “Kraftwerk–Retrospective 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8” at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, April 10, 2012. Photo: Peter Boettcher.

WHEN KRAFTWERK SPEAKS, everything else suddenly gets a little louder: loud like your heartbeat in an anechoic chamber, or loud like a neon-lit wet suit on a robot in 3-D. The group’s laconic vocals only enhance the booming, anthemic extravagance of the aural world in which they envelop us. And that expansive sound is the sound of machines. In the early 1970s, in Düsseldorf, the group’s co-founders, Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider, famously began using synthesizers in hopes of covering the full range of human hearing, from “20 to 20,000 Hz,” as they have said.

So, too, the soft, precise voice of vocalist and keyboard “operator” Hütter attunes us to such a range: When he sat down with Artforum for a rare interview this past month, his typically muted tone seemed to call attention, by contrast, to the ambient frequencies around us—the buzz of the lights, the squeaking of chairs,

to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.

Not registered for Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW for only $50 a year—65% off the newsstand price—and get the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*

Order the PRINT EDITION of the May 2012 issue for $17 or the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.