ME AND FLORIAN SCHNEIDER
Posted by Alexander 21/05/2020
Florian Schneider, founding member of the group KRAFTWERK, died on the 30th of April 2020 after suffering from cancer.
I felt and continue to feel privileged to have known him. I am devastated by his untimely loss. Not long before the time of his death I was trying to get in touch with him in connection with a new dance project involving Kraftwerk material played by the Balanescu Quartet. I was surprised that untypically, for a while, I did not hear back from him. And then, I heard the news; the terrible reality and reason for the silence became clear.
I formed the Balanescu Quartet in 1987 and my goal was to detach the string quartet and therefore new classical music away from the “classical “model. We started to amplify the group, trying to bring the auditor in our midst, found a way to perform in a much more dynamic way. In terms of repertoire we started to mix works by the stars of the avant garde, such as Michael Nyman, Gavin Bryars, with the works of non-classical musicians such as David Byrne, Ornette Coleman, John Lurie as well as my own works. I was very attracted by the music of the German group KRAFTWERK, pioneers of electronic music, and sensed that working with their material would be interesting and great fun.
KRAFTWERK, in the 1970’s, declared that acoustic instruments would die. I took this statement as a great challenge; I resolved to prove that the string quartet, though unchanged for hundreds of years, had the power to renew and reinvent itself. I believed it could remain at the forefront of the musical avant garde and continue to be an important vehicle for the most daring ideas of composers, both classical and non-classical. I sensed that KRAFTWERK’s music was anchored deep down in the classical tradition, hence the elegance of the melodic lines and transparency of the production, and would translate in an interesting way to the strings. I enjoyed the adventure in discovering a parallel acoustic sound world to converse with KRAFTWERK’s extraordinary and masterful electronic sound universe.
Our arrangements of the music of KRAFTWERK became central to our first album on Mute Records, POSSESSED.
A short time after POSSESSED came out I received a fax (those were the days!) from KRAFTWERK’s Kling Klang studios, expressing, in a typical unsentimental manner, the group’s approval and appreciation of our work. Only later on, through talking to Ralf Hutter and Florian Schneider, the two pillars of the group, I came to realise how precious that message was. They did not normally enjoy people covering their songs, but in this case, I think they felt the respect and love we had toward the material.
The Balanescu Quartet was invited to play in the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, Austria in the early 90’s. We were on the stage where, the evening before, KRAFTWERK had performed some of the same material . With this occasion I had the chance to hear them live for the first time, an extraordinary experience, and to meet them. I immediately felt an affinity with Ralf and especially with Florian. Florian became over the years one of my best friends, my proud guide to Dusseldorf (the exploration of which was the perfect excuse for a lot of beer and traditional food to be consumed), and to the legendary Kling Klang studios. He became a source of immense support (he was part of the audience for many of my performances), and offered an inspiring sounding board for new ideas.
Our version of KRAFTWERK music has remained an important element of our repertoire and Florian’s passing makes me want to revisit the material and develop new projects as a tribute to him and his great legacy.
Alexander Balanescu May 2020