Wednesday, 29 November 2017

KRAFTWERK: Computer World Tour

(click to enlarge the picture)
First, there are two analogue sequencers which will produce up to sixty-four notes. The many rows of switches have 'in, shift and stop' settings for trigger, rest and reset points, as well as pitch control. The sequence can run as two x 32 in parallel or 1 x 64 in series. LED indicators can be clearly seen from the audience during operation. The triggers can be outputted wherever Ralf desires, generally to the console instruments (except Karl's who prefers to play manual bass lines).
So here is the secret of Kraftwerk's superb synchronisation throughout their performance. "Remember, we have been playing this kind of synchronised music for about ten years. To play along with machines is very difficult - a lot of people speed up or slow down when doing it. Our 'dialogue' with the machines is to choose whenever we want the machine or human pulse. Although we don't yet have the perfect set-up, the 'friendship' or inter-relationship we create with the machines makes them an extension of the musician. If one instrument breaks down we are still able to continue, and when we finish our current series of tours we'll be modifying the set still further."
Several master clocks are positioned around the console so that any player can be selecting a tempo for the next piece. This explains the short gap between numbers - "It could be even shorter but we are a little nervous sometimes! We can also trigger other synthesisers off stage and the clock times are set via a digital display and key pad."
Ralf's TV monitor and telephone communication to engineers.
The Roland Micro-Composer (with expanded memory) plus a bank of switches for routing signals. "The composer can be used for extra tracks in one or two pieces or as the time clock in performance, although we prefer to use it when we are at home for trying out sequence combinations. This is much easier than using the analogue sequencers but it still takes a fair amount of time to set up."
The Eventide Digital Delay and Flanger with a small stereo mixer. Panning of sounds can be done by the players mixers or by the sound engineer. "We are not the biggest fans of panning!" comments Ralf. "We think stereo is a 'privileged sound' since only those that sit in the middle hear it properly, and so we are happier to use a mono output that has plenty of depth. Electronic Reverberation is not used very much in performance because most venues have enough (or too much) already."
Both Ralf and Florian use headsets. Ralf does the 'straight' vocals, often shielding the mic with his hand to avoid feedback and increase bass volume. Florian's mic feeds the vocoder and this adds subtle changes to Ralf's voice and provides extra effects.

"I am playing three keyboard instruments stacked on my console: a special light-disc instrument from Florida for mono choir sounds, with the Polymoog and Minimoog synthesisers. We all have 4 foot pedals under our front consoles for volume and/or effect control."
This is Karl's keyboard - specially made in Italy to replace Korg's keyboard controller, which operates the Korg PS-3300 polyphonic synthesiser set in E console. One of its special features for us is its ability to merge harmonic with 'non-related' overtones and its parameters stretch attack and decay times to their limits. In E there are also a tuning device, volts/amps meters for checking power supplies and graphic equalisers. Incidentally, LEDs on the keyboard console panel show notes being played to the audience.
Karl's TV monitor.
Ventilation grilles in corner section linking the two straight console rows.
Wolfgang's TV monitor.
The custom-built drum consoles. Here are the electronics for the two drum controllers containing six metal pads mounted on stands L. Also various filtering devices plus a Syndrum unit. One drum pad is played by Karl occasionally and the other by Wolfgang.
Next come some more equalisers including parametric types, filters, mixer rack, Eventide Harmoniser and Digital Delay, and Limiter/compressors.
Wolfgang's console contains the special drum machine built by Kraftwerk's engineer. There are six rows of switches, each row having its own drum sound that can be pulsed on when a switch is set during the sequence run (controlled by a master clock). LED lights on its front show the audience the sequence taking place. Wolfgang is continuously changing these to give the rhythm plenty of variation, at the same time using his pedals to give accent.
Sennheiser Vocoder rack.
Mixer, metering and switching facilities.
Florian's TV monitor.
The circuitry for the electronic flute on its stand at N. It's not actually blown but uses keys situated in flute pad positions that are 'touched' by the fingers to give a D/A control voltage/trigger output for any of the synthesisers.
EMS Vocoder with patch panel.
Florian's keyboard console containing a Prophet polyphonic synthesiser and trigger pad for starting his master clock.
Overhead stage spots for highlighting players.
Special Sony Video screens with projection units.
Foldback at floor level (supplemented by extra underfloor speakers).
Fluorescent name boxes.
Coloured fluorescent strip lighting (ultra-violet, red, green, yellow, white and blue), running behind the consoles. Over each console rack are lights for illuminating the controls, although between numbers the players use torches to set up. The strobe lights (ST) are triggered automatically from a sequencer.