His death was officially announced by Ralf Hütter today, but the details are patchy
The sad news just seems to keep on coming this week, as we learn today that Kraftwerk co-founder Florian Schneider has passed away at the age of 73. The precise date and circumstances of his death haven't been made public, but a statement issued to Billboard today by former Kraftwerk bandmate Ralf Hütter says that he died "from a short cancer disease, just a few days after his 73rd birthday", and he is believed to have already been buried in a private ceremony.
Born on 7 April 1947 in Öhningnen, Germany, Schneider first met Ralf Hütter while studying at the Academy of Arts in Remscheid in 1968. Sharing an interest in experimental music – and particularly the then-nascent field of electronic music – in 1970 the two went on to found Kraftwerk, whose impact on the development of electronic music over the past 50 years simply cannot be over-stated.
Initially, Schneider's role in the band was to play the flute, which he would then process using a variety of electronic effects such as tape loops, guitar FX pedals and ring modulators. Slowly, however, he moved inexorably further into the electronic realm, first by designing an electronic flute to fulfil the same function, then – from 1974's fourth Kraftwerk long-player Autobahn onwards – ditching the acoustic instruments almost entirely.
While he would use a keyboard for live performance, Schneider's expertise lay not so much in virtuoso playing as in sound design – a field which he essentially helped pioneer through his ongoing use of self-built instruments. Kraftwerk would go on to become one of THE most important influences on pretty much everything that's happened since, from synth-pop, electro and hip-hop to house, techno and beyond – such is their influence that they have been dubbed, in some quarters, "the electronic Beatles".
After playing on all 10 of Kraftwerk's studio albums, Schneider left the group in 2008, for reasons that were never specified. But as today's statement shows, he and Hütter remained close to the last. As ever, our thoughts are with his family and friends.
Pic: Daniele Dalledonne/Creative Commons