Listen To Retro Electronic Music From East Germany: ‘Volume 3′

Listen To Retro Electronic Music From East Germany: ‘Volume 3′

Adriana SaboMonday,14 December 2015

If there could ever be a perfect example of a blast from the past, this would be it. Not only was this music created in the 1970s — and never published before — it was made in a country that is no more, namely East Germany, or Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR). The story behind the albumVolume 3 (with volumes 1 and 2 preceding it) is fascinating: namely. The man who made it, Martin Zeichnete (the artist behind Kosmischer Läufer project /Cosmic Runner/), had a brilliant idea to make music for use in training athletes on the DDR Olympic Team. He made music that was to accompany all stages of their professional lives, such as music designed for running. This is the whole story:

A disciple of the Kosmische Muzik of the likes of Kraftwerk, Can and Neu! he heard drifting across the Wall from the West, Martin’s idea of using the motorik, hypnotic beat of krautrock in the training of athletes was taken and exploited by the DDR’s state run Olympic Committee. Unable to obtain a licence to play his own music Martin embarked on what he called a decade long ‘invisible career’ with East Germany’s athletic elite his only audience. Mixing electronics with live instruments Martin produced an incredible range of work including music for warmups, running, ‘ambient’ music to be played in gyms and pieces for artistic gymnastics. The committee called this program State Plan 14.84L, Martin and his fellow musicians called it ‘Projekt Kosmischer Läufer’ (Cosmic Runner).

So, before us, we have the Volume 3 of a forgotten piece of history that has finally seen the light of day, 40 years after it was created. It is also a historical artifact that sounds so much different from the music made on the western side of the Iron Curtain at the same time. It is a perfect example of the thing we today call retrofuturism. It is technically perfect, pure electronic music that has an unbelievably addictive beat, great energy, and “cosmic-sounding” layers of analogue synthesizers typical of krautrock.

Each of the tracks on the album has its own story. Tracks 1-3 were conceived as part of the running program, hence the amazing beat. The third track in this set, “Für Seelenbinder,”  is “a song dedicated to Olympic wrestler and communist hero Werner Seelenbinder.” Tracks from 4-10 are a soundtrack to an animated film titled Traum von der goldenen Zukunft (Dream Of The Golden Future) that never saw the light of day, but was envisioned to be a promotional tool for the bid to bring the 1984 Summer Games to East Berlin. But, since the bid was never realized, the animated film was never created and the music composed by Martin Zeichnete lay forgotten for decades.

Music made by the Kosmischer Läufer is, thus, interesting in more than one way. On the completely musical side, it offers important insight into the musical practices of the states that were part of the so called Eastern Bloc. Its story speaks volumes about the East-West relationship of the Cold War era and the importance of the Olympic Games for the politics of the time. Finally, music published on these albums offers a glimpse into the communist world (if there ever was such a thing as communism anyway) that collapsed with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Make sure you check this music out. It offers a truly unique listening experience.

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Image Credit: phillygdr on Flickr

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