: Krautrock Scores in the Films of the New German Cinema

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis is in one sense about Krautrock in the New German Cinema. Namely, it considers certain West German auteurist films of the late 1960s and early 1970s and their use of music – moreover, of specially commissioned musical scores – by musicians from the contemporaneous West German experimental rock scene later ascribed the moniker “Krautrock”. In another sense, however, it concerns itself as well with Krautrock and the New German Cinema as broadly coterminous cultural phenomena. More dynamic and fluid “scenes” than stylistically cohesive “genres” or ideologically coordinated “movements”, the two not only frequently overlapped with one another, but moreover displayed numerous shared traits and characteristics. For one thing, they were marked equally by the transnational currents of the “Global Sixties” and by the localised forms these currents assumed within post-war West Germany. In particular, and in part to address urgent domestic issues of history, politics and culture, both scenes drew upon influences from far outside a purely (West) German cultural sphere, a facet frequently overlooked in their subsequent interpretation as uniquely “German” cultural responses that broke decisively from previous moulds, traditions and methods. This wilful appropriation and purposeful adaptation from a wide range of ostensibly heterogeneous elements exhibits many hallmarks and qualities of bricolage: spontaneous, improvised and dilettantish, yet responding pragmatically to immediate concerns of culture and identity.

The present study – adopting an interdisciplinary perspective combining musicology, film studies and film music studies – will explore this idea through three distinct approaches taken by New German filmmakers towards the music, sound and politics of Krautrock, and furthermore through the contrasting outputs of three of its most emblematic bands. The first, “affirmative-insider” approach considers the already heavily bricolagist music of Cologne’s Can and its use in four films, by Roger Fritz, Thomas Schamoni, Wim Wenders and Roland Klick. Namely, Can’s music emphasises how these films engage in contrasting ways with the cultural politics of openness, diversity and liberation as heralded more broadly by the “Global Sixties”, and especially as embraced through contemporary youth, popular and counterculture. A second approach, by contrast, views these same milieus, cultures and politics from an opposing “critical-outsider” perspective presenting this same freedom of bricolage as a recipe for confusion, incoherence and social-political stagnation. This is explored in two films, by Hans-Jürgen Syberberg and Rainer Werner Fassbinder, which both make specific and pointed use of music by the archetypal communal-countercultural band Amon Düül II. A third and final approach revisits and considers in a fresh light the “idiosyncratic-personal” use by Werner Herzog of music by his frequent collaborators Popol Vuh. Above all, it examines more closely how Herzog’s own bricolagist adaptation of filmic influences and elements (not least music) shapes the audience response he wishes to cultivate towards his films, narratives and characters.

Date of Award1 Dec 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorMartin Brady (Supervisor)

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