"Autobahn" is the name of the album released in 1974 by the German band Kraftwerk -- at that time, leaded by Florian Schneider-Esleben and Ralf Hütter. It would be known as the work which would put the guys on the map and deeply mark pop music on the following years.
The first version of the album's title-song was very very long -- it had more than 22 minutes and could only be released on the radios after an edition that transformed it into a 3:28 minutes-little-song; that was the only way the song could be digested for a bigger public than for those who where interested on perceiving the meanders of that concept-album. "Autobahn" wasn't a hit on the way this word is applied: it was the first intimate meeting of electronic music with the public; almost 30 years of Math and Sound studies finally produced a harmony able to touch people, no matter the place or the culture where they were from.
The song speaks about a happy moment on a German highway. The sun, the horizon, the tour and the radio playing wir fah'rn auf der autobahn (we're driving on a highway).
It was on Weimar govern -- and not on Hitler govern, as some preach -- that the autobahns started to be built. In 1929, year of the big global economic depression, the first stretch started to be made with the delay expected of a project without political or economic support; in 1931, the dreamed way that would lead automobiles and motorcycles from Cologne to Bonn without the crossings or pedestrians' interference.
In 1933, the Nazis started executing a project that was so much more ambitious than the initial, following the megalomaniac architectonic ideas of the chancellor Adolf Hitler. It also served to economic and social aims of the govern, as it's known that public works are a intelligent and fast way of multiplying the employment vacancies, diminishing consequently the unemployment levels. The plan worked expertly well on that Germany. Besides, they would be useful on linking interesting strategic regions for the military defense and for the logistic of the attack, provoking, next, the region differences -- this meant linking the country and encouraging the nationalism preached by the Nazi ideals. At the foregoing years and during the Second World War, the highways were also used to two other important ends: landing strip for airplanes and slave work marts.
The Great War took the world to a techno jump never seen before -- at least not with that kind of speed. Weapons, telecommunication equipments, clothes, automobiles etc. were refined and, taking the economic incentive of the reconstruction, new possibilities were opened on areas that had nothing with the conflict. The radios started to have at their disposal well-equipped studios and, inside them, two streams contended for the best concept and the best execution of the called electroacoustic music: the French Musique concrète and the German Elektronische Musik.
During years the Paris' group and the Cologne's group discussed about methods, calculations, names, symphonies and instruments, but the truth is that none succeeded on the harmony of that kind of executions, or even turn them pleasant. Put the computers at the middle of the fight was the beggining of the understanding between the proto-DJs. Japanese, Polish, Swiss, North-American and Italian academics, capitalists and communists, fought battles inside their experimentalist laboratorial studios, applying for who would find the most sophisticated means of producing algorithmic music. In 1963, came up the first synthesizer, controlled by a band of pierced paper. A capitalist block victory, as the American Robert Moog would be the responsible for uniting a keyboard to the giant calculator machine that were the synthesizers then -- and this was the decisive step on the access of others to that visionary music.
At Autobahn's original version, we can find a mix of the elements used then at the Krautrock but on a mood never seen or listened before. These are the elements: a)a classic Moog synthesizer executes a whole bass session on the song and determined echoes; b) free use of phasing (repetition a determinate interval); c) a vocoder, or a voice decoder; d) a 4/4 beat system which creates a rhythm impression of driving; e) acoustic flute and guitar; f) an electronic percussion.
The result is a huge musical piece of almost monotonic continuous repetition. The highway, the tour, the monotony of the landscape, the wind and the experience are all included at Autobanh's every part, united by a thin line of irony. The video that passes during its execution leaves no doubts: glamorous, optimistic and romantic images driving happy on the way to the sun... ignoring the meanings of the highway, hypnotized by the new routes of the Occidental Germany before the Fall of the Berlin Wall and by the exciting technologies which overloaded that part of the nation. For Scheneider and Hütter, it could be seen the beggining of a semi-human semi-existence.
Currently, the autobahnen link Germany, Austria and Switzerland through a 13,838 km net that crosses amazing landscapes. They are highly famous once, beyond the music and the history, they have no speed limits at most part of their stretches.