Florian Schneider-Esleben (April 7, 1947 – May 6, 2020) was a German musician best known as one of the founding members of the electronic band Kraftwerk, performing his role with the band until his departure in November 2008.
Florian Schneider-Esleben founded Kraftwerk with Ralf Hütter in 1970. They met in 1968 while studying at the Academy of Arts in Remscheid, then at the Robert Schumann Hochschule in Düsseldorf, playing improvisational music together in the ensemble Organisation. Before meeting Hütter, Schneider had played with Eberhard Kranemann in the group Pissoff from 1967 to 1968. From 1968 to 1969, Schneider played flute, with Hütter on Hammond organ, Kranemann on bass and Paul Lovens on drums.
Originally, Schneider’s main instrument was the flute, which he would treat using electronic effects, including tape echo, ring modulation, pitch-to-voltage converters, fuzz and wah-wah, allowing him to use his flute as a bass instrument. He also played violin (similarly treated), electric guitar (including slide guitar), and made use of synthesizers (both as a melodic instrument and as a sound processor). Later, he also created his own electronic flute instrument. After the release of Kraftwerk’s 1974 album, Autobahn, his use of acoustic instruments diminished.
David Bowie titled his “Heroes” instrumental track “V-2 Schneider” after Schneider, and was heavily influenced by Kraftwerk’s sound during his “Berlin period” in the late 1970s.
Schneider, speaking in 1991, said: “I had studied seriously up to a certain level, then I found it boring; I looked for other things, I found that the flute was too limiting… Soon I bought a microphone, then loudspeakers, then an echo, then a synthesizer. Much later I threw the flute away; it was a sort of process.” Although he had limited keyboard technique, he apparently preferred to trigger the synth sounds through a keyboard (later, developments in sequencing limited the need for hands-on playing).
On May 6, 2020, it was reported that Schneider had died a few days after his 73rd birthday from cancer, having suffered from the illness for a short time.
We feature the music of Kraftwerk, 7pm ET on RadioMaxMusic May 6, 2020