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Krautrock for Athletes: What 70s East German Olympians just might have listened to while training

I have to admit, they had me going there for a while…. I thought it was real. I stumbled on the Bandcamp page for the Kosmischer Läufer project two days ago, courtesy of WFMU, who blandly supplied no information about it. The site purported to be the “secret cosmic music of the East German Olympic Program, 1972-1983.” (Kosmischer Läufer means “cosmic runners.”) Volume 1 came out last year, vol. 2 this week.

So I’m listening to these tracks of magnificent 1970s-style German electronic music and taking in the backstory of one Martin Zeichnete, an apprentice sound editor for DEFA (Deutsche Film-Aktiengesellschaft) who, starting in 1972, was transferred to the Olympic training music project, that is, to compose music for East German athletes to train to. Having furtively imbibed the forbidden Western tones of Kraftwerk and Neu! in his hometown of Dresden, Zeichnete managed to smuggle in some avant-garde ideas to the project and generate some pretty sweet Musik that (just by chance) would be tailor-made for the discerning hipster of 2013. Volume 1 represented a program that “should allow the average runner to complete a 5 kilometre run at a reasonable pace. Included are 3 minute warmup and warm down pieces.”

My knowledge of German came in handy, here. There was a puzzlement or two to clear up. The name “Zeichnete,” which means “drew” or “sketched,” isn’t an entirely convincing surname for a German national. The story of being scarily apprehended by the Stasi authorities, only to be suddenly transferred to the Olympic training department, seemed far-fetched. The titles were an absolutely perfect imitation of what the contemporary English speaker would want them to be—“Mausi Mausi,” for Chrissake? “Flucht aus dem Tal der Ahnungslosen” means “Escape from the Valley of the Clueless” and really, that’s a great title in any language and perhaps more to the point, a clue to anyone taking all this retro guff too seriously. The only real problem with it all was that sizable gap between 1989 and 2013. Where were these tracks all this time? What had taken Zeichnete so long? Why was he staggering the releases? Why did some of the tracks sound so perfectly like what a Stereolab-influenced electronic music nut would generate today, given the chance?

More to the point, the whole thing was beginning to seem a bit ridiculous.

Turns out, these fine tracks of faux 1970s e-music had been introduced in a (successfully funded) Kickstarter last year launched by one Drew McFadyen of Edinburgh. (This blog says there’s more than just one person behind it, but I couldn’t discern anyone’s name but that of Mr. McFayden.)

Sehr witzig, mein guter Kerl!

In any case, instead of the most marvelous musical find of this or the last century and an incredible artifact of the Cold War, we have a excellently rendered simulacrum of same. It’s a hoot if you’re in the mood for some free tracks to listen to on Bandcamp or YouTube, but the files can also be ordered on iTunes or Amazon (links to individual tracks are below). Unfortunately, as often happens with Kickstarters, the original run of LPs is sold out. (If you’re listening, Unknown Capability Recordings, remember me if you ever do a future pressing!)

You can read an interview with the fictitious East German, Martin Zeichnete—it’s worth reading, they did a very good job with it. The reference to Andreas Pavel’s Stereobelt was just the right touch.

Track listing:
Kosmischer Läufer: The Secret Cosmic Music of the East German Olympic Program 1972-83, Vol. 1

1. Zeit zum Laufen 156 (Time to Run 156)
2. Sandtrommel (Sand Drum)
3. Die lange Gerade (The Long Straightaway)
4. Tonband Laufspur (Audio Tape Running Track)
5. Ein merkwürdiger Anschlag (An Unusual Attack)

Kosmischer Läufer: The Secret Cosmic Music of the East German Olympic Program 1972-83, Vol. 2

1. Zeit zum Laufen 172 (Time to Run 172)
2. Morgenröte (Dawn)
3. Flucht aus dem Tal der Ahnungslosen (Escape from the Valley of the Clueless)
4. Die Kapsel (The Capsule)
5. Die Libellen (The Dragonflies)
6. Mausi Mausi (Mausi Mausi)
7. Walzer der roten Katze (Waltz of the Red Cat)
8. Der Hörraum (The Listening Room)
9. Für Kati (For Kati)
10. Weltraumspaziergang (Spacewalk)

Here are a couple of the videos, cleverly sync’d up to some bitchin’ footage of East German athletes in their former glory:

“Die Libellen”:

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
A different sort of Krautrock: The Secret Cosmic Music Of The East German Olympic Program 1972-83

This is a guest post from Jason Toon.

In 1972, film-sound editor and composer Martin Ziechnete was visited by two members of East Germany’s ruling party, the SED. Somehow, they had heard about his experiments with Western-style electronic music, exploring the motorik and music kosmische sounds of West German bands like Neu!, Can, and Kraftwerk. Ziechnete was to go with them in an official car.

“I feared I would lose my job, at the very least,” Ziechnete says in an interview that accompanies Kosmischer Läufer: The Secret Cosmic Music of the East German Olympic Program 1972-83, Volume One. “It would be very bad for someone who worked on party films to be seen to be influenced by the enemy. We drove in silence to the outskirts of Berlin to what I later found out was an athletics camp. They knew all about me and my idea. They questioned me about the concept for hours then left me alone in the room.

“Later an official from the Nationales Olympisches Komitee came in and told me I would begin to work on the project immediately.”

The East German state wasn’t arresting Ziechnete. It was hiring him to create training music for its Olympic athletes. And now that music is available to a wider audience for the first time as Kosmischer Läufer: The Secret Cosmic Music of the East German Olympic Program 1972-83, Volume One.

It all pulses, drones, and bleeps like the Krautrockers that inspired Ziechnete, but feels even more like a transmission from a lost universe. We don’t know how much this music helped East German athletes, but it must not have hurt: the GDR always punched above its weight at the Olympics.

Nike was hailed for its marketing genius when it hired the likes of LCD Soundsystem, Aesop Rock, and the Crystal Method to create hip indie running soundtracks. Kosmischer Läufer proves that East Germany beat them to it by decades.

Ziechnete’s half-hour program was designed and paced to accompany a 5k run, complete with warm-up and wind-down bookend pieces. The fourth of the five pieces, “Tonband Laufspur”, kicks hard to the finish line:



UPDATED: It looks like we were hoaxed about the true origins of this music - it was made recently in Scotland, apparently - but we’re leaving the post up for posterity (and because the music’s still good).

This is a guest post from Jason Toon.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Boos sound out at Olympic Stadium: As UK Chancellor makes an appearance

British Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne had no place to hide when the boos rang out around the Olympic Stadium today in London. It’s allegedly the first time boos have been heard inside the stadium, which says much about the loathing for the ghastly Osborne and the current Con-Dem Government. As Channel 4 News reported:

‘The first boos of the day ring out in the Olympic Stadium for George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was presenting medals at the 400m T38 victory ceremony.’

Surprisingly, there was cheers for former Labour PM Gordon Brown, which suggests the public do have short memories.

Via Channel 4 News

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
How to piss off the 2012 Olympics’ ‘brand police’

Picture by Rob Hyde
This window display might look like it was put together by someone with severe dyslexia, but it is in fact a glorious “fuck you” to the London 2012 Olympics and their ludicrous and draconian “brand police.”

“Brand police”? What’s that? I’ll let The Independent:

Hundreds of uniformed Olympics officers will begin touring the country today enforcing sponsors’ multimillion-pound marketing deals, in a highly organised mission that contrasts with the scramble to find enough staff to secure Olympic sites.

Almost 300 enforcement officers will be seen across the country checking firms to ensure they are not staging “ambush marketing” or illegally associating themselves with the Games at the expense of official sponsors such as Adidas, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and BP. The clampdown goes on while 3,500 soldiers on leave are brought in to bail out the security firm G4S which admitted it could not supply the numbers of security staff it had promised.


Olympics organisers have warned businesses that during London 2012 their advertising should not include a list of banned words, including “gold”, “silver” and “bronze”, “summer”, “sponsors” and “London”, if they give the impression of a formal connection to the Olympics.

A lot of grumbling has been going on about the “brand police” and I hope we’ll see more of this as the games roll on.

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Would you want the Olympics in your town?
09:57 am

Current Events


“Just a couple of missile launchers and a few sharp-shooters on your rooftops, what are you big babies whining about anyway?”

The British army plans to deploy high-velocity missiles in the east London town of Leytonstone during the Olympics, but a high court judge has ruled that the residents of a 17-story housing tower have no right to challenge this extraordinary move in court! As seen in The Guardian:

Residents of the Fred Wigg Tower in Leytonstone, east London, argued that the missiles could expose them to a terrorist attack. The block is one of six sites in the capital where missiles, including Rapier air defence weapons and high-velocity systems, will be deployed for the duration of the Games.

The Fred Wigg residents applied for permission to seek judicial review of the government’s decision to deploy the missiles, saying it was a “disproportionate interference” with their human rights, and they were not consulted properly over the siting of the ground-based air defence system. They argued that those who wanted to move out should at least be relocated in hotels by the MoD or a gantry should be erected for the missiles away from the tower block.

Marc Willers, representing the residents, told the judge: “It is the unprecedented siting of a military base or missile site in peacetime on English soil that brings us to this court.”

But Justice Haddon-Cave said on Tuesday: “In my judgment, the MoD’s voluntary engagement with the community and residents in this matter were immaculate.” He said the MoD had no duty to consult, had not promised to and no “conspicuous unfairness” was caused by not consulting. He agreed with the MoD that a tower block was the only suitable site for missiles and the facts of the case were “not susceptible to a sensible challenge”.

The judge said residents had expressed “shock, anxiety and worry” over the prospect of missiles being stationed at the tower. But they had been under “something of a misapprehension” about the nature of the equipment to be deployed and the risks deployment would bring.

Well, I guess that’s why ee’s a bleedin’ judge then, ain’t it?

Read more at The Guardian

Thank you Chris Campion of Berlin, Germany!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment