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Elevator Violator

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Legend has it Kraftwerk used to carry scissors with them and cut the cables to get rid of the background music in lifts and hotels because they wanted to listen to the real sounds of these places (see End Note1).

Detroit dance music pioneer Derrick May had obviously had the idea of this fic much earlier than me when he famously claimed that techno was the sound of George Clinton and Kraftwerk stuck in an elevator…

Location: a New York skyscraper hotel, circa 1982.

Ralf and Florian enter the elevator on the first floor.

Muzak is playing.

FLORIAN: What floor is this?

RALF: Floor 50. Wolfgang, Karl and American reporters are waiting for us there for an interview.

FLORIAN: (presses UP).

Muzak is playing.

Elevator stops on Floor 3 to welcome some people in.

On Floor 5 they leave.

Muzak is playing.

Elevator stops on Floor 8 to welcome some people in.

On Floor 13 they leave.

Muzak is playing.

Elevator stops on Floor 21 to welcome some people in.

On Floor 34 they leave.

Muzak is playing.

FLORIAN: (takes scissors out of his pocket).

RALF: Florian, what are you doing?

FLORIAN: I’m cutting this soulless music away. If I hear it for a minute more, my head will explode.

RALF: The hotel staff won’t be happy when they find out. We might get banned from the network.

FLORIAN: No one will think it was us. We’re Germans, we don’t break the rules. (searches for Muzak transmission cables). It’s our version of being rock stars… or punks. Destroy!

RALF: But, Florian, don’t we write our own background music for cars and trains?

FLORIAN: We should raid the supermarkets also. I almost bought a Coca-Cola yesterday. (cuts the cables with the scissors).

Muzak stops.

The elevator stops.

RALF: (presses UP, DOWN and ALARM buttons. No effect).

The light goes out.

RALF: Fine, Florian, what are we going to do now?

FLORIAN: No other lift we demuzaked has acted that way. Let’s wait till they find us.

(20 minutes later)

RALF: They won’t find us, Florian. It’s 1.45 AM. The dispatchers have probably finished their shifts.

FLORIAN: So…

RALF: I’ve been thinking – the lift stopped when you cut off the music. The music must have been its real engine, soul and energy.

FLORIAN: So, what do you suggest?

RALF: Let’s play it some music and see if it comes back to life. Have you got any instruments with you?

FLORIAN: A Stylophone in my bag.

RALF: Play it.

FLORAIN: What should I play?

RALF: Anything. A chromatic scale. Brian Eno.

FLORIAN: (plays a C major scale in Mixolydian mode).

The light flickers.The elevator jerks.

RALF: See? I was right… Listen, Mr Elevator, we didn’t want to harm you. Please, let us go.

FLORIAN: Why are you talking to it like it’s human?

RALF: We think of our music machines as equals. This elevator is a music machine, too. He’s got a soul.

FLORIAN: Perfect logic, Ralf.

The elevator drops down a few floors.

FLORIAN: Is it a helevator or a shelevator?

RALF: How do I know? It’s grey, not pink or blue.

FLORIAN: You called him “mister”, he didn’t like it.

RALF: Okay, dear Ms Elevator, please, forgive us and let us go. Keep on playing, Florian.

The elevator moves up a few floors. The light flickers.

FLORIAN: Is she trying to tell us something?

RALF: (presses hands and ear to the wall and listens) You hurt it… her. I can hear it in her sighs.

FLORIAN: Never knew you were such an advanced speaker of Machinese.

RALF: Yes, I’m multilingual. What would you do if you hurt your girlfriend?

FLORIAN: Um… bring her some flowers? Presents? Take her to a movie? Go out on a date?

The light shines brightly and the elevator goes up a few floors.

FLORIAN: Alright, I get it. Quick, have you got some food… desserts?

RALF: A bottle of fizzy mineral water.

FLORIAN: Let’s pretend it’s champagne.

RALF: (opens the bottle, clinks it with the wall) Cheers… honey. Clink-clang.

FLORIAN: A date should have a romantic ambience. Scented candles and flowers.

RALF: I haven’t got candles or flowers. They only throw us pocket calculators on stage.

FLORIAN: Smoke some cigarettes then.

RALF: We’ll have no clean air here.

The elevator goes down a few floors.

RALF: Alright, alright (lights a cigarette).

FLORIAN: We should have romantic music around.

RALF: Play her some Stockhausen on your Stylophone.

FLORIAN: And you, sing her something.

RALF: I don’t know any love songs.

FLORIAN: Serenade her some Sinatra.

Ralf and Florian are sitting on the floor, playing music and singing, clouds of smoke around them.

FLORIAN: She doesn’t like Sinatra or Stockhausen. Do you know any songs about lifts?

RALF: Loverboy’s “Take Me to the Top” was in the heavy metal charts recently…

FLORIAN: I don’t know this song. Ultravox’s “All Stood Still” would be more like it.

RALF: Somebody claimed to be a rock star here… Right, let’s try Elvis Presley. (sings) “Love me tender… [cough]… love me sweet… [cough]…”

The light turns into soothing dusk.

FLORIAN: She likes it! Sing her “Always on My Mind”.

RALF: Are we going to test all American crooners on her? (sings anyway).

FLORIAN: You’re singing too unemotionally.

RALF: I’m singing with all my Hertz.

FLORIAN: She needs your Herz, not your Hertz.

The elevator moves up and down.

RALF: “… you were always on my mind… you were always on my mind… you were always on my mind… [cough] …you were always on my mind… tell me… iron maiden, elegant metallic shapes… moving with a gliding grace, scarlet electronic eyes shimmering like distant stars, plastic buttons and steel frames…”

The elevator slides 10 floors higher.

RALF: Never thought I’d write a love song.

Smoke alarm siren starts ringing and water begins to fall from the ceiling.

FLORIAN: Look, you made her cry. She’s wailing in hysterics.

RALF: Have you seen Metropolis?

FLORIAN: Have you read the Bible?

RALF: Disable the Stylophone!

FLORIAN: No!

RALF: It’s cheap, do it!

FLORIAN: We cannot be killed by electricity – we are electricity!

RALF: She’s American, she doesn’t know what “Kraftwerk” means in German!

FLORIAN: Too good we didn’t take the Moog with us.

The elevator is flying upwards.

Doors open. Wolfgang, Karl and American reporters are standing in the doorway.

WOLFGANG: Guys, what are you doing?

Ralf and Florian are hugging the elevator walls.

RALF: It worked! She let us go…

KARL: She? It was him, a mechanic.

MECHANIC: Hello. Can I ask for an autograph?

REPORTERS: What are you doing?

FLORIAN: What? We’re, er, writing a new song. About lifts. “Trans-Elevator Express”.

RALF: Yes, we’re… conducting a psychoacoustic experiment… on man-machine empathy.

Next day: Headline in music press: “KRAFTWERK ELEVATE MAN-MACHINE BONDING TO A NEW LEVEL”.

KARL: What have you done to my Stylophone?

FLORIAN: Blame it on Mr Presley.

RALF: Next time you want to play rock stars, Florian, let’s chuck some TVs out of the windows.

WOLFGANG: “I’m the operator with my little elevator-bleep-bleep-bleep-bleep. By pressing down a special key it traps inside my friend and me…”