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Gerhard RUEHM (Germany)

Gerhard Ruehm (b. 1930) poet, artist, composer, writer. One of the pioneers and classics of the European visual and sound poetry, the key figure in the Austrian-German school of concrete poetry. Was one of the organizers and also for many years a member of the group of Austrian poets that was later called Vienna Group and whose activities greatly affected the development of the European experimental poetry in general. G. Ruehm is the author of numerous sound, visual and object poems, textual films, Vienna dialect-verses, musical-minimalist plays and so on, he is the founder of many expressive means and techniques. For more information see the bio-bibliography of the participant.

First published in the special issue of the kontext review of visual and experimental poetry and language arts on the occasion of the festival texts in geluid (Amsterdam: Stedelijk Museum, 1977). Permission for publication has been kindly granted by the poet.
1977 Gerhard Ruehm, Cologne.

REMARKS ON THE PHONETIC POETRY

Consecutively realized principle of sound or phonetic poetry creates truly international poetry, i.e. literature that does not need to be translated, even though the articulation of the pronounced aloud verse can bear the traces of the pronunciation peculiarities typical of the reciters native language, it can even retain the territorial differences in pronunciation, in German, for example, this could be the Bavarian pronunciation of [r] and that of the citizen of the Northern areas of Germany.

Due to the freeing of the phonemes from the normative combinability, i.e. due to the denial of semantics, the sound poetry possesses virtually unlimited resources of subtly shaded sound elements which, since they are pronounced by several voices (because of the fact that the synchronous way of pronunciation is no longer connected with the comprehension of words), as well as thanks to the use of technical means, obtain polyphonic power of sounding and can be further differentiated.

Most of my phono-verses, meant for a single reciter, make use of the recognizable sounds of speech, i.e. they do not need any other sounds produced by the human speech apparatus or human body. Thus, they retain though rudimentary but at the same time emotionally recoverable speech character. In addition to it the peculiarity and expressiveness of pronunciation of various sounds which are usually lost due to the auxiliary role of sounds that is limited to the expression of certain meanings. In my works the sound is given in its original ingenuousness and representation here and now.

To be on the safe side in terms of the terminology used, it is necessary to draw a principal distinction within poetry, meant for reciting and for hearing, between the auditory, sound poetry, phonetic verses that definitely owe their existence to the particular sound rhythmical body of the pronounced aloud word, on the one hand, and the sound verses of the so-called phonetic poetry whose compositional material is an individual sound and the possibilities of its combining, on the other hand.

Like the objectless fine art constitutes a special section within the fine art in general, the phonetic poetry, being an asemantic poetry, occupies its own place within the general poetry. Both of them presuppose different intermediate and mixed forms, possible on the common basis allowing for them to retain their characteristic features essential for both varieties.

The visual analogue of the phonetic poetry could be considered the co-called polygraphic poetry that in its turn represents the constituent part of the visual poetry. Its essence is the strict limitation by the outer shapes of letters, both in the manuscript and in the printed types.

Translated by Natalia Andreeva.

ON AUDITIVE POETRY

With the term auditive poetry by analogous with visual poetry I am attempting to define as an overall collective concept all those poetic products in which the sound of language and its articulation are conscious elements in the composition, constituent components of the text. Of course the sound of words is an integral part of the composition of even such a long?established concept as rhyme; there are poems (Baudelaire, for instance) in which a surprising change of thematic direction seems to be set off by an appropriate rhyme?word. But rhyme manifests itself even in silent reading; it also has a visual quality, particularly as the final element of a line of Verse. For auditive poetry in the narrower sense, in our sense, we therefore need a further criterion to justify the introduction of this term as a new poetic genre. It is my contention that an auditive text has to communicate information beyond its integral language?sound which can only be received by the acoustic realization of the text, which is not to go as far as talking of a musical score. The simple word you, for instance, can be differentiated and changed in meaning by modifying its articulation and expressing it as questioning, demonstrative, imperative, angry, tender, astonished, etc. These differentiations are those of sound of voice, expression of voice; they are the musical parameters of spoken language, such as volume, tone, pitch, tempo. The musical movement of expression in language is communicated so strongly in the emotional sphere that even between people who speak different languages a completely linguistic, if non?verbal, communication can be achieved at this level and the more emotional the content being communicated, the more unambiguous the message. Pure sound poetry, the type of poetry that uses vocal expression not in the limited and when they are not onomatopoetic arbitrary combinations in which it denotes concepts, emanates primarily from this movement of expression in language. Sound poetry meanwhile forms its own autonomous sphere within auditive poetry; it could be said to be auditive poetry in its purest form.

The difference between concrete and nonconcrete art, between semantic and asemantic poetry, is not fundamental but a graduated one, even if the step from only just to no longer seems greater that from still to hardly. What we understand or dont understand (meaning an aesthetic understanding beyond the simple recognition and registration of an object) in concrete or in nonconcrete art and that also applies nowadays to poetry is what affects us in it, what moves our imagination, the form of expression that something has for us. We read such expression into, or, we believe, understand it from, the motion or the position of an object in an interpretation process based an experience. Thus the motion becomes a movement, the position an attitude; we have a feeling of affinity and satisfaction. For the recipient it is not of fundamental importance, but at the most a problem of aesthetic education, whether this attitude is represented by a realistically painted human figure or simply by a thin line.

Carlfriedrich Claus.
Untitled, 1963

The sound element of human language is a more immediate, a more primordial form of expression than the line, which is just the trace of a gesture. Every individual person produces countless totally differentiated sounds in various emotional situations, which operate in a directly understandable way as simply as musical expressions quite independent of the concepts attached to them; everyone knows them from personal experience, and they are the same in all linguistic cultures. Human speech sounds form an international vocabulary of expression that literally speaks for itself. From this diversity of available sounds, going far beyond the range used by any one national language, artistic structures can be formed, sound can be composed, isolated, rearranged, multiplied and since we now have the technical means at our disposal they can be extended, distorted, transformed; they comprise the most direct and most human creative material that an artist can work with. Sound poetry is for me not the end of a poetic development, but one of its most stimulating and promising consequences. Its real discovery has only just begun.

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