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Henri CHOPIN (France)

Henri Chopin (b. 1922) . poet, performer, critic, publisher. One of pioneers and classics of the European concrete and sound poetry, the key figure in the French school of experimental poetry. In 1958 initiated publishing of the experimental poetry review Cinquieme Saison (in 1964 it was renamed OU; till 1974) in which the corpus of works of authors of visual and sound trends was published for the first time. Wrote a basic critical and documentary edition Poesie Sonore Internationale (+ 2MCs, Paris: Jean-Michel Place editeur, 1979), dedicated to the history, theory and practice of the international sound poetry. Published about twenty books and conducted more than two hundred performances in different countries. For more information see the bio-bibliography of the participant.

First published in: Henri Chopin. Poesie Sonore Internationale (Paris: Jean-Michel Place editeur, 1979). The material has been kindly granted by C. Espinosa. © 1979 Henri Chopin, Paris.

POETIC MUTATIONS

We might suppose that, with the appearance of print, a common mold of multiple poetic languages was created (mostly local, who used a provincial idiom and not a unified language). Print would then give to poetry a national, no longer a regional existence. This may be a false idea, but it is no less seductive, especially if we think only of the twentieth century (Year 1 of a new future). The increase of electronic (no longer mechanical) machines causes a paranational, extra-continental art to be born, thanks to the new media of transmission that not a single soul will be able to stop from now on. For the first time in the world, we are witnessing the personalization of each voice.

If the emergence of print in a certain way caused regional poets to disappear, why not admit that the national poets are also condemned to disappear on being closed in on themselves, on retaining the ancient technique of the printed letter, on passing, in order to become known abroad, through translation& this infidel? Sound poets will rapidly understand that they have everything to gain on being transported through space on the airwaves.

For technical reasons, sound poetry has thus been situated, since its birth, beyond all the security of the written and known Verb of our Judeo-Christian civilization, and beyond all questions of precedence of historical creation. The fuel did not create the rocket, nor did phonetic poetry (which should be mentioned here) create electronic poetry.

For us, all the phonetic poets . Pierre-Albert Birot, Hugo Ball, Raoul Hausmann, Kurt Schwitters, Camille Bryen, the lettrists, and so on . are comparable to actors in silent films, those great artists who did not know how and were not able to adapt to the talkies. With the exception of Altagor, of Francois Dufrene, none of the poets before 1950 knew how to hear his own voice.

Raoul Hausmann, a very important explorer, had to await my visit in 1966 to learn of the tape recorder. Having published two megapneumies in his . Achele. edition in 1965, he showed no interest in having them reproduced on disk. Later, in 1967, he will agree to be recorded by Dufrene for the magazine . OU. , issue 33.

As for Isidore Isou, his only recording, in 1973, was also done by Dufrene. Maurice Lemaitre, another phoneticist, is the exception, but he will remain a prisoner of classical diction and professional theatrical actors to whom he will frequently recur.

Isidore Isou.
Untitled, 1960

Other poets of the letter, like Jacques Spacagna, whose diction is notable, or Robert Altmann, will go on to be . recorded,. the former with Pierre Henry, composer of electro-acoustic music, while the latter will produce a very long recording, which I was able to hear at the Weiller Gallery in Paris in 1973.

As for the older poets, like Pierre Albert-Birot and Hugo Ball, we don't have a single interesting poem recorded. Curiously, from the entire period before 1939-45, we have only three great voices: those of James Joyce, Louis-Ferdinand Celine, and Jacques Audiberti, who were not authors of phonetic poems.

As for Michel Seuphor, he recorded his 1926 poem . Tout en Roulant les RR. in Paris in 1962, but his voice had still not adapted to the medium.

In relation to what we have just seen, the tape recorder seems to have emerged at the moment that the voice wanted to appear, when it already knew how to multiply itself.

We can't really explain this fact& and, in addition to this, we should state that our voices are . situated. by the use of microphones. All those who were never able to be located will not be able to hear, and they will be surprised by the absence of vocal pitches; it suffices to hear the voices of a recent past: a screamer (Filippo Tommaso Marinetti), a crackler (Seuphor, who later surprised us knowing how to situate his verbal music (musique verbale)), a rustler (Hausmann), weak (Albert-Birot), saccharine (Isou), monotone (Schwitters). If these authors blame me for these value judgements, remember that Charlie Chaplin, great creator of the silent cinema, loses his creative force in the talkies because of an almost ridiculous vocal pitch. This takes nothing away from these poets.

Conclusion: the voice really appears in the 1950s, at the moment that one can hear oneself. Since then, the recorder . enters into the mouth. almost naturally: it foretells, it discovers, it learns its vocal powers. The phenomenon is as mysterious as when the poem, formerly knew how to submit himself to writing.

Fran7.ois Dufr:.ne.
Cantate des Mots
Cam9.s (fragment), 1977

Let us make a brief historical overview of the periods prior to and after 1950.

1916: Hugo Ball

Founder of dadaism in the . Cabaret Voltaire. in Zurich. No known recordings. Nevertheless, he is the one who points out . the value of the voice,. in itself, outside of phraseology, of the sung word, of diction and declamation.

1917-18: Pierre Albert-Birot

. Poemes a crier et a danser. . Plays, and, above all, . La Legende et Larountala. . Search for a Total Theater (Nunisme) with Leopold Survage's animated, gigantic sculpture.

1918-66: Raoul Hausmann

Beginning June 1918, phonetic poems . Seelenautomobile. . 1919: poster-poems and poems of different typefaces. Until his death in 1971, he will be the only Dadaist to legitimate the phonetic poem in combat against the weight of the written word.

1921-22: Kurt Schwitters

Since 1922 he worked on his celebrated . Ursonate,. finished in 1927. In 1925, he defined . the poetry of sounds.. He seemed to use the phonetic poem to discover the possibilities of vocal expressions.

1926: Michel Seuphor

He invents . verbal music,. in my view a keener forerunner of sound poetry than was the phonetic poem. In 1930, he uses as accompaniment Luigi Russolo's . Russolophone. , author of . L. Art des Bruits. (1913, Milan).

1928: Camille Bryen

Friend of Antonin Artaud, painter and poet, very independent. Undoubtedly influenced by Artaud's . Theater of Cruelty;. possessor of an arrogantly grating, aggressive voice, which Francois Dufrene was able to record.

1930: Arthur Petronio

Son of Fregoli. Musician. Founds the Music Institute of Reims. Founder of Verbophonie (1953). Undoubtedly one of the first to want to (re)concile music and poetry. Friend of Rene Ghil, Vasilij Kandinsky, and Henre Le Fauconnier.

1946: Isidore lsou

Creator of Lettrism, author of numerous works on this movement.

1947: Altagor

Founds . Metapoetry,. that recuperates . Nietzsche et de Maldoror.. Moreover, musician, inventor of new recording apparatuses.

1948: Paul de Vree

His initial title: . Audiovisual Poems. (poemes audio-visuels). Doubtlessly influenced by Paul van Ostayen and, perhaps, Gaston Burssens.

1951: Gil J. Wolman

Historically, this is our transitional link, in that he goes beyond the phonetic poem made of letters. He invents his megapneumes in 1951, that is, verbless and asemantic . spitting. poems from the viewpoint of the word given to negation, from that of the breath to the concrete quality of air, to expression.

Paul de Vree.
Toute Pr9.dication...
(. OU. #28/29, 1966)

It may be surprising not to find the (Italian and Russian) futurists figuring here. A record published in 1972 in Berlin gives us some pieces by Velemir Khlebnikov, Alexei Kruchonykh, and Kazimir Malevich.

By contrast, Cramps editions in Milan published a vocal anthology of seven LPs with:

a) Phonic part: Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Francesco Cangiullo, Giacomo Balla, Fortunato Depero. With almost all the poems reconstituted by Arrigo Lora-Totino and Luigi Pennone, this record offers us futurism in Italy since 1912. The Russian futurists will be represented by the three artists mentioned, to whom one should add Ilya Zdanevich (Iliazd) and Vasilij Kamensky.

There then follows a certain confusion between the phonetic poem and more traditional poems, with: Pierre Albert-Birot, Arthur Petronio, Christian Morgenstern, Paul Scheerbart, Hugo Ball, Tristan Tzara, Marcel Janco, Richard Huelsenbeck, as well as Raoul Hausmann and Kurt Schwitters.

b) Entering body and soul into . Futura, Poesia Sonora,. title of the Cramps series of records, we have: Antonin Artaud, Francois Dufrene, Henri Chopin , Bernard Heidsieck , Franz Mon, Gerhard Ruhm , Nikolaus Einhorn, Ladislav Novak, Carlfriedrich Claus , Brion Gysin, Paul de Vree, Bob Cobbing . Then a phonetic return with: Isidore Isou, Maurice Lemaitre, Altagor, Patrizia Vicinelli, Adriano Spatola. The last record of the series presents Demetrio Stratos, Arrigo Lora-Totino , Roberto Musto, and Laura Santiano.

This edition, published in 1979, is a kind of balance realized with rare documents that were hard to come by. This confrontation of the phonetic poem and the sound poem brings us to the following:

Oral (from the Latin, os, oris; bouche). Transmitted from mouth to mouth. Oral tradition: made of the living voice; oral transmission. (We know this phenomenon, through John Giorno, Paul-Armand Gette, Michele Metail, and so on).

Phonetic (we take this title in the restricted sense of the dadaist and lettrist poets): articulatory phonetics (in contrast): part of the phonetics that has as its goal the analysis of sounds realized in oral language, recognizing the manner of production of these sounds.*

Sound (we take this word in the sense of our . multiplied. terms thanks to our technical media). In phonetics, all phenomena whose articulation requires the vocal cords' vibration are called . sound..

Brion Gysin.
Permutations (fragment).

After 1950:

1953: Francois Dufrene

In 1953 he creates his cry rhythms (crirythmes). He writes . Le Tombeau de Pierre Larousse. and publishes it in 1958. One of the first visual artists of the . removal. of posters.

1953: Arthur Petronio

He develops his verbophonia (verbophonie), recording his orchestrations of the . verbal text of the Battle of Marignan, set as a choral chant by Jannequim..

1955: Bernard Heidsieck

Creator of score-poems (poemes-partitions). A little later, of biopsies, master-keys (passe-partout), mecanopoems (mecano-poemes). His sound poems are always semantic, in the simple sense of the term, incessantly multiplied by electronics in search of the . meaning of meaning..

1957: Henri Chopin

Creator of audiopoems (audio-poemes), title given by Brion Gysin. Since the beginning, he has used electro-acoustic manipulation, with various speeds, echoes, reverberations, and a little later variations in speed. He uses microphones very close to or in the mouth.

1958: Brion Gysin

Painter and writer. He develops permutations after the sketches of Gertrude Stein.

1958: William Seward Burroughs and Gysin

They formulate cut-ups to turn languages back upon themselves, making the meaning of the phrase inaccessible. According to Burroughs, . the whole world is a cut-up.. In 1956, Burroughs creates this term, in a letter to Allen Ginsburg.

1958: Ladislav Novak

He studies Eskimo onomatopoeias, making short narrations in Latin, probably inspired by declarations of the bohemian revolutionary Jan Hus. He is the author of the recording of . Phonetic Structures of the Czech Language. (. Structures phonetiques de la langue tcheque. ).

1963: Pierre Garnier

Launches his sonies.

1965: Arrigo Lora-Totino

Inventor of amusing metal apparatuses, a kind of radiators that sometimes contain water, used to blow. He is clearly inspired by the Commedia dell'Arte. His principle titles: liquid poetry (poesie liquide), cabaret poetry (poesie cabaret), gymnastic poetry (poesie gymnique), and mimicry-word (mimique-parole).

1965: Leo Kupper

Musician and poet. From the beginning he uses microphones, looking for the smallest ones.

1965: John Giorno

Forceful retum to oral poetry. Notable acting presence. Frequently travels to Tibet, whose overtone chants influence him, above all, through the . cumulative. oralities that they bring about.

1973: Lily Greenham

Notable declaimer of phonetic poetry until 1973, when she creates her lingual music, synthesis of phonetic and sound poetry and composition of electro-acoustic music.

1973: Michele Metail

She creates her outside-of-texts (Horse-Textes), . intent to systematically explore language divided into its multiple components..

1974: Katalin Ladik

A marvelously beautiful voice. She launches her . Fonicka Interpretacija Visuelne Poezije. . Accompanied by instruments created of and amplified by microphones. She vocalizes in various registers.

Pierre Garnier. Soleil
(from Revue . Les Lettres. #29, 1963)

If Jean-Louis Brau does not appear here, it is because his . Verbal Instrumentation. (Instrumentation Verbale) dates from 1962, if indeed Francois Dufrene and Gil J. Wolman assure me that this author had already begun in 1949. The present repertory does not include German and Austrian composers and poets. The links established from the point of view of sound were late. The Lautgedichten of the German Franz Mon emerge in the mid-1960s, and those of the Austrians Ernst Jandl and Gerhard Ruhm as well. Only after the 1970s can they be seen in action.

In this beginning of poetic fragmentations and recompositions, we should point out as memorable the . action-poetry. created in the 1960s by Robert Filliou (especially with his theatrical work . Poi-Poi. , an obsessive recitation accompanied by throwing sand and stones at the public), Bemard Heidsieck and Filliou; after this there was the Domaine Poetique in 1962-64 with F. Dufrene, R. Filliou, B. Gysin, W. Burroughs, B. Heidsieck, Gherasim Luca, the painters Gianni Bertini and Yvaral, and so on. The guiding spirit was Jean-Clarence Lambert, helped by the theater director Jean-Loup Philippe and by the comedian Jacques Gruber.

The Great Periods/Creators

It is important to note, in parentheses, that pre-Renaissance music used the voice as its principal instrument. In the twentieth century, with the emergence of tape recorders, it is still the voice that chiefly interests poets, and also musicians. In two cases the imagination knows no limits: if, with the Renaisssance, authors like Cervantes, Rabelais, and Shakespeare had the liberty of creation& today the same liberties release the brakes and ignore all the poetic . laws. to create forms of expression that escape all traditional rules. It would be interesting to publish here the comparative picture of Hugh Davies, locating the two periods face to face:

Differences in unexplored domains of Comparative Musicology, or

How to avoid committing the same well-known mistakes.

Hugh Davies

During the

XVII                                                                  XX

instrumental music

electro-acoustical

(solo and group)

and electronic

formerly different from

 

all other

electronic

musical culture,

apparatuses

especially in the

 

Far East, the

 

instruments

 

had been used above

 

all in a secondary role;

 

outside of organ music

record and

and other keyboard

transmit music

instruments); absent

(and the word,

parts were

etc.) by

exchanged for vocal

phonograph

groups,

and radio, and

or took the part

study

of the chorus

acoustics (for

in church, and

example, to

sometimes

modify by

at festive gatherings.

Different

With the

methods the

Development

acoustics of a

functional tonal

concert hall).

harmony

 
 

"atonality?" (still too soon to

 

find

 

the right term

 

for this)

there appeared

 

the first

 

independent

creative use of

instrumental

the electronic

music (solo or

media

group) and, with

 

this,

 

new instruments

 

emerged, such as

 

the clarinet

the electronic

synthesizer

 

especially developed

 

for the first time

 

among others, like

 

the violin

the tape recorder

 

being the result of an

 

integration of elements

 

of various already

 

existing instruments,

 

that had undergone a

 

long period of

 

development.

 

It is as if these two

 

"innovations,"

tonality

"atonality"

and music

 

instrumental

electronic

were both destined

 

to respond to a

 

considerable range of

 

possibilities opened by

 

the other. Until this

 

period, most

 

interpreters

 

were not specialized

 

in any instrument

 

mechanical

electronic

to make music, using

 

in compensation

 

the human voice.

 

Then we come to an

 

extensive and

 

progressive

 

introduction of

 

new electronic

apparatuses

instruments

 

that we associated

 

with an "inferior"

 

social position and

 

"extramusical"

 

functions. But, as

 

with all victorious

 

innovations,

 

the popularity of music

 

instrumental

electronic

grew, and this music

 

immediately gained an

 

extreme importance.

 

As for the most

 

significant

 

composers of the

 

period between

 

1500

1850

and

 

1600

1950

they were mostly

 

singers

figures

the most important
of the day

 
 

in all aspects
of the
presentation of
concerts,

their successors,
 the instrumentalists

 
 

specialists
in electronic
music

(violinists and, later,

 

pianists)

 

a little later, were the

 

most prestigious

 

musicians. In the

 

beginning, this new

 

music instrumental

electronic

always disparaged by

 

the majority of people

 

(above all, by the

singers

interpreters

 
 

and by those who

 

concerned

 

themselves with the

 

"traditional" music

 

of the period), had

 

the tendency to be

 

isolated, but, little

 

by little, it managed

 

to ally itself with and

 

to integrate

vocal

"instrumental" and vocal

 

music

 

and to be considered

 

on the same level

 

with it. (About

 

four centuries ago

 

there was a similar

 

situation when

harmony and polyphony

appeared

 

for the first time in

 

western music:

n

then the composer

  e

became a

    w

professional

           S

musician and all

              t

of music

                a

had been composed

                   r

almost exclusively

                       t

by anonymous monks.

 
 

<...>

. We could go further with these definitions. It is known, for example, that the Chinese changed sound with tonalities. With regard to the dadaist and lettrist poets, we note that the latter understood the alphabet through new notions of the phoneme. By contrast, vibrations in the sound field, contrary to what the phonetic poets do, are electronically recuperated. These definitions come from the . Larousse Dictionary. . Parentheses added by the author.

Translated by Harry Polkinhorn.

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