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Hugo Ball (1886-1927)
1. Karawane (1916)
[[ view the score ]]
2. Wolken (1916)
3. Katzen und Pfauen (1916)
4. Totenklage (1916)
5. Gadji beri bimba (1916)
6. Seepferdchen und Flugfishche (1916)
Performed by Trio Exvoco:
Hanna Aurbacher, Teophil Maier, Ewald Liska
from the LP Futura Poesia Sonora (Cramps Records, Milan)
7. Karawane, 1917 [0:59]
Performed by Anat Pick
8. Cigarrenfische (2 poems in 1) [2:54] Seepferdchen und Flugfische, Hugo Ball 1916 Cigarren (elementar), Kurt Schwitters 1921
Performed by Anat Pick
9. Marie Osmond performing Hugo Ball's "Karawane"
Taken from a Ripley's Believe It Or Not segment on sound poetry from the mid-80s. According to producer Jed Rasula, "Marie Osmond became co-host with Jack Palance. In the format of the show, little topic clusters (like "weird language") were introduced by one of the hosts. In this case, the frame was Cabaret Voltaire. Marie was required to read Hugo Ball's sound poem "Karawane" and a few script lines. Much to everybody's astonishment, when they started filming she abruptly looked away from the cue cards directly into the camera and recited, by memory, "Karawane." It blew everybody away, and I think they only needed that one take. A year or so after it was broadcast, Greil Marcus approached me, wanting to use Marie Osmond's rendition of Hugo Ball for a cd produced in England as sonic companion to his book Lipstick Traces; so I was delighted to be able to arrange that."
And more, in context:
"Now, all this may strike you as anecdotally evasive. But, truthfully, Imagining Language wouldn't have happened without Ripley's Believe It Or Not. “Imagining Language” was the name I used for one of my project file folders (to give you a sense of scale, at any given time I had about fifty such file folders going). In the context of commercial television, the topic was the longest of long shots. I tried in vain to interest the producers in a segment on Finnegans Wake, for instance. But they did bite on the phenomenon of Boontling, an argot local to Booneville in northern California (see Imagining Language p. 50). They also did a segment on Benjamin Franklin's spelling reform proposals, unlikely as that seems. What really went over well, though, was sound poetry. In fact, Mel Stuart was so captivated by it that he went out to shoot the segments himself (normally, he dealt only with scenarios involving Jack Palace; all other footage was either stock or else produced as needed by hired “stringers”). These included George Quasha and Charles Stein, who didn't perform that much in public but had developed a striking buccal symbiosis. After that was broadcast, Mel went to Toronto to film the Four Horsemen, the seasoned sound poetry quartet that included bp Nichol and Steve McCaffery. It was filmed on the roof of the loft Steve was living in at that point on the east side of the city next to the Don Mills Parkway. The one other byproduct of my “Imagining Language” file at Ripley's came later, when Marie Osmond became co-host with Jack Palance. In the format of the show, little topic clusters (like “weird language”) were introduced by one of the hosts. In this case, the frame was Cabaret Voltaire. Marie was required to read Hugo Ball's sound poem “Karawane” and a few script lines. Much to everybody's astonishment, when they started filming she abruptly looked away from the cue cards directly into the camera and recited, by memory, “Karawane.” It blew everybody away, and I think they only needed that one take. A year or so after it was broadcast, Greil Marcus approached me, wanting to use Marie Osmond's rendition of Hugo Ball for a cd produced in England as sonic companion to his book Lipstick Traces; so I was delighted to be able to arrange that." -- http://www.fascicle.com/issue02/imagininglanguage/rasula1.htm
According to Hugo Ball, inventor of dadaist phonetic poetry, we must withdraw into the deepest alchemy of words, reserving to poetry its most sacred ground": a program whichwould have -appealed to Velemir Chlebnikov, "eternal prisoner of assonance", for whom the alphabet was a "table of sounds". Chlebnikov wanted to immerse himself in the depths of the Russian etymons, of the etymological night, in search of a mythical panslavonic language "whose shoots must grow through the thicknesses of modem Russian". The ultra modem tends to link up with the archaic, eternal contradiction of avant-gardes.
Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring' (composed in the years 1912-13) is a musical flight from time, a return to the common archaic background, to magic, spells, a primitive religious paganism.
Illogical phonic sound, abstract poetry, was taken up by dadaism from Italian and Russian futurism. In Zurich, at the Cabaret Voltaire, founded in 1916 by five friends, Hugo Ball Tristan Tzara, Hans Arp, Marcel Janco and Richard Huelsenbeck, first simultaneous poems by Henri-Martin Barzun and Jarry's "Ubu Roi" were recited. Later Tzara declaimed some of his simultaneous such as "La Fièvre Poems, puerpérale" a "Froid Lumiére", for the purpose of representing the dualism between the soul (the voice) and the world (mechanistic process, fate) represented by noises. "Les chants nègres" was a collective performance with masks, soutanes, drums, dances: a sort of funeral service.
Here, one evening, Hugo Ball read his "Verses without words", based on the equilibrium of vowels, regulated and distributed exclusively in relation to the phonic value of the initial line. Clothed in azure, scarlet and golden cardboard, with a cylindrical shaman's hat on his head - it is Ball's own description - "I began with:*
The accents became heavier, expression increased with the intensification of the consonants. I soon noted that my means of expression, when I wanted to be serious (and I wanted to be at all costs) no longer corresponded to the pomp of the staging... to the right on the lectern I had "Labadas Gesang die Wolken" (Labada's song to the clouds) and on the left "Elefantenkarawane" (The caravan of the Elephants)... the dragging rhythm of the elements had permitted me a last crescendo, but how to continue to the end? I then noticed that my voice, which apparently had no other choice, was assumed an ancient cadence of sacerdotal lament in the style of the masses sung in the Catholic churches of the east and west. I do not know what this music inspired in me, but I began to sing my sequences of vowels in recitative liturgical manner. The electric light was turned off as arranged and I was carried away covered in perspiration like a a magical bishop who disappears into the abyss" (Dei Flucht aus der Zeit" "The flight from time", Munich, 1927). Thus was dada phonetic poetry born.
Hugo Ball was born at Pirmasens in the Rhineland in 1886 into a family of practising Catholics. His father was a leather dealer and had to maintain six children, all well versed in music.
"In our family", Hugo Ball recalled, "one played music more than one talked". As a young boy he was influenced by a mystical sister of his mother who later entered a convent. After finishing secondary school he entered the tanning trade but studied philosophy, history and art at night. After he had suffered a serious nervous breakdown, his parents, on the doctor's advice, sent him to continue his studies at the university, studies which were never completed because, while a student at Munich, he met Max Reinhardt, the well-known director, after which he entered the theatrical profession. First Reinhardt's assistant, he became the director of the Münchener Kammerspiel, which owes him its name, and he published two theatrical works. He was tall and thin, with long legs, a thin neck and an ascetic air. At Munich he met Emmy Hernnings, poet and reciter at the Cabaret Simplicissimus, who became his comanion and, after his death, dedicated her life to is memory and published his works.
At the beginning of the First World War, Hugo Hall, influenced by patriotic propaganda, joined the army as a volunteer, But, after the invasion of Belgium, was disillusioned and soon rebelled: "The war is founded on a glaring mistake, he wrote, men have been confused with machines". The discovery of Bakunin helped him to see reality in a different light: his intuitive thought turned against the world. Considered a traitor in his country, he crossed the frontier with his wife and settled in Zurich, where at first the couple lived in a state of great misery. His dadaist adventure lasted only two years, after which this man who was at the same time anarchist, ascetic and buffoon withdrew from the world and became profoundly mystical. He died at Sant'Abbondio, Switzerland, in 1927.
It is worth remembering that in 1919 Ball wrote "Zur Kritikder deutschen Intellikenz" (Towards a criticism of German intelligence), a work which met with general reprobation in his country and in which he revealed a presentiment of Nazism. In 1916, in Zurich, Hugo Ball founded the Cabaret Voltaire and published the literary and artistic collection with that name. Hans Richter wrote: "Ball, for reasons of conscience, became the catalyst that humanly fused together all the elements round him, elements who were later to bring dadaism into being". In 1927 his diaries were published posthumously by his wife under the title "Flight from time".
When I founded the Cavaret Voltaire, I was sure that there must be a few young people in Switzerland who like me were interested not only in enjoying their independence but also in giving proof of it. I went to Herr Ephraim, the owner of the Meierei, and said, "Herr Ephraim, please let me have your room. I want to start a night-club." Herr Ephraim agreed and gave me the room. And I went to some people I knew and said, "Please give me a picture, or a drawing, or an engraving. I should like to put on an exhibition in my night-club." I went to the friendly Zürich press and said, "Put in some announcements. There is going to be an international cabaret. We shall do great things." And they gave me pictures and they put in my annoucements. So on 5th February we had a cabaret. Mademoiselle Hennings and Mademoiselle Leconte sang French and Danish chansons. Herr Tristan Tzara recited Rumanian poetry. A balalaika orchestra played delightful folk-songs and dances.
I received much support and encouragement from Herr M. Slodki, who designed
the poster, and from Herr Hans Arp, who supplied some Picassos, as well as
works of his own, and obtained for me pictures by his friends O. van Rees and
Artur Segall. Much support also from Messrs. Tristan Tzara, Marcel Janco and
Max Oppenheimer, who readily agreed to take part in the cabaret. We organized
a Russian evening and, a little later, a French one (works by Apollinaire,
Max Jacob, André Salmon, A. Jarry, Laforgue and Rimbaud). On 26th
February Richard Huelsenbeck arrived from Berlin and on 30th March we performed
some stupendous Negro music (toujours avec la grosse caisse: boum boum boum
boum - drabatja mo gere drabatja mo bonooooooooo -). Monsieur Laban was present
at the performance and was very enthusiastic. Herr Tristan Tzara was the
initiator of a performance by Messrs. Tzara, Huelsenbeck and Janco (the first
in Zürich and in the world) of simultaneist verse by Messrs. Henri Barzun
and Fernand Divoire, as well as a poème simultané of his own
composition, which is reproduced on pages six and seven. The persent booklet is
published by us with the support of our friends in France, Italy and Russia. It
is intended to present to the Public the activities and interests of the
Cabaret Voltaire, which has as its sole purpose to draw attention, across the
barriers of war and nationalism, to the few independent spirits who live for
other ideals. The next objective of the artists who are assembled here is the
publication of a revue internationale. La revue paraîtra à Zurich
et portera le nom "Dada" ("Dada"). Dada Dada Dada Dada.