Sten Hanson (b. 1936)

Full-length Albums

Text-Sound Gems & Trinkets (Firework Edition Records/2002)
Autobiography (Firework Editions/2001)
Sonosopher Retrospective (Alga Marghen/1998)
The John Carter Song Book (Phono Suecia/1988)
Secret Connection (Radium 226.05/1985)

Various Tracks

  1. Ouhm, 1973 (16'00)

  2. Subface
    (From ? Concrete Poetry)

  3. L'inferno de Strindberg
    (From Music for TAPE/BAND - Musik from Sweden)

  4. Au 197,0 (5:40)

  5. Coucher et souffler

  6. Che
    (5, 6 from Text-Sound Compositions)

The Swedish composer, Sten Hanson, was leader of the Fylkingen language group from 1968 and in charge of the Text-Sound Festivals which were held for many years. He is self-taught as a composer. In Sweden, he was Director (1968-1977) and then Chairman (1980-1984) of the concert organization Fylkingen, chairman of the ISCM (1975-1981), member of the Royal Academy of Music of Sweden and President of the Swedish Composers' Union (1985-1994), member of the Executive Committee of International Confederation of Electroacoustic Music (ICEM) (1981-1982) and Chairman of this organization from 1997 to 2002. He has been member of College compositeur de GMEB from 1982, member of the Executive Committee of the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) from 1982, member of the Executive Committee of the Electronic Music Studio, and Chairman of the Society of Swedish Composers (1984-1994).

Sten Hanson has been working with experimental music, literature and art since the beginning of the 1960's, cultivating both instrumental, vocal and electro-acoustic music for performance on radio and television, on outdoor occasions or from the concert platform. From an early stage he was aware of the importance of tape-recording techniques in the renewal and development of poetry's resources. Text-sound-visual image, often combined with intensely personal 'live" performances, are vital ingredients in Sten Hanson's artistic workmanship and he is ore of the forerunners in the field of multi-media art. He himself has been on numerous performing and lecturing tours all over the world. He was quick to realise the importance of the tape recorder as a factor in the renewal of poetry and the ability of text-sound compositions to break the isolation often experienced by an author in a small language area. His works include electro-acoustic pieces as well as instrumental and vocal compositions. From the end of the sixties up to 1979, he worked essentially with electroacoustic music and created, with Lars-Gunnar Bodin, Åke Hodell, Bengt Emil Johnson, the theory and the practice of a new aesthetic field: "The electronic text-sound". Sten Hanson realized a large number of works in various styles : works for television, ballet music, performances, audiovisual performances assisted by computer, pieces for instruments and tape and/or electronics, works for orchestras and computer music. Many of his early compositions were short, hard hitting collages of text and sound with a socially and politically committed content: Che (1968), Western Europe (1969), Revolution (1970). In other works the emphasis was more on humorous burlesque: Coucher et souffler (1968), How are You (1969). Compositions like Fnarp(e) (1970) and L'Inferno de Strindberg (1971) have passed through more extensive electro-acoustic processing, as is also the case in the humorous but cautionary The Flight of the Bumblebee (1982).

The voluminous John Carter Song Book (1979-1985) is based on the early science fiction writer Edgar Rice Burroughs' texts concerning the American Captain John Carter's adventures among the red men of Mars. In principle this is pentatonic music, but with a lavish flora of glissandi and microtonal elements. The vocal elements have been synthesised at the computer studio of Brooklyn College, New York. Wiener-Lieder (1985-1986) for soprano, piano and recorded tape was first performed at the 1987 Swedish Music Spring Festival. In a series entitled Play Power (e.g. No. I 1961, No. IX 1982) he has used the potentialities of an instrument together with a recorded part in which the characteristics of the instrument.

Track 1 from The Pioneers: Five Text-Sound Artists
(Phono Suecia, PSCD 63)

My approach to text-sound composition

During my earliest years as an artist much of my time was spent searching for an adequate form to express the experiences that I wanted to communicate. I was drawn to music and poetry but was dissatisfied with the limited expressive means available at that time. It seemed to me that the metaphorical larder of modernistic poetry was somewhat bare while the preoccupation of contemporary music with serialism's abstract structuralism, its fascination for theoretical paperwork and its sectarian alienation of the audience was a sterile dead-end street.

Instead I felt a greater affinity with the visual arts. At the beginning of the sixties I spent quite a lot of time in Paris and became involved with the "Nouveaux Réalistes" , including Yves le Monochrome and Daniel Spoerri, François Dufrêne was there too and apart from painting he was also working on a sort of spontaneous sound-poetry. It was not a direction that interested me particularly but it showed me that I was not alone in my search for new paths. I was also introduced to the 'Lettristes' through their deputy leader Maurice Lemaitre but their arrogance and semi-fascist sectarianism repelled me from the very beginning.

During this period I also came in con tact with John Cage who was to have such a decisive influence, not so much through his works as through his attitude and artistic philosophy.

Apart from more traditional writing my own creative activity during the early sixties was directed towards the genres of happenings and instrumental theatre. At the same time I started experimenting with text-sound compositions--not a simple undertaking since I didn't have access to a studio. I experimented with an old Tandberg tape-recorder which had three different speeds, thereby affording certain transposing possibilities. By placing a toothpick between the tape and the erasing head it was also possible to record several layers of voices or top of each other, a sort of polyphonic partwriting. Of course the technical quality left much to be desired and all these early experiments have since been discarded. In November ' 1 963, 1 made a first presentation of these ideas in the magazine "Rondo" in response to a questionnaire, and in consequence I discovered that Bengt Emil Johnson and Lars-Gunnar Bodin were also each absorbed with ideas that were similar to mine. In 1965 the Electronic Music Studio was opened in Stockholm and a little later the Fylkingen language group was formed which provided opportunities for more qualified studio work and also a forum where text-sound compositions could be presented.

My own underlying theory for the development of text-sound compositions during the experimental years can be summarized in the following points:

1. It was to be an intermedium between literature and music.

2. It should exploit the meaningful oral elements of the language, in other words the communicator inherent in the phoneme itself. the intonation, the expression and so or.

3. In contrast to written text several progressions could take place simultaneously, without necessarily running parallel.

4. The product should be presented in the form of a tape intended primarily for the media of radio and gramophone and not as a manuscript or score.

The trilogy frarp(e), Oips, OUHM, which came into being between 1969 and 1973, is the final result of my work with text-sound composition and makes full use of my ideas. Each piece consists of a series of linguistic progressions which are further developed in the studio to different levels of abstraction. At any one time the original recorded phoneme can always be heard together with four or six adapted versions of the same sound progression. In the trilogy a transition from more literary means of expression - fnarp(e) - to purely musical means -OUHM - is apparent. The intermediary Gilds revolves around elementary oral expressions that are a result of strong mental or physical impressions (including different degrees of physical contact). Since the trilogy was completed I have only worked sporadically with text-sound compositions. Instead I have been more involved in other expressive mediums, especially in music.


Sten Hanson (1936- ) made his appearance in the early sixties as an experimental poet and composer. From an early stage he was aware of the importance of tape-recording techniques in the renewal and development of poetry’s resources. Text-sound-visual image, often combined with intensely personal 'live" performances, are vital ingredients in Sten Hanson's artistic workmanship and he is ore of the forerunners in the field of multi-media art. His works include electro-acoustic pieces as well as instrumental and vocal compositions.

Sten Hanson plays an extremely active part in both Swedish and international musical life. He was head of the Fylkingen language group and responsible for the text-sound festivals that were held annually for several years and was also president of the Fylkingen society from 1982 to 1984. He is a member of ISCM, ICEM and the College compositeurs de GMEB, and has been president of the Society of Swedish Composers since 1984,