Arthur Pétronio

Verbophonie (1979)

  1. 01 Tellurgie (10:25)
  2. 02 Nouvelle Innocence (11:04)
  3. 03 Cosmosmose (18:00)
  4. 04 Sortilèges (4:04)

Total time 43:33
LP released by Igloo Records, IG002, Brüssels, 1979

The son of Italian quick-change artist Leopoldo Fregoli, Switzerland-born violinist, poet and painter Arthur Pétronio (1897-1983) lived in Belgium and The Netherlands between 1910 and 1924. Trained as a violinist and a pupil of Eugène Ysaÿe before WWI, Pétronio was a member of the Orchestre du Théâtre Royal de Liège. He published several avantgarde poetry journals in Belgium, including the influential Créer (1922-1923), a loose avantgarde group including poet, artist, musician and photographer E.L.T. Mesens and writer Franz Hellens, as well as connexions with people like Le Corbusier, Jean Cocteau or Pablo Picasso. Pétronio settled in France in 1924.

Pétronio published several books of his own poetry, like Sang et Chair, 1955, pictured right. He apparently created the “verbophonie” concept as early as 1919, as a way to integrate sound poetry into regular music scores, but he developed the concept further in the 1950s thanks to tape recorders. No wonder Henri Chopin recognized a kindred spirit when the two met in the late 1950s. They collaborated on a tape composition titled Aérythme in 1963, and Pétronio was included in Henry Chopin’s Poésie Sonore Internationale, published by Jean-Michel Place, Paris, 1979. His composition titled Cosmosmose (also on this LP) was included in the Futura: Poesia Sonora LP box set published by Cramps, Italy, 1978.

Petronio’s take on sound poetry embarks a fair deal of musique concrète, tape collages, primitive sound effects and noise, especially on Tellurgie (1964) and Cosmosmose (1968). Petronio’s sound art is thus well balanced between musique concrète and sound poetry. These are home recordings on less than professional equipment, though, and some unwanted noises show up, especially in #3. Several female readers/performers contribute to this theater of voices as guest vocalists, in addition to Petronio’s voice. Note Igloo actually started as a sound poetry label: the first Igloo release was a sound poetry LP by Jean-Paul Ganty in 1978, and Henri Chopin released an LP titled Poésie Sonore on the Belgian label in 1983. -- Continuo

This release is presented in collaboration with Continuo

Various Tracks

1. Cosmosmose (1965)

Performed by Claude and Lydia Kilian, Odette and Guislain Versaille, Jacqueline Witier
from the LP Futura Poesia Sonora (Cramps Records, Milan)

The polyphonic concept was resumed by Arthur Pétronio in "Verbophonie Syncritique". He produced his best work after the Second World War: " Tellurgie" 1964, "Nouvelle Innocence" 1965 and "Cosmosmose" 1968, which we have given in its entirety. it is a type of symphonic poem in which the pre-eminent element, verbal polyphonym is underlined by sound instruments and by rhythms produced by percussion instruments. Pétronio confined the verbal intervention to a few key-words, which illuminate the mental screen of the listener, words immersed in the obsessive world of the language of things: sounds, percussions, whispered phonemes, breathing. Sometimes he uses ah alf-voice choral polyphony as a background, its harmonic constants integrating with the symphonic structure of the whole. The generative idea of Pétronio's verbophonic theory came in 1919, the year of the public performance of "La course à la lune", a poem for six voices, double-bass and drums, at the Salle Heystée, Amsterdam. Pétronio describes e emotion he experienced in an Amsterdam café in 1917 on listening to a simultaneous recitation in different languages of a poem by Apollinaire, with a rhythm and timbre accompaniment improvised by a group of artists: Kandinski, Le Fauconnier, Gustave De Smet and Pétronio himself. And he points out that "in the brouhaha of confused conversations the play of the vowels stands out, despite the complexity of the whole, creating a sonic environment of timbre-sounds, an idea of verbal symphony". Kandinski, himself the author of poems much appreciated by.Hans Arp and published in the collection "Mange" (Sounds - Piper Verlag, Munich, 1913), was interested in sound poetry and, at a subsequent meeting with Pétronio, proposed a symphony of noises in which the words were no more than a pretext for the expression of sounds which words themselves cannot express.

Arthur Pétronio was born at Davos-Platz in Switzerland in 1897, a Frenchman of Italian origin. In fact his father was the famous musichall artist Fregoli. He studied at Liege and Amsterdam. A concert violinist (winner of the first prize at the Royal Conservatory of Liege in 1913, he also studied with the great violinist Eugene Isaye in Brussels) and composer whose works have been performed in Brussels, Rheims, Paris, Amsterdam and other cities. Collections of his poems have been published in Amsterdam, Brussels Liege and Paris.

Rene Ghil and Kandinski aroused his interest in sound poetry. His first phonic work "Course à la tune" was performed in Amsterdam in 1919 before a u blic which included Kandinski, Le Fauconnier, Mondrian, Gustave De Smet. In 1953 he founded a Verbophonic Choir and in 1957 definitively adopted magnetic tape as a means of expression. Verbophonic works: "Aventure", in collaboration with Henri Chopin 1963 " Tellurgie" 1964, "Nouvelle Innocence" 1966: "Cosmosmose" 1968, "Sortilegis" 1970, "je suis un autre" 1975, all works transmitted by various radio stations (Radio Paris, Toulouse, Montpellier, Avignon, Nice, Orleans, Stockholm, etc.). He was also the founder of two magazines: "La Revue du Feu" (1919), published in four languages, with comtributions from Albert Gleizes, Kandinski, De Smet, Permeke, De Chirico, and "Créer" (1921), to which Georus Poulet, Auguste Mambour, Joseph Delteil, jean Cocteau, André Salmon, Andrée Lhote, Max Jacob, Leon-Paul Fargue, Georges Auric, Darius Milhaud, Marinetti, Papini, Carri, De Pisis, Alfredo Casella, Perez Orba, have contributed. In the same period he formed the "Créer" string quartet which gave numerous performances above all of the works of the Group of Five: Milhaud, Honegger, Poulenc, Tailleferre, Duray.