Three free improvisations for voice & double bass + improvisations on Hugo Ball's Six Sound Poems:
Hugo Ball: Sechs Laut- und Klanggedichte 1916 (Six Sound Poems, 1916)
The Life and Work of Hugo Ball.
This recording is a modern interpretation of sound poems written and performed by German Dadaist Hugo Ball almost a century ago. Those familiar with Ball know him as the author of these innovative works and founder of the Cabaret Voltaire, Dada’s Zurich birthplace. Despite the sound poems’ artistic legacy, they constitute only a small part of Ball’s creative output. The purpose of these liner notes, then, is to consider the complex life and work of the man behind the sound poems.
Ball was born in western Germany at the end of the nineteenth century to a large Catholic family with ties to the region’s leather industry. His parents pushed him to learn a useful trade, but young Ball identified as an artist. He studied literature and philosophy at university before leaving to learn acting. Germany’s thriving experimental theater community would be his creative home from 1911 until 1915.
Ball excelled as a dramaturge, championing new repertoire, promoting local actors, and writing influential essays on modern theater. World War I interrupted his collaboration with the painter Wassily Kandinsky on what they called the New Theater, one “bursting at once in dance, color, mime, music, and word.” (Ball, “Das Münchner Künstlertheater,”1914) It would be a Gesamtkunstwerk for the twentieth century, a vision Ball later realized at the Cabaret Voltaire.
Ball’s initial response to the war was one of enthusiastic support. He volunteered for military service but failed his medical exam. Refusing to accept defeat, he travelled to the front with his own funds: what he saw there turned him into an antiwar activist. He wrote scathing articles and forged papers to help men evade the draft. Facing imminent arrest, he crossed into neutral Switzerland in 1915 using his own forged documents.
There, Ball’s immigration status forced him to work odd jobs, including as a vaudeville pianist. This inspired him to explore the cabaret as a site for his politically engaged New Theater. He opened the Cabaret Voltaire in February 1916, and it quickly attracted a core group of artists. Only five months later, Ball ended the experiment. The nightly performances exhausted him, and he resented others’ efforts to institutionalize Dada. After a period of recuperation, he returned briefly to organize a series of soirées but soon abandoned Dada, poetry, and theater for good.
After Dada, Ball reinvented himself as a writer. He began as a political reporter—something of a return to his antiwar days. This journalism coalesced into a book, Critique of the German Intelligentsia, in which Ball charted the historical development of German militarism from the Protestant Reformation to the future coming of a reactionary dictator. He also wrote two fictional novels with Dada-esque characters and plots.
From his earliest years, Ball’s single-minded dedication to his art approached a secular monasticism. In 1920, disillusioned with his youthful values and current events, he reconverted to Catholicism and committed himself to the study of early Christian theology. As part of this rebirth, he expunged his diaries of sacrilegious content, erasing every trace of the younger man. Ironically, this coincided with a revival of popular interest in Ball’s Dada works.
If not for his premature death in 1927 at the age of forty-one, he might have reconciled his artistic, political, and theological interests; as it was, he remained an outsider for much of his career. He used his marginal status to explore innovative ideas unrestricted by normative mainstream society. In our increasingly homogeneous world, Ball’s resistance to dominant narratives offers an inspiring model for creative thinkers of the twenty-first century.
released October 25, 2014
Jaap Blonk - voice
Damon Smith - double bass
Hugo Ball: Sechs Laut-und Klanggedichte 1916 (Six Sound Poems, 1916)
Recorded Tuesday May 26th, 2013 at KUHF by Ryan Edwards
Mixed and Mastered by Ryan Edwards
Liner notes by Melissa Venator
Design by Alan Anzalone
Cover by The Art Guys
Saint Appollonia 2009
graphite, pastel, colored pencil on paper 9 x 12 inches
gadji beri bimba glandridi laula lonni cadori
gadjama gramma berida bimbala glandri galassassa laulitalomini
gadji beri bin blassa glassala laula lonni cadorsu sassala bim
gadjama tuffm i zimzalla binban gligla wowolimai bin beri ban
o katalominai rhinozerossola hopsamen laulitalomini hoooo
gadjama rhinozerossola hopsamen
bluku terullala blaulala loooo
zimzim urullala zimzim urullala zimzim zanzibar zimzalla zam
elifantolim brussala bulomen brussala bulomen tromtata
velo da bang bang affalo purzamai affalo purzamai lengado tor
gadjama bimbalo glandridi glassala zingtata pimpalo ögrögöööö
viola laxato viola zimbrabim viola uli paluji malooo
tuffm im zimbrabim negramai bumbalo negramai bumbalo tuffm i zim
gadjama bimbala oo beri gadjama gaga di gadjama affalo pinx
gaga di bumbalo bumbalo gadjamen
gaga di bling blong
Track Name: Totenklage (Dirge)
5. Totenklage (Dirge)
tabla tokta tokta takabla
tak tru – ü
wo – um
o kla o auw
kla o auwa
la – auma
o kla o ü
la o auma
klinga – o – e – auwa
klinga inga M ao – Auwa
omba dij omuff pomo – auwa
gomun guma zangaga gago blagaga
szagaglugi m ba-o-auma
szaga la m'blama
Track Name: Seepferdchen und Flugfische (Seahorses and Flying Fish)
6. Seepferdchen und Flugfische (Seahorses and Flying Fish)
tressli bessli nebogen leila
zack hitti zopp
zack hitti zopp
hitti betzli betzli
fasch kitti bimm
zitti kitillabi billabi billabi
zikko di zakkobam
fisch kitti bisch
bumbalo bumbalo bumbalo bambo
zack hitti zopp
treßli beßli nebogen grügrü
blaulala violabimini bisch
violabimini bimini bimini
zick hiti zopp