Cacophony, Abstraction, and Potentiality: The Fate of the Dada Sound Poem

Edited by Steve Mccaffery

in The Sound of Poetry / The Poetry of Sound

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print November 2009 | ISBN: 9780226657424
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226657448 | DOI:
Cacophony, Abstraction, and Potentiality: The Fate of the Dada Sound Poem

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The twentieth-century sound poem has been shrouded in contradiction and uncertainty from its very inception. The German poet émigré Hugo Ball, who first performed his own samples on June 23, 1916, is responsible for the sound poem's “historical” origin and definition. By June 18, Ball had worked out not only a new genre of acoustic poetry but a new theory of the image; one carried not by words but by phonemic rhythm and called by him a “grammalogue.” Ball left a vivid record of his famous first (and last) presentation of the Lautgedicht in which he recalls his mental and emotional transmogrification during the performance. Notwithstanding the factual uncertainty of his psychosomatically induced state, the condition described attunes accurately with Ball's general theories of primordial memory and the complex imbrications of the child and the irrational.

Keywords: sound poem; Hugo Ball; historical; grammalogue; Lautgedicht; transmogrification

Chapter.  4312 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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