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Why I Am The Author of Sound Poetry and Free Poetry
Henri Chopin, 1967
Pour Henri Chopin
It is impossible, one cannot continue with the allpowerful Word, the Word that reigns over all. One cannot continue to admit it to every house, and listen to it everywhere describe us and describe events, tell us how to vote, and whom we should obey.
I, personally, would perfer the chaos and disorder which each of us would strive to master, in terms of his own ingenuousness, to the order imposed by the Word which everybody uses indiscriminately, always for the benefit of a capitol, of a church, of a socialism, etc....
No one has ever tried to establish chaos as a system, or to let it come. Perhaps there would be more dead among the weak constitutions, but certainly there could be fewer than there are in that order which defends the Word, from the socialisms to the capitalisms. Undoubtedly there would be more alive beings and fewer dead beings, such as employees, bureaucrats, business and government executives, who are all dead and who forget the essential thing: to be alive.
The Word has created profit, it has justified work, it has made obligatory the confusion of occupation (to be doing something), it has permitted life to lie. The Word has become incarnate in the Vatican, on the rostrums of Peking, at the Elysee, and even if, often, it creates the inaccurate SIGNIFICATION, which signifies differently for each of us unless one accepts and obeys, if, often, it imposes multiple points of view which never adhere to the life of a single person and which one accepts by default, in what way can it be useful to us? I answer: in no way.
Because it is not useful that anyone should understand me, it is not useful that anyone should be able to order me to do this or that thing. It is not useful to have a cult that all can understand and that is there for all, it is not necessary that I should know myself to be imposed upon in my life by an all-powerful Word which was created for past epochs that will never return: that adequate to tribes, to small nations, to small ethnic groups which were disseminated around the globe into places whose origins escape us.
The Word today serves no one except to say to the grocer: give me a pound of lentils.
The Word is useful no more; it even becomes an enemy when a single man uses it as a divine word to speak of a problematic god or of a problematic dictator. The Word becomes the cancer of humanity when it vulgarizes itself to the point of impoverishment trying to make words for all, promises for all, which will not be kept, descriptions of life which will be either scholarly or literary which will take centuries to elaborate upon with no time left for life.
The Word is responsbile for the phallic death because it dominates the senses and the phallus which are submissive to it; it is responsible for the birth of the exasperated who serve verbose principles.
It is responsible for the general incomprehension of beings who succumb to murders, racisms, concentrations, the laws, etc.
In short, the Word is responsible because instead of making it a way of life we've made it an end. Prisoner of the Word is the child, and so he will be all his adult life.
But, without falling into anecdote, one can mention the names of some who insisted upon breaking the bonds imposed by the Word. If timid essays by Aristophanes showed that sound was indispensable- the sound imitative of an element or an animal then -that does not mean that it was sought after for its own sake. In that case, the sound uttered by the mouth was cut off, since it only came from an imagined and subordinated usage, when in fact it is the major element.
It will not be investigated for its importance in the sixteenth century either since it must be molded by musical polyphony. It will not be liberated by the Expressionists since they needed the support of syllables and letters as did the Futurists, Dadaists and Lettristes.
The buccal sound, the human sound, in fact, will come to meet us only around 1953, with Wolmann, Brau, Dufrene, and somewhat later with my audiopoems.
But why want these a-significant human sounds, without alphabet, without reference to an explicative clarity? Simply, I have implied it, the Word is incomprehensible and abusive, because it is in all the hands, rather in all the mouths, which are being given orders by a few mostly unauthorized voices.
The mimetic sound of man, the human sound, does not explain, it transmits emotions, it suggests exchanges, affective communications; it does not state precisely, it is precise. And I would say well that the act of love of a couple is precise, is voluntary, if it does not explain! What then is the function of the Word, which has the pretension to affirm that such and such a thing is clear? I defy that Word.
I accused it and I still accuse it as an impediment to living, it makes us lose the meager decades of our existence explaining ourselves to a so-called spiritual, political, social, or religious court. Through it we must render accounts to the entire world; we are dependent upon the mediocrities Sartre, Mauriac, De Gaulle. They own us in every area; we are slaves of rhetoric, prisoners of explanation that explains nothing. Nothing is yet explainable.
That is why a suggestive art which leaves the body, that resonator and that receptacle, animated, breathed and acted, that + and-, that is why a suggestive art was made; it had to come, and nourish, and in no way affirm. You will like this art, or you will not like it, that is of no importance! In spite of yourself it will embrace you, it will circulate in you. That is its role. It must open our effectors to our own biological, physical and mental potentialities beyond all intellect; art must be valued like a vegetable, it feeds us differently, that is all. And when it gets into you, it makes you want to embrace it. That way the Word is reduced to its proper role subordinate to life; it serves only to propose intelligible usages, elementary exchanges, but never will it canal the admirable powers of life, because this meager canaling, as I have implied, finally provokes usury in us through the absence of real life.
Let us not lose 4/5ths of intense life without Word to the benefit of the small l/5th of verbiage. Let us be frank and just. Let us know that the day is of oxygen, that the night eliminates our poisons, that the entire body breathes and that it is a wholeness, without the vanity of a Word that can reduce us.
I prefer the sun, I'm fond of the night, I'm fond of my noises and of my sounds, I admire the immense complex factory of a body, I'm fond of my glances that touch, of my ears that see, of my eyes that receive.... But I do not have to have the benediction of the written idea. I do not have to have my life derived from the intelligible. I do not want to bc subject to the true word which is forever misleading or Iying, I can stand no longer to be destroyed by the Lord, that lie that abolishes itself on paper.
Henri Chopin, explorer of the body’s voices.
For the last forty years, with his sound poetry revue OU (1964-1974), then through his participation in various international sound poetry festivals, through his personal experience in the experimental studios of radio stations in Köln, Paris, Australia, Canada or Sweden and in his concert/performances throughout Europe, Henri Chopin has consistently and unceasingly opened the ways to unexplored spaces beyond all known languages. Thanks to the systematic use of microphones, amplifiers, tape recorders, editing and mixing consoles, he has given a voice to realms beyond modern or experimental music, beyond any note system and headed for spaces without norms, categories, definitions or limits: spaces of permanent metamorphosis. But despite misleading appearances, Henri Chopin is not merely doing a new kind of music; he is not just a consequence of Pierre Schaeffer’s concrete music principles and Pierre Henry’s experiments in the fifties. Henri Chopin is an individual (in Stirner’s sense: the ego and its own) who has always resisted absurd attempts to reduce him to part of a movement, a school, an academism; what one perceives are Henry Chopin’s bio-psychical vibrations, that he himself constructed by electronically recording, then modifying, amplifying and transforming the energies of his own body. This language is beyond institutionalised language or indeed beyond any language, it precedes all idioms (sound signs, playful energy signs like those of whales and dolphins), it is a breath language, a soul language (the language of anima), the unfettered respiration of the cosmic energies we are, who belong neither to factions nor clans. The energy of live beings, whose individuality is irreducible, and impossible to break down. Solitary and strange cosmic creatures, mysterious yet showing solidarity, resonating with all those who dared breach shackles and rules, escape vile obedience, submission and compromise, reject complacency and blind allegiance to traditional or experimental academism. With Henri Chopin let go and bid farewell to all that: here’s a plunge into the unknown, an exploration of the inside of voice, of the other side of voice, a sort of submarine navigation, of potholing into the unmapped tunnels and grottoes of the glottis, oesophagus, stomach and lungs, the places where pneuma (breath) is formed. Henri Chopin uses electronic devices to explore the pneumatic body relentlessly, but never gives way to the temptation of artificially fiddling with noises. He remains a-live, energetic vibration of the pulsating, cosmic soul.
Incredible that this has been reissued again, at a slightly cheaper cost even! Miraculously over-the-top presentation of Henri Chopin's famous sound-poetry "magazine", issued on 4CDs (or 6 LPs -- a few copies of the original LP reissue box still available). "Since the end of the fifties, Henri Chopin, an explorer in the new recorded sound poetry field, has never ceased, through hid own work as well as through his publishing activities (Revue OU, a magazine with record from 1963 to 1974) to defend the electronic exploration of the voice and the body. If Henri Chopin's Revue OU is such a remarkable publication, then this is surely because it is one of the truly -- and most authentically -- 'contemporary' publications of its time. Yet at first sight, the word 'contemporary' seems to offer a rather simplistic description of such a visionary publication as Chopin's OU. When we consider in the general cultural context of the sixties, for example, aren't all mid-century art publications generally 'contemporary' in one way or another? And when considered in terms of most other poetry publications of the sixties, doesn't Chopin's OU clearly stand out as one of the most significant 'experimental' or 'avant-garde' publications of the mid-century? As Chopin observes, he considered the sound poetry published on the records in OU to be a distinctively 'new form of art'. On one hand sound poetry constitutes an almost archetypal practice, but on the other hand sound poetry also emerges from the very sources of recording technology by means of its use of electro-magnetics. As this collection of CDs (remastered under the supervision of Henri Chopin) reissuing the complete Revue OU records indicates, Chopin's most striking achievement was to consistently identify and publish the first major works of many of the most visionary transatlantic artists exploring the new recording technologies of the fifties, sixties and seventies. Far from attempting to establish any monodimensional 'movement', Chopin characteristically championed a wide veriety of those poets, writers and composers whom he perceived to be 'in movement', and whom he subsequently applauds as 'Fabulous Independents'. Following an editorial logic of selectively eclectic inclusion, Chopin's OU records published an astonishing diversity of inter-generational and international experiments. These include intense electronic readings by William Burroughs and Brion Gysin; pioneering optophonetic works by the Dadaist Raoul Hausmann; 'crirythmes' and vocalic improvisations by Fran�ois Dufrene and Gil J Wolman; fragmentary poemes-partitions by Bernard Heidsieck; high-tech text-sound works by composers such as Ake Hodell and Sten Hanson; electronic abstractions by Bengt Emil Johnson; phonetic poems by Mimmo Rotella; 'handy tech' performances on self-built electronic instruments by Hugh Davies; haunting tape-manipulations by Ladislav Novak; playful improvisations by Bob Cobbing with Anna Lockwood; dramatic monologues by Paul de Vree; electronic concrete music by Jacques Bekaert and -- of course -- Chopin's dynamic orchestrations of the body's 'factory' of corporeal sounds. Chopin's writings equally consistently championed the 'electronic language revolution' facilitated by what he describes as 'technological means which extend the human body', thereby inaugurating an enormous expansion of human expression. Many manifestos and theoretical texts, as well as original photos, have been published in a 76 page book. Also included are 30 fold-out black and white OU inserts reproducing the original scores of the audio works featured on the 4 CDs (by Chopin, Heidsieck, de Vree, Davies, Cobbing, Bekaert) as well as graphic works by John Cage, Tom Phillips, Arrigo Lora-Totino, Michel Seuphor, Ben Vautier, Stefan Themerson, Richard Orton, Pierre Albert-Birot."
Pour Henri Chopin
"My voice goes after
what mye eyes can't reach"
by d-b 4 january 2008
Henri Chopin?s name is barely known to most people, and yet he was a key figure in the French avant-garde of the fifties and sixties. His poesie sonore or sound poetry, using multi-layered vocals and tape recorder, went far beyond spoken-word, as the vocal component is stripped of language to fully experiment with the power of the voice. As poet, tape experimenter, painter, graphic artist, typographer, performance artist, broadcaster and film director, Chopin was a prolific artist, but in his roles as independent publisher and arts promoter he was also a tireless champion and focal point for other artists in the areas of sound poetry, text-sound, audio-poems and other avant-garde sound experiments. Chopin was born in Paris, France in 1922. He didn?t start recording until after he saw Isidore Isou?s film Traite de Bave dt d?Eternite in 1952, with the soundtrack of Francois Dufrene using his voice without words. Defrene was founder of the Ultraletterists, a poetry movement to abolish words in favor of linguistic noises, inspired by Antonin Artaud as well as the early dada movement. Inspired by Dufrene and the earlier Dadaist, Chopin began his own experiments with voice and tape by the mid-1950s, as well as to record some older sound poets, like Raoul Hausmann, one of the founders of the Berlin Dada of 1918. Chopin?s work pointed the way in which technology could re-define the early sound poetry, and open it up to even less reliance on language. Whereas the Dada sound poetry still relied on letters, Chopin often focused on the pure essence of sounds that the voice was capable of. At the same time he started to exhibit his artwork, among which were his typewriter poems that utilize typewritten letters to create visual images. Chopin decided to further promote contemporary sound poetry by publishing the 19-issue journal Cinquieme Saison from 1959 to 1963, and then the 13-issue magazine with phonograph record Ou Revue from 1964 to 1974. The Ou records showcased a broad spectrum of avant-garde artists from Europe and the United States, from the early Dadaists like Hausmann, to Ultraletterists like Dufrene, Swedish text-sound artists like Ake Hodell and Sten Hanson, and early work by Bob Cobbing, Brion Gyson, and William Burroughs, among others, as well as Chopin?s own work. In 1979 Jean-Michel Place in Paris published Chopin?s Poesie Sonore International, an extensive history of sound poetry accompanied by a two-cassette anthology. In 1968 Chopin relocated from Paris to London, and the next year Tangent Records in London released his LP Audiopoems. Whereas earlier Chopin used tape recorders in his own studio, by the 1970s he was recording in some of the best studios in Europe, including Atelier de Création at Radio France, the Fylkingen Studio in Stockholm, and the WDR Studio in Cologne. Another LP, Poesie Sonore, came out on the Igloo-Carmel label in Brussels in 1983. Chopin moved back to Paris in the late 80s. Since the mid-90s, much more of Chopin?s work has been released by various labels as more people have become aware of the groundbreaking work of this avant-garde artist, bridging the gap from the Dadaists of the World War One era to the experimental electronic artists of contemporary times. ~ Rolf Semprebon, All Music Guide