Update Project

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Update Project 

 Update: Kurt Schwitters' "Ursonate"

I chose to update the sound poem sonata by the Dada artist Kurt Schwitters entitled "Ursonate". Schwitters wrote a "score" for "Ursonate" using text instead of notes, with the combination and placement of letters on the page serving as a visual representation of the sound that is to be produced (See the score here). Schwitters, however, like any composer, wrote this phonetic score primarily as a means of preserving his sonata, which he had perfected over the course of many years. Letters, he wrote,  "give only a rather incomplete score of the spoken sonata." Instead, "listening to the sonata is better than reading it," for the piece is meant to be an abstraction of sound. Thus "Ursonate" in its original form was a public performance, which Schwitters eventually made a gramaphone recording of, "since it is not possible to give performances everywhere." (Hear Schwitters' original recording here.)

As a Dada artist, Schwitters rejected conventional human logic and structure. With "Ursonate" he sought to create a poem stripped of meaning. Instead, he created what he considered to be pure sound. There are no words in "Ursonate", and none of the phrases are meant to signify anything. In fact, the prefix "ur" in German connotes something primitive. Thus "Ursonate" roughly translates to "primitive sonata", suggesting sound from before it had formed into words and meaning.

For my update of "Ursonate" I copied Schwitters' original score into a German Text-to-Speech program (German to preserve the original pronunciation of the piece). Beyond having the program simply speak the text, I programmed in changes in speed and volume, as well as pauses in an attempt to follow both the structure and punctuation of the score as it was written as well as the minimal instructions that Schwitters included. My intent in updating "Ursonate" by having it "performed" by the Text-to-Speech program was to preserve the original form of the piece as a work of pure sound while using the digital technology to further remove this sound from any recognizable signification. While new media is of course far from primitive, my resulting "Ursonate" is even more primitive than the original in that it is now not only devoid of the meaning that words provide but devoid also of any meaning that might come across simply in the use of the human voice, which can in itself (though perhaps unintentionally) lend significance to any speech through tone and emotion. It seems it would be difficult or impossible to read the sonata without some attempt at finding meaning or without some comparison (either conscious or unconscious) of certain sounds to actual words. The update, then, uses technology to further Schwitters' original intent and to create a performance of pure abstract sound out of his textual score.   

mcm0750:Ursonate Update

I am also including the mcm0750:updated score, with the program instructions for the Text-to-Speech program added in.  



I used the GhostReader Text to Speech application 

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