Monday, June 7, 2010

V/A - The Pioneers: Five Text-Sound Artists (Phono Suecia, 1992)

Try as I might to contextualize text-sound composition, I get caught in a domino chain of chicken-egg scenarios that begin with sound poetry and musique concrète and end around Futurism, Dada, and the Lettrists. Factor in my limited knowledge of any of the above and the result more like a dizzying walk around the peak of a mountain. Tape music genealogy aside, its key features are clear. Johannes Bergmark, in his excellent and illuminating chapter from Aural Literature Criticism (RK editions, New York 1981), identifies text-sound composition as featuring:
(1) The use of non-semantic oral language information.

(2) Time manipulation.

(3) Polyphony.

While those elements conjure a clear line to sound poetry, the execution and overall soundspace share more similarities with other tape music realms. Thumb through a backlog of Revue Ou or past Text-Sound Festival lineups and there is no doubt of rampant cross-pollination.

Text-sound in its preliminary rounds was a largely Swedish phenomenon. The Pioneers hones in on the five key practioners: Lars-Gunnar Bodin, Sten Hanson, Åke Hodell, Bengt Emil Johnson, Ilmar Laaban. Brought together their works display the full scope of text-sound; taken individually it is clear how many ways those main elements may manifest themselves. Hanson and Laaban's works here are focused most on language and its transformation into linguistic shrapnel. Their approaches are best distinguished by how they incorporate tape: for Hanson, tape unlocks the time line, phrases stretch, repeat ad infinitum, and crumble; Laaban turns tape into a pupil-dilated chorus. With Hodell, Johnson, and Bodin, voice and tape divide their interests. It's not uncommon with any of their works to briefly lose sight of any semblance of language, only to have it reemerge, having formed the backbone all along.

Pioneers disc 1 [rs]
Pioneers disc 2 [rs]
Pioneers 1&2 [mu]


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  2. Wow! This one slipped under my radar. Excellent throughout. Keep up the good work.

  3. RIP Bengt Emil Johnson - July 14th, 2010