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British composers collaborate on a reworking of the classic piece of concrete poetry

Ursonate was first performed by German artist Kurt Schwitters in Potsdam, 1925. It became a regular and well-known performance for the dadaist, undergoing several adaptations over the years.

In 2012 composer and filmmaker Adam de la Cour was invited to perform Schwitters’s poem at IKON Gallery, Birmingham, as part of The Voice And The Lens festival. Although the piece is written for a soloist, de la Cour invited composer and fellow squib-box founder Neil Luck to develop a duet version. The artists explain the mechanics of their performance in the statement below:

“In this reading of Ursonate the mechanisms of speech production are bluntly, clumsily decoupled. Neil provides the lungs, larynx and vocal folds, improvising on an ACME mallard call resonating through, and distorted by, six feet of industrial plastic tubing. At the opposite end of the pipe, Adam provides the ‘articulators’, struggling to filter this raw sound into Schwitters’s text via his mouth, tongue, teeth, and lips. No electronic processing is used beyond basic amplification at Adam’s end of the tract.”

Neil Luck was interviewed in The Wire 414. Subscribers can access the full article via the online archive.