Ur Sonata by Kurt Schwitter is a vocal composition of sounds that are not verbal; it is a nonsense language. It really had me reeling as I attempted to make sense of what I was hearing. As I listen I, want to qualify the modes of listing employed to reach any level of understanding with this work.
First, and most obviously, causal listening helped be understand I was listening to a man and a woman performing ‘some kind’ of performance work. That was easy enough to establish. Next I needed to have a deeper contextual understand of the meaning of what I was listening to.
As the parts switch back and forth between the male and female performer, it has the cadence and sounds that I find similar to that of speech in conversation. This bit of listening could be characterized as Semantic Listening. I am attempting to decipher what I believe to be language. Yet, as the performance continues, I am unable to understand this language, and I begin to question if this is in fact a formal language at all. It does not sound like any language I have ever heard in the past, despite these sounds seemingly being in conversation with each other.
Lastly, after moving beyond my attempt to identify the sounds as language, I began to listen to the quality of the sounds. This final bit of listening could be referred to as Reduced Listening. I am listening to the sounds themselves for this sonic properties. At this moment, I’m listening for some sort of emotional intonation from the sounds themselves. Ultimately, I have come to some bit of satisfactory understanding that I am listening to a whimsical conversation of nonsensical gibberish.