Kurt Schwitter’s – Ur Sonata … Micheal Importico

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.

-michael importico

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One thought on “Kurt Schwitter’s – Ur Sonata … Micheal Importico

  1. Somewhat related, though a few decades later and growing out of a different tradition: one of my favorite composers, Luciano Berio, did a lot with voice (his ex-wife was a famous vocalist, Cathy Berberian).


    Also lots of other wild things in the 1960s.

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