2009 piscu on 30 callings

christian ide hintze: 30 rufe / 30 callings. cd.
acoustic poems. 30 tracks, 56 minutes
extraplatte ex 162 cd. vienna 1992

denisa mirena piscu:
letters, shouted consonants and vowels, loops and spoken sounds – the new poetical material
(discussion of the cd with special empasis on the poems "wosisog", "lahmwedi", "wien" & "huizzi")

hintze works by recording the vocal sounds to which he subsequently adds various effects, structuring them on a four-track cassette – which means he starts recording one track, for example with his own voice, then another track – either with his own voice again, or with a sound produced by an instrument or a synthesizer; he proceeds in the same manner with the other two tracks left. the result is that he is able to render simultaneously the recording of all the sounds on all the four tracks. instead of the simultaneous use of different voices and instruments – which would have been possible to record on a single track – he introduces the consecutive recordings of the same voice on four parallel tracks, reproducing their overlapped sounds simultaneously. it is the manipulation of time that chopin first discovered.

he uses electronic devices and techniques of speech processing in order to analyze the multiple shapes that language can take. among these: loops (repetitive sequences), sampling (extracting a certain sound from the recording in order to re-use it), editing (working on the structure of the recording), using synthesizers (machine-created sounds vs. sounds produced by the human being), cutting (extracting or eliminating a certain part of the recording), overlapping (partially superposing of some sounds) etc.

30 rufe and 30 methods of using the human voice

language and the new computer codes are the two main concepts which dominate his artistic interests. if he defines poetry as something which “should be connected to language and have an artistic ambition”, language, on the other hand, means above all, “using the human voice”. the album “30 rufe”, released in 1992, which would translate as “30 callings”, shows “30 different methods of using the human voice".

ide’s intention is to present a certain variety, to explore what you can do with the voice, from spoken to sung, on a four-track cassette recorder. it goes from just speaking - with one or two voices, with or without chorus – to singing consonants and vowels. a rhythmic pattern is triggered from the rhythm of spoken language; sometimes, this pattern is underlined by a drum beat and some of the pieces – such as "wind" or "purpurgras" – were recorded in the studio with a musician playing the bongo. however, ide’s emphasize is that not even the musician plays it in a musical way, he rather tries to “speak it”, as if the instrument was speaking, and not playing.
“30 rufe” is not only a collection of pieces; it must be regarded as a whole piece, with a certain composition, in the center of which there is always the human voice, uttering semantic language or very close to semantic. the cover of the album includes the texts of all the pieces, in german. if the semantic concept of the album is the calling, the acoustic concept is the human voice.

the ambition of the author is that it should work as written poetry, when the poems are just read, and work as acoustic poetry, as well, when they are just listened to. getting both levels of understanding offers the receiver another dimension, of course. “a good poetry is when the author succeeds to compose language in a manner that there are more levels at the same time, this is the great art of poetry. and in sound, you have the possibilities to work with more meanings at the same time”. for ide, that is the very difference between poetry and dictatorship, in fact: the situation when the poet opens up the meanings for the audience, as opposed to the author’s attempt to control everything.

the album includes 30 pieces, composed and performed between 1985 and 1992, which are a combination of voice - single or in chorus - and drum computer, keyboard samples, synthesizer. the lyrics on the cover of the album are accompanied by information regarding the compositional method.  the composition is also based on assonance, consonance, repetition, permutation and motifs.  

the riddle of understanding beyond the semantic language

the poem "wosisog" (listen to the annexed cd), created in 1985, is a voice-voice-chorus poem using asemantic language - not really meaningful, but still containing some plays on (fragments of) words; in this sense the title is a mixture of semantic fragments which can be read as “what i said?” technically, the poem was recorded on a four-track cassette – its composition started with one voice on one track, a second voice was added on a second track and, later on, the chorus was also introduced. the composition is very structured, in quite a classical manner, based on the repetition of the same principle, in a crescendo. the first phrase is repeated with a slight variation, the third phrase applies the same principle, with another variation, and so on; in between the five sections of the poem, the disguised rhetorical question “wosisog” runs like a refrain. it is interesting to notice where this variation comes from: ide is playing on words creating verbs (which he pretends to be conjugating, in the context) from nouns which don’t even exist as such: huach-huachln, bod-bodn, gluppn-glopfn etc. he pretends to be meaningful, while assuming he is not so.
the main point in this poem is the intonation. the rhythm of the poem creates a very viennese melody; the language that the artist drew on is the popular austrian language, the speakers of which could probably understand some of the lines as: what a plague / every day / what i say. the name of hitler also occurs at one time.

for a non-speaker of austrian or german, on the other hand, who doesn’t have access to the (partly) semantic language, the poem is suggestive due to the very discrepancy between the serious tone of the voice and the meaningless sentences it utters. it is as if someone was pretending to give a speech, or deliver a lecture, or simply tell a story, in a language that he is aware his listeners don’t have access to. but his rhetoric skills prevail over the content of the message: he makes all the necessary brakes, he has a very rhythmical speech; when he enumerates various things, towards the end of each of the five sections, he tells it in one breath; and not only this, but he is supported by the chorus at once. so, by taking himself seriously, he is able to convince the public of his truth. the line wosisog is repeated like a riddle used in order to test the ability of the audience to go deeper into the deconstructed semantics of the poem.

there is an obvious irony in "wosisog", coming from both the intonation and the presence of the chorus, specific to the greek tragedies (with its role of questioning and answering); in this context, the chorus is only imitating the meaningless speech of the main character, emphasizing the absurd situation and playing the role of a speaking trumpet for him. the later also reminds of a harlequin from commedia dell’ arte, asking serious questions in a seemingly mock circumstance.

ide hintze is not really concerned with the different approaches that an austrian and a foreigner could have towards this poem, for example. he says it was basically composed for listeners of all languages, and the inhabitants of vienna will be able to have another dimension as well. but he is glad to be able to use language as the old egyptian priests, who were sending different messages to different social categories, at the same time, using the same wording. “because our usage of language is never one-dimensional, so, as poets, we can work with that” (1). 

speaking of the multiple dimensions of a sound poem, it is worth having a closer look at "lahmwedi" 1986-92 (listen to the annexed cd). besides the acoustic achievement of the poem which consists of various computer processed voices and a chorus reciting consonants and vowels (one of these voices even resembling to the voice of a person having speech difficulties), the poem also has the signification of a political comment. the uttered sounds are, in fact, correspondent to the eight letters of the name (kurt) waldheim, president of austria between 1986 and 1992, former secretary-general of the united nations and subject of the international controversy “waldheim affair”, in which he was accused of having hidden the truth about his former experience as a wehrmacht intelligence officer during world war ii. the whole poem is made of permutations of these eight letters and the name of the piece, “lahmwedi”, is, in fact, an anagram of “waldheim”; moreover, this title consists of two words, “lahm”, which means “weak” in german, and “wedi”, which has the approximate sense of “worthless” in austrian. the author’s attitude of disappointment and disregard is thus obvious both in content (the ironical allusions to the “weak and worthless” character of the diplomat) and in form (the handicapped voice uttering the “w w-w / w w-w” at the end of the poem).

global creole poetry – the melting pot of literature quotations, common phrases and different languages

another poem partially loaded with meaning is "wien" (listen to the annexed cd), the longest poem on the album (6’37”), which has a different acoustical structure – in the sense that it involves more than just the human voice. the background of the poem sounds very musical due to the low rhythmical sound produced by the keyboard, to which a synthesized drum beat is added (and, later on, a violin sample and two chorus samples). ide’s voice is heard uttering “in wien” (“in vienna”) several times, after which he just pronounces separately the sounds of this word. the interesting thing is that the vowels and consonants are no longer uttered, but shouted; the pronunciation is now on the merge between speaking and singing.

the vowels & consonants lyrics are followed by an enumeration of language names such as: slavic, hungarian, jewish, gypsy etc., with reference to the languages which have influenced the austrian dialect in vienna. the poem continues with a quoting from a regulation regarding pupils access in a library, on the same rhythmical background; it will soon resume the first part of the poem, with the diluted uttering of “in wien” and the enumeration of the linguistic influences. towards the end of the piece, the human voice, which is now computer processed, is also quoting some lines from ide hintze’s poem “the golden flood”.

both the reference to the austrian mother tongue being the consequence of various linguistic influences, and the mixing of words from the range of formal, lyrical and colloquival styles (not to mention the dissolution of the words in "wien" to simple phonemes), support ide’s efforts to achieve the perfect universal language: "i like to promote the idea of a global creole poetry / language / communication, a poetry / language / communication which is based on all the tongues we know - not only the one we consider being  our national tongue” (2).

the "pure joyful nonsense" of creating sound poetry

the sound poem "huizzi" (listen to the annexed cd), which is a piece for three voices and two choruses, has no semantic meaning and represents, according to ide, “pure joyful nonsense”. the sounding of the group of consonants and vowels may be alpine, in the broader sense of the word (typical for the languages in the alps area: austrian, swiss, bavarian, slovenian or italian), but besides this, the author’s intention was just to find a “playful way of creating a rhythm like a beat".

the most interesting thing about its structure is the rhythmical pattern, which is the atypical 9-4 meter (the common rhythm would be either 4-4 or 8-4), and because of this, ide confesses to have failed in reproducing this poem some years later. another interesting thing is the score which accompanies the poem, designed like a table with five columns – correspondent to the three voices and two choruses - and eight (double) rows, which mark the eight sections of the poem. the score was made after the recording of the poem and the sounds were transcribed in the ipa – international phonetic alphabet.

(1) recorded interview with christian ide hintze, 27th of november, 2008, vienna
(2) answers to a questionnaire on sound poetry, titled “global creole perspective”, sent to me by email on june 25, 2008

(denisa mirena piscu: letters, shouted consonants and vowels, loops and spoken sounds – the new poetical material, in: sound poetry - three poets trying to escape the abusive domination of word: henri chopin, sainkho namtchylak, christian ide hintze. master thesis (lucrare de disertatie). university of bucuresti. bucuresti, romania 2009)