2009 piscu on [ampf]

christian ide hintze: [ampf]. cd. notes, poems, sequences & songs.
76 tracks, 74 minutes.
extraplatte ex 462-2. isbn: 3-221-14622-1. vienna 2000.

denisa mirena piscu:
the "pure joyful nonsense” of creating sound poetry
(discussion of the cd with special empasis on the poems "ss nila" (track 12), "gra:" (18), "da'ka" (38), "po΄әtik revә΄lu:ʃәn" (43),  "pu:r o  pup u" (44) & "ai ΄subi da" (58)

(...) it is not only graphemes and phonemes – remains of the word – that ide’s poems consist of. he is not only interested in language as such, language as a finite product, but also in all the additional processes that create it: “i was always wondering where language comes from? it is not only through the brains, we have to breath, there is the rhythm of the heart beat beneath; as chopin says, the whole body – flesh, skin etc. is also producing sounds… the question is: is this language?” (1) for ide, in any case, language means, first of all, “using the human voice” (2) – and not necessarily transmitting concepts.

in this sense, the album "[ampf]" (2000) is more radical than "30 rufe", as the semantic meaning is eliminated almost totally. it is a matter of course: “m e a n i n g   within a literal culture is mostly seen as  l i t e r a r y   m e a n i n g , meaning  that derives from standardized grammar, syntax and semantics within a written context. sound – especially spoken sound, verbal sound, language-related body sound
creates or represents meaning by itself, a  m e a n i n g  that sometimes even contradicts the  m e a n i n g  of its literal translation” (3). it includes 76 pieces structured into the following categories: "intro", "1voicepoems", "vocal notes", "dialogues & loops", "duets & trios", "class works", "coda". ide signs the “lyrics & music, graphems & phonems”. the “intro” shows two examples from each of the above mentioned categories.

the 1voicepoems – the only category which includes the word “poem” – consists of only one, pure voice, without any additional audio effects, and, according to ide, all the pieces in this section have been composed with the intention to create something (as different from the vocal notes, for example), which “happened accidentally” – so we can speak of premeditated artistic intention, in this case, which makes them “poems”. 

for creating the poem no. 12, "ss nila", "recorded at orf-studios, vienna" (listen to the annexed cd), ide went to the studio and produced some sounds in front of the microphone – consonants and vowels. afterwards, he picked some of these sounds and computed them. according to him, the interesting thing is only the composition method: introducing a phrase and repeating it, adding or leaving something out, repeating again. what i also find interesting is the material he uses for this composition, namely the following consonants and vowels: the voiceless palato-alveolar sibilant [ʃ], the close back rounded vowel [u], the sonant lateral alveolar [l] – which are repeated several times. the group [ss nila], which gives the title of the poem, includes the voiceless post-alveolar sibilant [s], the nasal alveolar [n], the very short close front vowel [i], again the liquid [l], and a short uttering of the near-front open vowel [a]. two other sounds that are introduced in the second part of the poem are the close central vowel [ɨ], uttered together with the vibrating alveolar consonant [ɹ].what these speech sounds have in common is: the place of articulation (the speech organs that are involved) - alveolar (tongue against the gum ridge) for all the consonants involved; moreover, three out of the four vowels used are close, which means the tongue has an upper position as well. almost all the consonants are voiced - [ɹ], [l], [n] – so the vocal cords are vibrating when uttered; the other two consonants, [s] and [ʃ], are voiceless, but they are fricative sibilants, meaning that they force the air out through a narrow channel and the tongue directs it over the edge of the teeth.

the group of sounds [ll u l] and [ss nila] compose the “body” of the poem, while the sounds [ʃ] and [ɨɹ] are rather functioning like refrains. they all give the impression of a dialogue in an asiatic language, with short, explosive words and firm gestures. moreover, due to the alveolar [l], which sounds like a short blow, and to the fricative [ʃ], always uttered alone, reminding of a fast karate move, they create the image of an elegant battle between two samurais, with precise moves and beautiful, dangerous gestures. 

in the poem called "gra:", "live performance" (no. 18) (listen to the annexed cd), ide is just playing with the sounds focusing on the “gra:” group, pretending to be telling something; he starts his 1voicepoem in a serious, even solemn, pronunciation, for the first 27 seconds, when a laughter is heard from the audience; ide continues his play on inexistent words, even feigning to be shouting at somebody, which causes new laughter. the fact that these reactions of the public are part of the poem, shows that ide’s aim is rather to give a proof of this meeting, than to convey a certain lecture. he admits acting a part, he is not interested in fooling the audience, neither is he concerned only with entertaining it, he just makes a show out of the basic structures of language, for us to witness. laughter means, in fact, communication, so he succeeds in achieving his most precious aim.

the voice as a composer on its own

as different from the 1voicepoems, the vocal notes were registered, according to ide, with no specific intention to create anything. there are some pieces which he recorded in various environments and only after that, when he listened to it, he decided to make a composition: select some pieces which have an interesting flow, a certain formal structure. there are pieces which “happened accidentally, and i wanted to document it, because you wouldn’t be able to compose it. things happen, so your voice is more a composer than you, yourself, so to say. it is interesting to look at it closer, like a researcher, to see what kinds of vocal sound structures are possible, all the repetitions, all the ups and downs, the breaks in between…”  (4).

still, ide is not only interested in eluding the meaning and focusing on the liberty offered by the beauty of the sound itself, he is also researching what happened with the phonemes of the words, after they have been given (back) this freedom. he follows them in different environments such as the metro, the forest with birds, the streets of vienna, the church, the public toilet etc. he is not only anxious about the "sounds" alone (may them be human, animal or just mechanic), but he tries to recreate some "sound-situations" of the daily life, as well, whether he admits it or not.   

the "vocal notes" section on the "[ampf]" cd is made up of 22 poems, between 16 and 45 seconds long, each of them marked by two titles: the first one, a group of sounds (in ipa translation) such as: "yi"; "a:΄um ge keate"; "΄jaja o ma:m"; followed by a second descriptive title such as: "walking a pavement", "at the entrance hall of a big building", "crossing a highway" etc. 

the vocal note number 38, "da΄ka", "in front of a television set" (listen to the annexed cd), shows ide’s voice seemingly shouting something at somebody outside the room, where he is sitting in front of a tv. the noise of some movie or a show on television is to be heard on the background all the time. it might even be a (feminine) name that he is shouting, “da΄ka”, asking for something and being displeased with the other person’s indifference. he seems increasingly angry / indignant at this reaction, which is showed in the irritated intonation of his voice, towards the end. the last “phrase” of the 19 seconds long vocal note is, in fact, the reply of a woman character in the movie which is on tv at that very moment, as if she was answering to him and defending herself. if interpreted this way, the poem speaks about domestic life, couple relationships, daily habits, dependence upon each other, (un)shared moments, (lack of) understanding.    

not really language, but intonation makes the essence of the poems, in fact. he pretends to be speaking a language that we all understand – if we are taken in by the intonation he uses – but, at a closer look, there’s nothing there, nothing to be really understood. and by discovering this, we are determined to ask ourselves – what do we usually speak of, what is it worth speaking about, what is the best way of expressing a certain feeling. because, in spite of the fact that we don’t have “meaningful language”, we do have feelings, situations, even a kind of narrative which can be imagined from the intonation of a certain sound poem.

the dialogues as matryoshka dolls

the section "dialogues & loops" is made up of 15 pieces ranging from samples of conversations (usually with important artists, such as allen ginsberg, falco, henri chopin, friederike mayröcker, emil siemeister), to vocal samples in a loop. according to ide, these are works that were conceived as such, they did not happen accidentally.
it is interesting to notice the difference between a poem such as no. 43, "po΄әtik revә΄lu:ʃәn", "from a dialogue with allen ginsberg" (listen to the annexed cd), and no. 44, “pu:r o  pup u",  "from a dialogue with herni chopin”. the former one starts with ide’s voice, in a loop, uttering fragments of a phrase which is finally re-composed as “i had always this feeling that i should talk to you, but i never knew what about or how to start”. ginsberg’s answer comes promptly: “well, one subject between us is this sense of messianic poetic revolution”. ide: “we were talking about that ten years…”. ginsberg resumes the conversation: “we both have ideas about it, but i think your ideas and my ideas are different. but one thing i would advise is… since you seem to think about accomplishing something, and if you listen to what i say about it, instead… i got some practical tips on it”. the dialogue continues: “you got?” “yeah!” “i would like… because ten years ago you rejected the idea completely…” “no, because… it’s so heavy-handed that it was just a…”.

the reason why i quoted the entire dialogue here is that it is so substantial as compared to the other pieces: it seems that ide’s aim was rather to present the content of this conversation; he is no longer interested so much in what it sounds like, but in what it speaks about. the recording is not as “jammed” as the others, the dialogue is not so much broken up, the focus is no longer on voice, speech, language, intonation or accent, but in the historical exchange of views that took place. information prevails over sound and the poem is thus semantically loaded.  (it’s interesting to notice that there is another “dialogue & loop” with allen ginsberg on the same album, which approaches small topics such as sleeping with women and a massage device).

"pu:r o  pup u", "from a dialogue with herni chopin" (listen to the annexed cd), on the other hand, despite being almost twice as long, doesn’t really say anything about either the content of the conversation, or the context in which it occurred; its eloquence comes from the sound structure: the constant pulsating rhythm created by the “pu:r” loop; the suggestive accent of henri chopin, speaking in french, as opposed to ide’s voice, addressing him in english; the overlapping of two fragments of conversation, in some parts of the poem, with the background voice of chopin objecting to something with an emphasized “no, no, no, no, no…”. in this respect, ide makes a perfect correspondence of each of these poems to the art created by the personality on which it is focused: a "beat poem" vs. a "poem sonor".

apart from the dialogues with important artists and writers, which served him as a starting point for the sound poems in this section, ide also has some "looped & sequenced vocal samples", which don’t have any additional historical importance, but are valuable in themselves, for the sake of the sound, exclusively. we can even listen to a dialogue with a chair – no. 48: "kvi:tʃ", "from a dialogue with a chair" or to 49: "'e:mu:", "looped samples: snoring". 

all the dialogues, due to the loop technique, are like matryoshka dolls (only not decreasing in size, but irregular), based on sound structures framed in each other: fragments of words mixed with body sounds – coughing, snoring, clearing one’s voice etc. – diluted sounds of voice, electronic sounds produced by the synthesizer. the loop creates a certain rhythm that gives the suggestion of a musical pattern, a musicality previously created in the "30 rufe" album by the consonants and vowels being sung and not spoken.   

the "duets & trios" are a variation of the "dialogues & loops" but, much like the "vocal notes", different from the former, they were not “planned”, they just “happened”.
an interesting duet is no. 58, "ai ΄subi da", "with a broken water tube" (listen to the annexed cd),  ide’s voice is accompanying the heart-rending sound of the broken tube in an attempt to follow its acoustic flow. the voice of the human being is overlapped on the squeak of the device; there are no more silent intervals, they perform together, at the same time. the irony of the poem comes from the author’s intention to confer human features to the water tube. because the broken device is only able to produce a long pathetic creak, seemingly striving to survive, ide is also forced to perform a shrill dramatic cry, trying to keep the same “frame of mind” with the home appliance, during the 1’15” long piece. 

the whole album is a dialogue between ide, as an author (of "1voicepoems" and "dialogues & loops") and “the voice” as an author (of "vocal notes" and "duets & trios"). the "class works" and the "coda" have more than these two authors -  the former section includes the results of some workshops in which ide taught sound poetry, while the latter is a song made with his baby son, who was only some months old. (...)

what he does here, in "[ampf]", is to create a show of the multiple dimensions of the human voice and, consequently, the show of a new language and a new poetry. whether intended or not, sometimes, the pieces he plainly admits to have particularly conceived for the beauty of the sounds, acquire meaning in themselves. it is as if they were taking control upon their own lives, once they have been given birth. “there’s always an idea or a message, so to say, but not something you can verbalize, i guess, and this is the great chance that you have, with this kind of poetry. (…) you have to open up, you have to see or feel that there is something within your body that understands it” (5). what ide aims at is the poetry to be perceived not only with the brain, but also with the whole body; the "sensorial poetry", capable of achieving the "communication monopoly” he had long pined for.

(1) recorded interview with christian ide hintze, 27th of november, 2008, vienna
(2) idem
(3) idem
(4) idem
(5) idem

(denisa mirena piscu in: the "pure joyful nonsense” of creating sound poetry, 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)