Pierre Albert-Birot

1. Poèmes à deux voix / Métro / Balalaika (1916-19) [MP3]

2. Poèmes Promethée / Crayon bleu (1918) [MP3]

3. Poèmes à crier et à danser / Chant 1 / L' Avion / Chant III (1916-19) [MP3] [[ view the score ]]

Performed by Trio Exvoco:
Hanna Aurbacher, Teophil Maier, Ewald Liska
from the LP Futura Poesia Sonora (Cramps Records, Milan)


Pierre Albert-Birot est une sorte de pyrogène
Si vous voulez enflammer des allumettes
Frottez-les donc sur lui
Elles ont des chances de prendre
Trop peu de pyrogènes aujourd'hui
Mais Je ne dis rien des allumettes

is the first verse of the"Poèmepréfaceprophétie" that Apollinaire wrote for the first collection of poems - "Trente et un poèmes de poche" - published by Albert-Birot, in 1917. A year before, in January 1916, Pab, as his friends called him, had founded the monthly magazine "Sic". The 54 numbers published between 1916 and 1919 played an important role in the history of literature, and not only French literature. Though lacking a precise tendency, being situated at the crossroads between futurism, cladaism and surrealism, "Sic" published the first texts of Phillipe Soupault and Raymond Radiguet; the Italian futurists were well represented, as also Apollinaire, Reverdy, Drieu La Rochelle, Paul Dermée, Pérez-Jorba, Tzara, Aragon, with illustrations by Severini, Balla, Prampolini, Depero, Leopold Survage, Zadkine.

Nearly all the texts chosen to be recited by the "Trio Exvoco" of Stuttgart were published in "Sic". As his titles, "Poèmes à crier et à danser" and "Poèmes à deux voix", suggest, Albert-Birot's poetry was very akin to that of the futurists and in particular to the abstract verbalizations of Balla and Depero. This is evident also from the graphic point of view in "Poèmes à crier et à danser", "Chant I", "L'avion" and "Chant 3".

"Chant I" has a significant sub-title: "Essay in Pure Poetry", which corresponds perfectly. to futurist abstract poetry. "Metro", Batalatka", " Crayon Neu" an Poeme Promethée" introduce an extremely interesting research: the simultaneity of several voices and themes. Here Albert-Birot continued the illustrious experiment of Mallarmé's "Un coup de dés jamais n'abolira le hasard" (1897), that "mise en scene spirituelle exacte" to "accélerer tantôt et ralentir le mouvement, le scandant pour qui veut lire à haut voix, unc partition". It will be said that this corresponds to the technique of graphic impagination of the futurist words at liberty. ExactIly, here lies Marinetti's source. But the polyhonic experiment in poetry had its origin in France: Mallarmé, Henri-Martin Barzun, Albert-Birot. It is necessary, at this point, to mention the work of Barzun, never yet studied, which we consider of great importance for its influence on the most important schools of avant-garde poetry; Italian futurism, German expressionism, Anglo-Saxon imagism, dadaism. Barzun was one of the founders of the Abbaye de Créteil. In 1907 he published "La Terrestre Tragedie", a poem in 24 cantos, inspired by Victor Hugo's 'Legende des Siècles". "La Terrestre Tragédie" is the human species, and the song that it expresses does not converge towards an unanimism à la Jules Romains, but towards a simultaneism which is a powerful orchestral chorus. He called this concept "Orphisme". The Orphic school gave rise to a group of authors towards 1912: Fernand Divoire, Sébastien Voirol, Maurice Bataille, R. Aldington, Guillaume Apollinaire, Nicolas Beauduin, Robert de Souza, Georges Polti and others. Between 1912 and 1914 he published twelve 11 collections of the anthology "Poème et Drame" , with critical essays, prose, dramas, poems in the form of "Voix, Rythmes et Chants Simultanés". In 1913 he also published the epic "Universet-Poèmte" in the magazine "La Vie".

Barzun made use of many voices simultaneously and also foresaw the use of a gramophone. He engaged in a controversy with Apollinaire and Ezra Pound, who held that the human ear could not apprehend several voices in unison. But, as Van Doesburg later foresaw, this difficulty could be overcome by an adequate training of the ear. Accustomed to listening to radio, television, and film sound-tracks, we are now better able to apprehend simultaneous messages. Towards 1923 Barzun moved to the U.S.A. where he founded a school which influenced, among others, Ezra Pound, Amy Lowell and Paul Anderson. Today many authors have followed Barzun's suggestion and produce polyphonic poetry: Bernard Heidsieck, Franz Mon, Ferdinand kriwet, Arrigo Lora-Totino.

Born at Angoulôme in 1876, Pierre Albert-Birot moved with his mother to Paris in 1894, where he attended an art school and got to know Gustave Moreau. To earn a living he worked for over fifty years as a restorer for Madame Lelong, antique dealer. He painted the façades of houses in the styles of the frescos of Puvis de Chavannes. In 1913 he met Germaine de SurVille, a musician, who became his companion, and suddenly changed his style of painting and started to write. In 1916 he founded the magazine "Sic" and met Gino Severini and, later, Apollinaire, who wrote the preface to his first volume of poems, "Trente et un Poèmes de Poche" (Sic, 1917).

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