Wassily Kandinsky (1886-1944)




Sound poem, included in the book A Slap in the Face of Public Taste [Poshchechina obshchestvennomu vkusu], 1912, and in the album Klange, Germany 1913, 1'26"
Voice – Ernest Peshkov
Recording – Miguel Molina, Audio Laboratory of the UPV Opt. of Sculpture Valencia, Spain
Production Date – 2006

Wassily Wassilyevich Kandinsky (b. Moscow 1886 - d. Neuilly-sur-Seine/France 1944) was a painter, educator and writer; a key 20th century artist and creator of the German group Der Blaue Reiter [The Blue Rider] (1911) which promoted "the spiritual and abstraction in art". He was also the founder of various educational bodies in post-revolutionary Russia, such as the INKhUK (Institute for Artistic Culture, 1919) and the Russian Academy of Artistic Sciences (1921). He taught in various avant-garde schools, such as Vkhutemas (Moscow 1918). After emigrating from Russia - he was considered a "bourgeois innovator" because of his "spiritual, harmonic and picturesque deformations" - he was invited by Walter Gropius in 1921 to teach at the Bauhaus (Weimar, Dessau and Berlin) where he stayed until 1933 when the school was closed by the Nazis. Kandinsky had always been interested in a synaesthesic relationship between the arts, particularly between music and painting and maintained a long friendship through correspondence with the composer Arnold Schoenberg; both found "dissonance" a common link between their painting and music, and considered this dissonance the "consonance of tomorrow". Kandinsky did a lot of pictorial work related to music, and also wrote a drama, Der Glebe Klang [The Yellow Sound] (1912) with music by Thomas de Hartmann, and a collection of poems and woodcuts made between 1908 and 1912, published under the title Klange [Sounds] (1913), an illustrated album of 38 of his prose poems accompanied by 56 woodcuts. These poems and illustrations are an experiment with word-sound-image, where the poems are stripped of "semantic meaning", freeing the word in favour of the sonority of the human voice, abstracting it: "Without being darkened by the word, by the meaning of the word". As for the relationship between the text and the illustrations, there is not a conventional relationship of parallelism but rather a free abstract game of feedback: the poem as image and the image as poem. The poem included on this CD is called To See, and aims to create abstract verbal images in the listener. It was first published in Russia in the futurist anthology A Slap in the Face of Public Taste (1912) which, under the same title, included the first controversial manifesto of the start of cubo-futurism. This poem by Kandinsky was included without asking his permission and he was also mentioned as an "occasional member of our group", something which annoyed him greatly and led him to write a letter of protest to the newspaper Russkow Slovo in which he said "I warmly condone every honest attempt at artistic creativity, but under no circumstance do I consider permissible the tone in which the prospectus was written. I condemn this tone categorically, no matter whose it is". Later, the poem, along with others from the same collection, and the woodcuts, were edited in Germany under the generic title Klange [Sounds] (1913). The poems in this collection were first recited at the evenings at the Cabaret Voltaire (Zurich, 1916) where the Dadaist poet and sculptor Hans Arp commented with regard to Sounds: "In these poems Kandinsky has undertaken the most unusual spiritual attempts. From 'pure being' he has evoked beauties never before heard in this world. In these poems there are successions of words and phrases that until now had never been produced in poetry... it places the reader in front of a verbal image that grows and dies, a succession of words that grow and die, a dream that grows and dies. In these poems we experience the cycle of life and death, the transformation of this world". The version chosen for this recording is the first edition of this poem in Russian,
published in 1912.


RELATED RESOURCES:
Russian Futurists from the GLM Collection (1920-1959)
Sound Experiments in The Russian Avant-Garde (1908-1942)