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sound poem

View artwork created with this technique
listen Listen to sound poems Ursonate (840k) by Kurt Schwitters and fmsbw (204k) by Raoul Hausmann. -Courtesy Sub Rosa Records.

The German artist and poet Hugo Ball's final performance at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich marked the beginning of a new genre variously known as sound poems, poems without words, or abstract poems. To construct them language is broken down into its abstract parts (syllables and individual letters) and then reconfigured as meaningless sounds. Simultaneous poems—poems in which multiple languages are read at once rendering each unintelligible—offered an alternative approach to abstract poetry. By destroying everyday language, sound poems offered both a metaphor for the destruction caused by war and a commentary on the deceitfulness of language. Wariness of the competing nationalisms that fueled the war also led dadaists to resist any particular language, a primary indicator of national identity.

Ball, Proof sheet for the projected anthology Dadaco
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Hugo Ball
German, 1886–1927
Proof sheet for the projected anthology Dadaco, edited by George Grosz, John Heartfield, et al., 1919.
Publication planned by Kurt Wolff Verlag, Munich, January 1920, but abandoned.