Kurt Schwitters: U R S O N A T E

kurt schwitters

kurt schwitters

Kurt Schwitters's Ursonate is one of the central works of European Dada. Schwitters worked on it between 1923 and 1932, and first published it in his magazine Merz. The title "Ursonate" is a reference to a musical composition, a sonata, but in actuality we cannot say precisely whether Ursonate is a musical or linguistic composition. Schwitters's composition balances between music and language while at the same time forming a unique visual work.

The German prefix UR- can be translated as "proto-" or "primary"; within this context, Schwitters's sonata can be understood as a composition consisting of primary linguistic matter, a materia prima of sounds. The term materia prima or primary phenomenon can also be found among the Greek natural philosophers and was later used by Herder, Goethe, Novalis, and Nietzsche. Schwitters consciously continues in the footsteps of this tradition, shaping the materia prima of language into a wholly autonomous abstract language which at first glance resembles a rhythmic confusion of sounds and shrieks, but in actuality feels much more real than conventional language drained of meaning. This approach to art reflects the opinion of many Dadaists - not just Schwitters, but also Hugo Ball or Hans Arp - that Dada was the search for a way back to nature and the imitation of primary natural processes. For the Dadaists, this meant in practice: Worldly order is based on vibrant chaos, sense on non-sense, meaning on abstraction, words on sounds. Nehmen Sie Dada ernst, es lohnt sich! Take Dada seriously, it's worth it! 

This approach to art reflects the opinion of many Dadaists - not just Schwitters, but also Hugo Ball or Hans Arp - that Dada was the search for a way back to nature and the imitation of primary natural processes. For the Dadaists, this meant in practice: Worldly order is based on vibrant chaos, sense on non-sense, meaning on abstraction, words on sounds. Nehmen Sie Dada ernst, es lohnt sich! Take Dada seriously, it's worth it! 

Schwitters's composition respects the structure of the classic sonata, consisting of five parts: Introduction, largo, scherzo, presto, finale. The composition was originally written for one voice; Jaromír Typlt and Pavel Novotný have adapted it into dialog form and present it at least partially as a dramatic interpretation. Their version had its premiere in Liberec in May 2006. For PremEdice, the original forty-minute studio recording has been edited to 28 minutes. 

Listen to the original artists interpretation as available on the UBU.com

Interested how the score looks like?
 

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