Inside PennSound


Kurt Schwitters

The Ursonate (or: Sonate in Urlauten)


"Ur Sonata" performed by Ernst Schwitters
[note: previously misattributed to Kurt Schitters.]
1. listeneinleitung und erster teil: rondo (21:58): MP3
2. listenzweiter teil: largo (3:12): MP3
3. listendritter teil: scherzo - trio - scherzo (2:24): MP3
4. listenvierter teil: presto - ablosung - kadenz -schluss (13:36): MP3

this recording made available with the permission of Kurt und Ernst Schwitters Stiftung

the full poem/score

Other recordings of the work by
Tracie Morris ("Re-Sonate" excerpts): MP3
Christian Bok: mp3
Tomomi Adachi, Schwitters Variations (7:54): MP3
Eberhard Blum (restricted use Penn only)
Lynn Book
Christopher Butterfield (restricted use Penn only)
Butterfield (unrestricted at Ubu)
Jaap Blonk
Adrian Khactu mp3.
Khatu has also written a listening guide to the different performances of the work (2007)

The Movements of the Poem:
einleitung und erster teil: rondo
zweiter teil: largo
dritter Teil: scherzo
vierter teil: presto -ablösung

Deformative versions:
Luke McGowan, Robo Ursonate (2005) (18:36)
"The physical generation of the piece was a remarkably effortless process on the part of the artist: Schwitters' score was simply cut and pasted into a commercial text-to-speech synthesis program with all further performative/compositional decisions made by the computer.  There was no attempt to correct interpretive error, nor was there any tinkering with the program's default prosody settings."

Linnunlaulupuu (Finland 2005)

Kun Jia, Simultaneous Ursonate (2006) (audio of Kurt Schwitters, Christopher Butterfield & Eberhard Blum) (13:38)

Urchestra (2009): Urchestra performs Ursonate

pronoblem (2009): solo performance - text to speech synth, FluxBoard, two bass tracks (same track, once forward and again manipulated - stretched, compressed, reveresed, etc) and tenor sax.

Primiti Too Taa, an animated short produced on a typewriter.
Produced and Directed by Ed Ackerman and Colin Morton in 1988

Gary Barwin: Oursonata (14:54): MP3
"a choir version (a mash-up) of four versions of Ur Sonata ... Blonk, Bök, Anat Pick, and Christopher Butterfield all played at once. There was some computer processing (accidental actually, and most apparent in the Bök version)."

Schwitters' comments:

"The Sonata consists of four movements, of an overture and a finale, and seventhly, of a cadenza in the fourth movement. The first movement is a rondo with four main themes, designated as such in the text of the Sonata. You yourself will certainly feel the rhythm, slack or strong, high or low, taut or loose. To explain in detail the variations and compositions of the themes would be tiresome in the end and detrimental to the pleasure of reading and listening, and after all I'm not a professor."
"In the first movement I draw your attention to the word for word repeats of the themes before each variation, to the explosive beginning of the first movement, to the pure lyricism of the sung "Jüü-Kaa," to the military severity of the rhythm of the quite masculine third theme next to the fourth theme which is tremulous and mild as a lamb, and lastly to the accusing finale of the first movement, with the question "tää?"..."
The fourth movement, long-running and quick, comes as a good exercise for the reader's lungs, in particular because the endless repeats, if they are not to seem too uniform, require the voice to be seriously raised most of the time. In the finale I draw your attention to the deliberate return of the alphabet up to a. You feel it coming and expect the a impatiently. But twice over it stops painfully on the b..."
"I do no more than offer a possibility for a solo voice with maybe not much imagination. I myself give a different cadenza each time and, since I recite it entirely by heart, I thereby get the cadenza to produce a very lively effect, forming a sharp contrast with the rest of the Sonata which is quite rigid. There."
"The letters applied are to be pronounced as in German. A single vowel sound is short... Letters, of course, give only a rather incomplete score of the spoken sonata. As with any printed music, many interpretations are possible. As with any other reading, correct reading requires the use of imagination. The reader himself has to work seriously to becomew a genuine reader. Thus, it is work rather than questions or mindless criticism which will improve the reader's receptive capacities. The right of criticism is reserved to those who have achieved a full understanding. Listening to the sonata is better than reading it. This is why I like to perform my sonata in public."

Backup files -- restricted use for Penn only:
(same files as UBU above)
"Ur Sonata" performed by Kurt Schwitters (restricted use) at PennSound:
Einleitung Und Erster Teil: Rondo (21:58)
Zweiter Teil: Largo (3:12)
Dritter Teil: Scherzo - Trio - Scherzo (2:24)
Vierter Teil: Presto - Ablosung - Kadenz - Schluss (13:36)

compiled by Ch.B. (last update Aug. 2009)