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Kurt Schwitters

The Ursonate (or: Sonate in Urlauten)


Recordings of Kurt Schwitters

  1. Ur Sonata fragment, recorded on a private release in 1924 (3:18): MP3
  2. Ur Sonata fragment, recorded from the radio on May 5, 1932 (3:35): MP3
    under construction, send more detailed chart:
    Cut one: begins at beginning of poem (part 1), at 54 seconds goes to second part ("Oooooo …”), 
    then at 1:33 jumps to (and around) 3d part ("Lanke trr gll”)
    Cur two: begins at beginning (part 1), at 1:06 goes to part 2, then 1:36 to part 3  (complete)

"Ur Sonata" performed by Ernst Schwitters [note: previously misattributed to Kurt Schwitters]

  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

Related Recordings and Artists

  1. Tracie Morris improvised collaboration (41:14): MP3
  2. Other recordings of the work by Tracie Morris ("Re-Sonate" excerpts) (4:38): MP3
  3. Christian Bok (18:40): MP3
  4. Tomomi Adachi, Schwitters Variations (7:54): MP3
  5. Lynn Book
  6. Christopher Butterfield, external link: UbuWeb
  7. Jaap Blonk, external link: UbuWeb
  8. Adrian Khactu (15:27): MP3.
  9. 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
  • trio
  • scherzo
  • vierter teil: presto -ablösung
  • kadenz
  • schluss

Deformative versions:

  • Luke McGowan (18:36): Robo Ursonate (2005)
    • "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."

An Anna Blume

  1. Recording from radio, May 5, 1932 (2:06): MP3
  2. A Anna Lafleur [French 'translation' of An Anne Blume], probably performed by Ernst Schwitters, (1:49): MP3
  3. To Eve Blossom [English 'translation' of An Anne Blume], probably performed by Philip Granville, (1:49): MP3

compiled by Ch.B. ++ (last update Sept. 2022)