Hugo Ball (1886-1927)

1. Karawane (1916)

[[ view the score ]]

2. Wolken (1916)
3. Katzen und Pfauen (1916)
4. Totenklage (1916)
5. Gadji beri bimba (1916)
6. Seepferdchen und Flugfishche (1916)

Performed by Trio Exvoco:
Hanna Aurbacher, Teophil Maier, Ewald Liska
from the LP Futura Poesia Sonora (Cramps Records, Milan)

7. Karawane, 1917 [0:59]
Performed by Anat Pick

8. Cigarrenfische (2 poems in 1) [2:54] Seepferdchen und Flugfische, Hugo Ball 1916 Cigarren (elementar), Kurt Schwitters 1921
Performed by Anat Pick

9. Seepferdchen und Flugfishce
Performed by Jaap Blonk

10. Marie Osmond performing Hugo Ball's "Karawane"

Taken from a Ripley's Believe It Or Not segment on sound poetry from the mid-80s. According to producer Jed Rasula, "Marie Osmond became co-host with Jack Palance. In the format of the show, little topic clusters (like "weird language") were introduced by one of the hosts. In this case, the frame was Cabaret Voltaire. Marie was required to read Hugo Ball's sound poem "Karawane" and a few script lines. Much to everybody's astonishment, when they started filming she abruptly looked away from the cue cards directly into the camera and recited, by memory, "Karawane." It blew everybody away, and I think they only needed that one take. A year or so after it was broadcast, Greil Marcus approached me, wanting to use Marie Osmond's rendition of Hugo Ball for a cd produced in England as sonic companion to his book Lipstick Traces; so I was delighted to be able to arrange that."

And more, in context:

""Now, all this may strike you as anecdotally evasive. But, truthfully, Imagining Language wouldn't have happened without Ripley's Believe It Or Not. “Imagining Language” was the name I used for one of my project file folders (to give you a sense of scale, at any given time I had about fifty such file folders going). In the context of commercial television, the topic was the longest of long shots. I tried in vain to interest the producers in a segment on Finnegans Wake, for instance. But they did bite on the phenomenon of Boontling, an argot local to Booneville in northern California (see Imagining Language p. 50). They also did a segment on Benjamin Franklin's spelling reform proposals, unlikely as that seems. What really went over well, though, was sound poetry. In fact, Mel Stuart was so captivated by it that he went out to shoot the segments himself (normally, he dealt only with scenarios involving Jack Palace; all other footage was either stock or else produced as needed by hired “stringers”). These included George Quasha and Charles Stein, who didn't perform that much in public but had developed a striking buccal symbiosis. After that was broadcast, Mel went to Toronto to film the Four Horsemen, the seasoned sound poetry quartet that included bp Nichol and Steve McCaffery. It was filmed on the roof of the loft Steve was living in at that point on the east side of the city next to the Don Mills Parkway. The one other byproduct of my “Imagining Language” file at Ripley's came later, when Marie Osmond became co-host with Jack Palance. In the format of the show, little topic clusters (like “weird language”) were introduced by one of the hosts. In this case, the frame was Cabaret Voltaire. Marie was required to read Hugo Ball's sound poem “Karawane” and a few script lines. Much to everybody's astonishment, when they started filming she abruptly looked away from the cue cards directly into the camera and recited, by memory, “Karawane.” It blew everybody away, and I think they only needed that one take. A year or so after it was broadcast, Greil Marcus approached me, wanting to use Marie Osmond's rendition of Hugo Ball for a cd produced in England as sonic companion to his book Lipstick Traces; so I was delighted to be able to arrange that." --


According to Hugo Ball, inventor of dadaist phonetic poetry, we must withdraw into the deepest alchemy of words, reserving to poetry its most sacred ground": a program whichwould have -appealed to Velemir Chlebnikov, "eternal prisoner of assonance", for whom the alphabet was a "table of sounds". Chlebnikov wanted to immerse himself in the depths of the Russian etymons, of the etymological night, in search of a mythical panslavonic language "whose shoots must grow through the thicknesses of modem Russian". The ultra modem tends to link up with the archaic, eternal contradiction of avant-gardes.

Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring' (composed in the years 1912-13) is a musical flight from time, a return to the common archaic background, to magic, spells, a primitive religious paganism.

Illogical phonic sound, abstract poetry, was taken up by dadaism from Italian and Russian futurism. In Zurich, at the Cabaret Voltaire, founded in 1916 by five friends, Hugo Ball Tristan Tzara, Hans Arp, Marcel Janco and Richard Huelsenbeck, first simultaneous poems by Henri-Martin Barzun and Jarry's "Ubu Roi" were recited. Later Tzara declaimed some of his simultaneous such as "La Fièvre Poems, puerpérale" a "Froid Lumiére", for the purpose of representing the dualism between the soul (the voice) and the world (mechanistic process, fate) represented by noises. "Les chants nègres" was a collective performance with masks, soutanes, drums, dances: a sort of funeral service.

Here, one evening, Hugo Ball read his "Verses without words", based on the equilibrium of vowels, regulated and distributed exclusively in relation to the phonic value of the initial line. Clothed in azure, scarlet and golden cardboard, with a cylindrical shaman's hat on his head - it is Ball's own description - "I began with:*

The accents became heavier, expression increased with the intensification of the consonants. I soon noted that my means of expression, when I wanted to be serious (and I wanted to be at all costs) no longer corresponded to the pomp of the staging... to the right on the lectern I had "Labadas Gesang die Wolken" (Labada's song to the clouds) and on the left "Elefantenkarawane" (The caravan of the Elephants)... the dragging rhythm of the elements had permitted me a last crescendo, but how to continue to the end? I then noticed that my voice, which apparently had no other choice, was assumed an ancient cadence of sacerdotal lament in the style of the masses sung in the Catholic churches of the east and west. I do not know what this music inspired in me, but I began to sing my sequences of vowels in recitative liturgical manner. The electric light was turned off as arranged and I was carried away covered in perspiration like a a magical bishop who disappears into the abyss" (Dei Flucht aus der Zeit" "The flight from time", Munich, 1927). Thus was dada phonetic poetry born.

Hugo Ball was born at Pirmasens in the Rhineland in 1886 into a family of practising Catholics. His father was a leather dealer and had to maintain six children, all well versed in music.

"In our family", Hugo Ball recalled, "one played music more than one talked". As a young boy he was influenced by a mystical sister of his mother who later entered a convent. After finishing secondary school he entered the tanning trade but studied philosophy, history and art at night. After he had suffered a serious nervous breakdown, his parents, on the doctor's advice, sent him to continue his studies at the university, studies which were never completed because, while a student at Munich, he met Max Reinhardt, the well-known director, after which he entered the theatrical profession. First Reinhardt's assistant, he became the director of the Münchener Kammerspiel, which owes him its name, and he published two theatrical works. He was tall and thin, with long legs, a thin neck and an ascetic air. At Munich he met Emmy Hernnings, poet and reciter at the Cabaret Simplicissimus, who became his comanion and, after his death, dedicated her life to is memory and published his works.

At the beginning of the First World War, Hugo Hall, influenced by patriotic propaganda, joined the army as a volunteer, But, after the invasion of Belgium, was disillusioned and soon rebelled: "The war is founded on a glaring mistake, he wrote, men have been confused with machines". The discovery of Bakunin helped him to see reality in a different light: his intuitive thought turned against the world. Considered a traitor in his country, he crossed the frontier with his wife and settled in Zurich, where at first the couple lived in a state of great misery. His dadaist adventure lasted only two years, after which this man who was at the same time anarchist, ascetic and buffoon withdrew from the world and became profoundly mystical. He died at Sant'Abbondio, Switzerland, in 1927.

It is worth remembering that in 1919 Ball wrote "Zur Kritikder deutschen Intellikenz" (Towards a criticism of German intelligence), a work which met with general reprobation in his country and in which he revealed a presentiment of Nazism. In 1916, in Zurich, Hugo Ball founded the Cabaret Voltaire and published the literary and artistic collection with that name. Hans Richter wrote: "Ball, for reasons of conscience, became the catalyst that humanly fused together all the elements round him, elements who were later to bring dadaism into being". In 1927 his diaries were published posthumously by his wife under the title "Flight from time".

From Cabaret Voltaire - Issue 1

When I founded the Cavaret Voltaire, I was sure that there must be a few young people in Switzerland who like me were interested not only in enjoying their independence but also in giving proof of it. I went to Herr Ephraim, the owner of the Meierei, and said, "Herr Ephraim, please let me have your room. I want to start a night-club." Herr Ephraim agreed and gave me the room. And I went to some people I knew and said, "Please give me a picture, or a drawing, or an engraving. I should like to put on an exhibition in my night-club." I went to the friendly Zürich press and said, "Put in some announcements. There is going to be an international cabaret. We shall do great things." And they gave me pictures and they put in my annoucements. So on 5th February we had a cabaret. Mademoiselle Hennings and Mademoiselle Leconte sang French and Danish chansons. Herr Tristan Tzara recited Rumanian poetry. A balalaika orchestra played delightful folk-songs and dances.

I received much support and encouragement from Herr M. Slodki, who designed the poster, and from Herr Hans Arp, who supplied some Picassos, as well as works of his own, and obtained for me pictures by his friends O. van Rees and Artur Segall. Much support also from Messrs. Tristan Tzara, Marcel Janco and Max Oppenheimer, who readily agreed to take part in the cabaret. We organized a Russian evening and, a little later, a French one (works by Apollinaire, Max Jacob, André Salmon, A. Jarry, Laforgue and Rimbaud). On 26th February Richard Huelsenbeck arrived from Berlin and on 30th March we performed some stupendous Negro music (toujours avec la grosse caisse: boum boum boum boum - drabatja mo gere drabatja mo bonooooooooo -). Monsieur Laban was present at the performance and was very enthusiastic. Herr Tristan Tzara was the initiator of a performance by Messrs. Tzara, Huelsenbeck and Janco (the first in Zürich and in the world) of simultaneist verse by Messrs. Henri Barzun and Fernand Divoire, as well as a poème simultané of his own composition, which is reproduced on pages six and seven. The persent booklet is published by us with the support of our friends in France, Italy and Russia. It is intended to present to the Public the activities and interests of the Cabaret Voltaire, which has as its sole purpose to draw attention, across the barriers of war and nationalism, to the few independent spirits who live for other ideals. The next objective of the artists who are assembled here is the publication of a revue internationale. La revue paraîtra à Zurich et portera le nom "Dada" ("Dada"). Dada Dada Dada Dada.

--Zürich, 15th May 1916

Eröffnungs-Manifest, 1. Dada-Abend
(Opening-Manifest of the 1st Dada-Evening)

Zürich, 14. Juli 1916

Dada ist eine neue Kunstrichtung. Das kann man daran erkennen, daß bisher niemand etwas davon wußte und morgen ganz Zürich davon reden wird. Dada stammt aus dem Lexicon. Es ist furchtbar einfach. Im Französischen bedeutets Steckenpferd. Im Deutschen: Addio, steigt mir bitte den Rücken runter, auf Wiedersehen ein ander Mal! Im Rumänischen: 'Ja wahrhaftig, Sie haben Recht, so ist es. Jawohl, wirklich. Machen wir'. Und so weiter.

Ein internationales Wort. Nur ein Wort und das Wort als Bewegung. Es ist einfach furchtbar. Wenn man eine Kunstrichtung daraus macht, muß das bedeuten, man will Komplikationen wegnehmen. Dada Psychologie, Dada Literatur, Dada Bourgeoisie und ihr, verehrteste Dichter, die ihr immer mit Worten, nie aber das Wort selber gedichtet habt. Dada Weltkrieg und kein Ende, Dada Revolution und kein Anfang. Dada ihr Freunde und Auchdichter, allerwerteste Evangelisten. Dada Tzara, Dada Huelsenbeck, Dada m'dada, Dada mhm' dada, Dada Hue, Dada Tza.

Wie erlangt man die ewige Seligkeit? Indem man Dada sagt. Wie wird man berühmt? Indem man Dada sagt. Mit edlem Gestus und mit feinem Anstand. Bis zum Irrsinn, bis zur Bewußtlosigkeit. Wie kann man alles Aalige und Journalige, alles Nette und Adrette, alles Vermoralisierte, Vertierte, Gezierte abtun? Indem man Dada sagt. Dada ist die Weltseele, Dada ist der Clou, Dada ist die beste Lilienmilchseife der Welt. Dada Herr Rubiner, Dada Herr Korrodi, Dada Herr Anastasius Lilienstein.

Das heißt auf Deutsch: die Gastfreundschaft der Schweiz ist über alles zu schätzen, und im Ästhetischen kommt's auf die Norm an.

Ich lese Verse, die nichts weniger vorhaben als: auf die Sprache zu verzichten. Dada Johann Fuchsgang Goethe. Dada Stendhal. Dada Buddha, Dalai Lama, Dada m'dada, Dada m'dada, Dada mhm' dada. Auf die Verbindung kommt es an, und daß sie vorher ein bißchen unterbrochen wird. Ich will keine Worte, die andere erfunden haben. Alle Worte haben andere erfunden. Ich will meinen eigenen Unfug, und Vokale und Konsonanten dazu, die ihm entsprechen. Wenn eine Schwingung sieben Ellen lang ist, will ich füglich Worte dazu, die sieben Ellen lang sind. Die Worte des Herrn Schulze haben nur zwei ein halb Zentimeter.

Da kann man nun so recht sehen, wie die artikulierte Sprache entsteht. Ich lasse die Laute ganz einfach fallen. Worte tauchen auf, Schultern von Worten; Beine, Arme, Hände von Worten. Au, oi, u. Man soll nicht zuviel Worte aufkommen lassen. Ein vers ist die Gelegenheit, möglichst ohne Worte und ohne die Sprache auszukommen. Diese vermaledeite Sprache, an der Schmutz klebt wie von Maklerhänden, die die Münzen abgegriffen haben. Das Wort will ich haben, wo es aufhört und wo es anfängt.

Jede Sache hat ihr Wort; da ist das Wort selber zur Sache geworden. Warum kann der Baum nicht Pluplusch heißen, und Pluplubasch, wenn es geregnet hat? Und warum muß er überhaupt etwas heißen? Müssen wir denn überall unseren Mund dran hängen? Das Wort, das Wort, das Weh gerade an diesem Ort, das Wort, meine Herren, ist eine öffentliche Angelegenheit ersten Ranges.

Seepferdchen und Flugfische

tressli bessli nebogen leila
flusch kata
zack hitti zopp

zack hitti zopp
hitti betzli betzli
prusch kata
fasch kitti bimm

zitti kitillabi billabi billabi
zikko di zakkobam
fisch kitti bisch

bumbalo bumbalo bumbalo bambo
zitti kitillabi
zack hitti zopp

treßli beßli nebogen grügrü
blaulala violabimini bisch
violabimini bimini bimini
fusch kata
zick hiti zopp


jolifanto bambla o falli bambla
großiga m'pfa habla horem
egiga goramen
higo bloiko russula huju
hollaka hollala
anlogo bung
blago bung blago bung
bosso fataka
ü üü ü
schampa wulla wussa olobo
hej tatta gorem
eschige zunbada
wulubu ssubudu uluwu ssubudu
tumba ba-umf
kusa gauma
ba - umf

Gadji beri bimba

gadji beri bimba glandridi laula lonni cadori
gadjama gramma berida bimbala glandri galassassa laulitalomini
gadji beri bin blassa glassala laula lonni cadorsu sassala bim
gadjama tuffm i zimzalla binban gligla wowolimai bin beri ban
o katalominai rhinozerossola hopsamen laulitalomini hoooo
gadjama rhinozerossola hopsamen
bluku terullala blaulala loooo

zimzim urullala zimzim urullala zimzim zanzibar zimzalla zam
elifantolim brussala bulomen brussala bulomen tromtata
velo da bang band affalo purzamai affalo purzamai lengado tor
gadjama bimbalo glandridi glassala zingtata pimpalo ögrögöööö
viola laxato viola zimbrabim viola uli paluji malooo

tuffm im zimbrabim negramai bumbalo negramai bumbalo tuffm i zim
gadjama bimbala oo beri gadjama gaga di gadjama affalo pinx
gaga di bumbalo bumbalo gadjamen
gaga di bling blong
gaga blung