1. Le Corps - 1st Part « Déchirure de l’air » (1966)
2. Le Corps - 2nd Part « Brisure du Corps » (1966)
3. Le Corps - 3rd Part « Chant du Corps »(1966)
Le Corpsbis & Co
The title given to this collection of sound poems of Henri Chopin is quite representative of its contents. All these audio-poems, composed between 1983 and 1992, propose a much wider and more formal definition of poetry than the traditional one. They also represent the apex of Chopin’s activities spanning over a period of forty years. He has made researches in several fields voice recording techniques, sound spatialisation and publishing, with the magazines Cinquième Saison and OU, which for more than ten years, since 1963, was the only publication to report the current developments of sound poetry and to include phonograph records featuring previously unpublished works by Burroughs, Gysin, Novalk, de Vree, Heidsieck, Dufrêne and all the other poets devoting themselves to this new art form.
Issue nr. 26/27 of the magazine featured, among others, Raoul Hausmann, a leading figure of the Berlin Dada movement who, in 1918 produced some phonetic poems as spoken translations of his own poems affiches, which were composed exclusively of letters from the alphabet. It is not surprising that Chopin had an interest in the negation of the traditional patterns proposed by Hausmann’s phonetic poetry and he acknowledges
Dadaism’s decisive role in taking to its limits the objectivity of the individual, as started by the Romantic Movement and developed by the Symbolists.
Though Chopin is far from Dadaism’s paralyzing nothing because his poetry is a research on man’s existential problems, an investigation on the relations between body, sound and space and not just an expression of one’s subconscious, as it deals with the several levels of the poetic process in which intellect and emotion are no more separated.
The dynamics of the kinetic qualities, of primitive and pre-verbal language as a human communication system elaborated through the subtlety of vocal intonation in complex artistic forms as in daily life make us think that such forms have functions which are not fully provided by verbal language. Schwitters had already sensed that when, in 1923, he wrote on Richter’s G magazine that -the only logic sound poetry is the one that cannot be written. Even though Chopin accepts the importance of the destruction of the word, at the some time he understands the limits of Dadaism’s utilization of the letters of the alphabet, as there exist innumerable sonorous subtleties we use when we communicate which our alphabet cannot express.
In 1952 Chopin attended the showing of Isidore Isou’s film Traité de Bave at d’Eternité with a soundtrack by Dufrêne using his voice without saying words. Founder of the Ultralettrist poetic movement, Dufrêne , referring to Artaud, announces the advent of pre-linguistic poetry through the emission of noises produced by his throat, lips and tongue. It was a strong expression of vitality, but at the beginning of the 50’s the technical knowledge of the voice was still poor and the words were still the bases of the poetic process (Chopin says: -we were not allowed yet to hear the great voice of the religious ways.).
In this period Chopin begins his experimentations with tape recorders and his voice. Hausmann had already been a forerunner with his interest in the power of electronic means, as in 1927 he invented the Optophone, a machine transforming mosses of colours into music and vice versa. Though there are strong differences between the two artists: Chopin uses a creative method whose results are only partially subjected to voluntary control as opposed to Hausmann’s rational partiality expressed by his choice of value parameters to be associated with sound-colour transformations.
Chopin listens to an improvised recording he has made as many times and tries to memorize it, transforming it into a mental score that is the basis for subsequent over-dubs: in this way he creates a dense texture in which the relations among the sounds are free from the forgery caused by man’s inclination to give the aspect of a conscious intuition to the prelinguistic message.
Towards the mid-60’s body language and linguistic micro-particles become the main ingredients of the poetic construction, and it was Chopin who made Hausmann aware of the possibilities of the tape recorder when they met in May 1966.
The recording machine is for Chopin a voice expander that allows us to hear those sounds which cue an expression of the vitality of the body and it offers the poetical material which is -imbued with the weight and the electricity of the texture of the particles that created it; he refuses to filter and modulate the sounds, a process which would make them mechanical and sterile.
The recording machine materializes the voice, the breath, which is often used as noise and which is part of our life since birth.
I do not agree with those who consider Chopin an artists representing the contemporary creative challenges just because he makes use of advanced technologies; his poetical action is much closer to the basis of existence. The introduction of the microphone in the oral cavity allows us to hear four or more sounds simultaneously and it is as ritualistic as the multi-tonal chants of the people of Tibet and Siberia. Moreover, it makes possible an investigation on those noises which are normally difficult to hear. underlining the reality of the creature which is often overlooked and whose infinite differences we can now understand. thanks to amplification.
The poem is a liquid fluxus, a microscopic biological reality, rise and decadence of cellular structures, a pulp, a voice from the whole body transformed into audible space, as Zumthor noted; all this at once with excursions in the third dimension through the spatialization of sound, in collaboration with the most advanced experimental music studios which started in the 70’s; the unity and consistency of Chopin’s works is achieved through the recording and manipulation of the sonorous realities of the body and through the sound which becomes a physical action brought to life by its movement in the space.
His several experiences include also visual researches with his dactylopoèmes which, as his poems, have a corporeality; through the visual vibration produced by the superimposition of several textures of letters, show the architectural skeleton and the pure form of the word.
The dactylopoèmes which were created specifically for this publication are presented here for the first time together with a brief introduction by Michel Giroud, a theoretical essay titled The New Media as well as a short description of his working methods written by Chopin himself and finally, a poem by Raoul Hausmann dedicated to him,
—Emanuele Carcano December 1995 (translation: Andrea Cernotto)