round letters turn sounds (2018)

18 minutes in four channels of sound, one hanging photocollage printed on fabric
Solo show at Kai Middendorff Galerie in 2018

round letters turn sounds (excerpt, stereo version, 2018)

In round letters turn sounds, I was keen to explore aspects of translation and my own kind of deciphering
—from text to sounds and images. For this I chose the anthology Lesebuch by the concrete poet, author
and artist Franz Mon, with whom I have been in close contact for years. In its accompanying afterward,
the writer Helmut Heißenbüttel makes use of the term ‘Neu-Entzifferns’, loosely translated as a
form of ‘new deciphering’ of the act of reading.

As a reader, the idea of sound in Mon's writing seems, personally, never far away. This is no wonder,
considering his significance in the context of the ‘Hörspiel’ form as well as his own reading performances. The sense then that one could be reading and associating words and contexts with certain imaginative sounds, fascinated me.

In 2017, I was able to record on microphone Mon in his Frankfurter studio, as he moved back and forth in his creaking office chair, occasionally tapping it in the process. The tapping made me think of both morse code and melody—even as he was reading texts. Further, his typewriting, the way each lettered key could be heard slamming into paper, the force of which appeared to also leave another form of recessed and freshly inked sign behind. Also, as he tore paper up for his collages—acts of ‘destruction’ and ‘reassembly’. As an added layer to such notions, the work became a form of homage too.

Some background information on visual and compositional processes

I made use of formal aspects of Lesebuch to define certain parameters in the sound composition.
For example, I made lists of the first word in the top left corner of each page—bringing together the two words in the left and right pages of the open book. Using the first letter in each word sequence to stand for the unaltered sound of a single typewriter stroke, I counted the steps to the last letter in the second word, repeating the action again backwards—from the last letter to the first letter of the second word.
In all, I ended up with three typewriter strokes for each word double. The letter counts then defined the pitch levels of the second and third letters. Further, the attack sounds of the second and third letters were cut away, leaving only traces or resonances of those attacks. A second form of scoring involved taking all titles with the letter ‘o’ in the contents (‘Inhalt’) page and using the respective page numbers to define
the duration in seconds of certain sounds.

Moreover, Lesebuch began to assume spatial dimensions for me—the page like an actual physical space. Seeing myself as a reader inhabiting or dwelling in these pages and their texts, I took photos
of shadows of my head on the pages, then I cut the shadows out and placed them in the gaping holes where once the titles of the book contents page were. A photograph of this collage, which was printed
on fabric, was hung in the darkened installation space and facing a corner so it would not immediately distract from the sounds. The two small corner speakers only play the noisy sounds of Franz Mon
tearing paper, while the two large speakers play more precise, composed sounds.

Photocollages, shown separately to the installation:

reading shadows (2018) 44,5 x 25 cm

book building (2018) 44 x 29 cm

All gallery photos by Camilo Brau

Special thanks to Bernd Thiele for his invaluable assistance. As always, my great appreciation
to Kai Middendorff for his support.