Kyle Gann: Robert Ashley (2012)

23 November 2014, dusan

“This book explores the life and works of Robert Ashley, one of the leading American composers of the post-Cage generation. Ashley’s innovations began in the 1960s when he, along with Alvin Lucier, Gordon Mumma, and David Behrman, formed the Sonic Arts Union, a group that turned conceptualism toward electronics. He was also instrumental in the influential ONCE Group, a theatrical ensemble that toured extensively in the 1960s. During his tenure as its director, the ONCE Festival in Ann Arbor presented most of the decade’s pioneers of the performing arts. Particularly known for his development of television operas beginning with Perfect Lives, Ashley spun a long series of similar text/music works, sometimes termed “performance novels.” These massive pieces have been compared with Wagner’s Ring Cycle for the vastness of their vision, though the materials are completely different, often incorporating noise backgrounds, vernacular music, and highly structured, even serialized, musical configurations.

Drawing on extensive research into Ashley’s early years in Ann Arbor and interviews with Ashley and his collaborators, Kyle Gann chronicles the life and work of this musical innovator and provides an overview of the avant-garde milieu of the 1960s and 1970s to which he was so central. Gann examines all nine of Ashley’s major operas to date in detail, along with many minor works, revealing the fanatical structures that underlie Ashley’s music as well as private references hidden in his opera librettos.”

Publisher University of Illinois Press, 2012
American Composers series
ISBN 025207887X, 9780252078873
184 pages

Review (Devin King, Make, 2013)
Review (New Music Buff, 2013)


Accompanying website

See also Perfect Lives and other works of Ashley on UbuWeb.

Kurt Schwitters, Käte Steinitz, Theo van Doesburg: Die Scheuche: Märchen / The Scarecrow: A Fairytale (1925–) [DE, EN]

19 November 2014, dusan

“In Die Scheuche phrasing borrowed from German fairytales, grammar lessons, and religious texts combine into a formal hybrid that is cast in type. For the creators of this children’s book, such serious play with ready-made genres and print components offered a means of collecting the fragments of the past and assembling them to rebuild for the future. The narrative itself thematizes this pursuit: “once upon a time” there was a scarecrow well-appointed in the accoutrements of bourgeoisie comfort, complete with frockcoat, lace scarf, and cane. He is mocked by fowl and beaten by the farmer who made him. A child then pries the cane from the farmer (who has stolen it from the scarecrow) and with a single blow dismantles the order of ownership. The story ends with the ghosts of the items’ erstwhile owners arriving to reclaim their effects.” (Source)

Publisher Apossverlag, Hannover, 1925
12 pages, 13 x 16 cm
via Bibliothèque Kandinsky

Commentary (Leslie Atzmon, Design Issues, 1996)

Die Scheuche: Märchen (German, 1925, 5 MB)
The Scarecrow (English, trans. Jack Zipes, typogr. Barrie Tullet, 2009, partial view on Google Books)

Oskar Kokoschka: Die träumenden Knaben / The Dreaming Youths (1908/1917) [DE]

18 November 2014, dusan

“In 1907, Fritz Waerndorfer, the financial backer of the Wiener Werkstätte, the leading design workshop in Vienna, commissioned Oskar Kokoschka, still a student at Vienna’s Kunstgewerbeschule (School of decorative arts), to make an illustrated fairy tale for his children. Kokoschka instead delivered a haunting poem about awakening adolescent sexuality set on far-off islands, away from the modern city and bourgeois life. His carefully composed text alluded to classical and contemporary literature by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Viennese writer Peter Altenberg. Kokoschka dedicated the volume to artist Gustav Klimt, from whom he borrowed the square format for the images, which push the text to the margins.

The book debuted at the monumental Kunstschau exhibition in Vienna in 1908. The original printer, who worked with another publisher of a famous series of children’s books, backed out upon seeing Kokoschka’s proofs. The Wiener Werkstätte published the book in 500 copies under its own imprint. As anticipated, the work sold poorly. In 1917, publisher Kurt Wolff, who had befriended the artist, reissued 275 remainder copies.” (Source)

Commentary (Rosa J.H. Berland, Source: Notes in the History of Art, 2008)

First published by Wiener Werkstätte, Vienna, 1908
New edition: Kurt Wolff, Leipzig, 1917
Printer of plates: Albert Berger, Vienna (lithographs)
Printer of plates: August Chwala, Vienna (line block reproductions)
Printer of text: August Chwala, Vienna
Typography: Antiqua (Ver Sacrum [1898], Imperial-Royal Court Foundry Poppelbaum)
10 unnumbered folios, 24 x 29.3 cm
via MOMA

PDF (1917 edition, 12 MB), Flash viewer (at

Wassily Kandinsky: Klänge / Sounds (1913–) [German, English]

15 November 2014, dusan

Kandinsky’s self-described “musical album,” Klänge (Sounds), consists of thirty-eight prose-poems he wrote between 1909 and 1911 and fifty-six woodcuts he began in 1907. In it, he emphasizes the physiological impact of the sonic quality of language, often repeating words until focus on meaning subsides and new focus on aural character of words emerges. These poems were instrumental in Kandinsky’s development of abstraction.

Klänge is one of his three major publications that appeared shortly before World War I, alongside Über die Geistige in der Kunst (Concerning the Spiritual in Art) and the Blaue Reiter almanac, which he edited with one of the group’s cofounders, Franz Marc. Fearing poor sales, Munich-based Reinhard Piper only reluctantly published Klänge, and Kandinsky had to guarantee the production costs. More than two years after its release, Klänge had sold fewer than 120 copies. The planned Russian version never materialized. The publication was nevertheless influential on other avant-garde artists, and Futurists in Russia and Dadaists in Zürich recited and published some of the poems.” (Heather Hess, source)

Publisher R. Piper, Munich, [1913]
Printer of Plates in color: F. Bruckmann A.G., Munich
Printer of Plates in black: Poeschel & Trepte, Leipzig
Printer of Text: Poeschel & Trepte, Leipzig
Book designer: Kandinsky
Typography: Grotesque
Edition of 300; plus 45 hors commerce
59 unnumbered folios, 28.1 x 27.7 cm
via MOMA

English edition
Translated and with an Introduction by Elizabeth R. Napier
Publisher Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1981
ISBN 0300025106
136 pages

Commentary (Christopher Short, Tate Papers, 2006)
Wikipedia (EN)

Klänge (German, 50 MB), View online (Flash viewer at
Sounds (English, 14 MB)

Grey Room 29: New German Media Theory (2007)

15 November 2014, dusan

“If asked for a definition of ‘media,’ the answer given by the authors included in this volume would likely be ‘Es gibt keine Medien’–’There are no media.’ In 1993, Friedrich Kittler published the essay ‘There Is No Software.’ Three years later, Bernhard Siegert attacked one of the fetishes of the burgeoning German media studies of the 1990s by declaring that ‘There are no mass media.’ Such a dismissal of some of the core concepts of media studies–including any fixed concept of ‘media’ itself may well be the signature of the type of ‘new media theory’ presented by the modest collection of essays in this volume.” (from the Introduction)

With contributions by Eva Horn, Joseph Vogl, Bernhard Siegert, Philipp Sarasin, Herta Wolf, Cornelia Vismann and Markus Krajewski, and Claus Pias.

Edited by Eva Horn
Publisher MIT Press, Fall 2007
ISSN 1526-3819
133 pages


Es gibt kein PDF (removed on 2014-11-15 upon request of the publisher)

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