hugo ball and sound poetry (o gadji beri bimba)

Es­ti­mated reading time is 2 min­utes.HUGO BALL’S SOUND PO­ETRY may seem a mere stringing of words to­gether to many readers or lis­teners. It is a form of verse without words. “Sound po­etry is an artistic form bridging lit­erary and mu­sical com­po­si­tion in which the pho­netic as­pects of human speech take the fore­ground in­stead of the more con­ven­tional se­mantic and syn­tactic values.” Need­less to say, sound po­etry is in­tended to be heard, not read!

The German dada (Dada?) (daDa?) po­et’s most fa­mous sound poem is prob­ably gadji beri bimba, which I reprint here in its non-sensical en­tirety. As no trans­la­tion is re­quired, this is taken from the German edi­tion Gesam­melte Gedichte (“Col­lected Poems”), from the pub­lisher Verlag der Arche (1963). Ap­par­ently, Herr Ball in­tended the poem to be all lower case, sans cap­ital letters:

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

Fi­nally, this brief ex­po­sure to Hugo Ball, sound po­etry, and the dada sen­si­bility is here as an ad­dendum to the post that pre­cedes this: “o gadji beri booboo – fetchers of wads, guardian of being.” As I wrote it, of course I sug­gest that you read it . . .



A glaring mistake

At the be­gin­ning of the First World War, Hugo Ball tried joining the army as a vol­un­teer, but was de­nied en­list­ment for med­ical is­sues. After wit­nessing the in­va­sion of Bel­gium, he was dis­il­lu­sioned saying: “The war is founded on a glaring mis­take, men have been con­fused with machines.”

Con­sid­ered a traitor in his country, he crossed the fron­tier with the cabaret per­former and poet Emmy Hen­nings and set­tled in Zürich. Here, Ball con­tinued his in­terest in anarchism.

In 1916, Hugo Ball cre­ated the Dada Man­i­festo, making a po­lit­ical state­ment about his views on the ter­rible state of so­ciety and ac­knowl­edging his dis­like for philoso­phies in the past claiming to pos­sess the ul­ti­mate Truth.

The same year as the Man­i­festo, Ball wrote his poem “Karawane,” which is a poem con­sisting of non­sen­sical words. The meaning how­ever re­sides in its mean­ing­less­ness, re­flecting the chief prin­ciple be­hind Dada. (Wikipedia).


DADA CabaretVoltaire 1500

FEA­TURED IMAGE: The image at the top of this page is a modern piece of ad­ver­tising for the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, where Ball read his sound po­etry. Nowa­days it’s a cul­tural center ded­i­cated to Dada as well as an art space pre­senting con­tem­po­rary in­ter­na­tional artists re­lated to Dada.





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