2006-2012 Ur Sonata

(The New) Ur Sonata (2006-2012)

Based On the text by Kurt Schwitters
Vocals by Steven Schick
Electronics by Shahrokh Yadeagri

A Duo Collaboration between a Percussionist/Actor and a Computer Musician

A Collaborative Protocol

When Kurt Schwitter’s composed his mammoth 45 minute long “UrSonata” between 1922 and 1932 — a work he called his “sonata in primal sounds” — he succeeded in de-coupling words from their meanings. His UrSonata is indeed primal, celebrating the human voice not as a purveyor of meaning through the medium of language but as a progenitor of pure sound that is unadulterated by meaning. When words arise, they seem to do so almost accidentally: there is a playful use of “Rakete,” German for rocket, or a brief reading of the word “Dresden” from the inside out (“dedesnr”). Schwitters must have thought he was alone in the exploration of sound for its own sake. He could not have known in 1922 that two great concerns of 20th century music — percussion and electronics — would follow the same path. (The New) UrSonata reconsiders Schwitter’s original work through the lens of late 20th century sound art, in which a percussionist/actor and a computer musician rethink Schwitter’s sound play. New versions of old ideas emerge through a focus on rhythm, sound manipulation, and spatialization.

The computer music instrument used in this recording for live improvisation is called Lila. “Lila” is the Sanskrit word signifying divine play, the play of destruction and creation, or the play of presence in the moment. With that metaphoric platform in mind, the material that Lila manipulates is carefully chosen. Schwitters offers a spectrum of sonic information from the neutral matrix of the alphabet at one end, to charged repetitions of words of war (Rakete being primary among them) on the other. (The New) Ur Sonata allows the alphabetic buildings blocks of Schwitters’ poem to stand alone while pulling emotionally charged elements into the public space by means of four-channel spatialization and manipulation based on simple analog processes (e.g., loop, delay, ring modulation, and feedback). These parameters are controlled precisely by performative action. The audience then experiences the most emotionally relevant parts of Schwitters’ work as movements and sounds that occupy their domain. Performance becomes, as Schwitters always intended, an expression of action and provocation.

Selected Performances:
Monday Evening Concerts, Los Angeles, CA, April 23, 2012
Tune-In Music Festival, Powerless. The Armory, New York, February 2011.
International Computer Music Conference. New Orleans. Nov. 2006.
Pittsburgh New Music Festival. City Theatre, Pittsburgh, PA. July 2008
Dream Report 2008. Molli an Arthur Wagner Dance Building, UCSD. Jan 2008.
Sundance Composer’s Lab. Sundance Institute. Park City Utah. July 2007.
Mandeville Recital Hall. UCSD, April 2007.
Dance 3 Studio, UCSD. Jun. 2005.

Lewis Artforum top ten 2011

An excerpt of UrSonata performed June 2005 at UCSD

(TheNew)UrSonata-4minExcerpt from Shahrokh Yadegari on Vimeo.


A documentation by Video Artist Ross Karr

Movement I


Movement 2


Movement 3


Movement 4