Henri Chopin?s name is barely known to most people, and yet he was a key figure in the French avant-garde of the fifties and sixties. His poesie sonore or sound poetry, using multi-layered vocals and tape recorder, went far beyond spoken-word, as the vocal component is stripped of language to fully experiment with the power of the voice. As poet, tape experimenter, painter, graphic artist, typographer, performance artist, broadcaster and film director, Chopin was a prolific artist, but in his roles as independent publisher and arts promoter he was also a tireless champion and focal point for other artists in the areas of sound poetry, text-sound, audio-poems and other avant-garde sound experiments. Chopin was born in Paris, France in 1922. He didn?t start recording until after he saw Isidore Isou?s film Traite de Bave dt d?Eternite in 1952, with the soundtrack of Francois Dufrene using his voice without words. Defrene was founder of the Ultraletterists, a poetry movement to abolish words in favor of linguistic noises, inspired by Antonin Artaud as well as the early dada movement. Inspired by Dufrene and the earlier Dadaist, Chopin began his own experiments with voice and tape by the mid-1950s, as well as to record some older sound poets, like Raoul Hausmann, one of the founders of the Berlin Dada of 1918. Chopin?s work pointed the way in which technology could re-define the early sound poetry, and open it up to even less reliance on language. Whereas the Dada sound poetry still relied on letters, Chopin often focused on the pure essence of sounds that the voice was capable of. At the same time he started to exhibit his artwork, among which were his typewriter poems that utilize typewritten letters to create visual images. Chopin decided to further promote contemporary sound poetry by publishing the 19-issue journal Cinquieme Saison from 1959 to 1963, and then the 13-issue magazine with phonograph record Ou Revue from 1964 to 1974. The Ou records showcased a broad spectrum of avant-garde artists from Europe and the United States, from the early Dadaists like Hausmann, to Ultraletterists like Dufrene, Swedish text-sound artists like Ake Hodell and Sten Hanson, and early work by Bob Cobbing, Brion Gyson, and William Burroughs, among others, as well as Chopin?s own work. In 1979 Jean-Michel Place in Paris published Chopin?s Poesie Sonore International, an extensive history of sound poetry accompanied by a two-cassette anthology. In 1968 Chopin relocated from Paris to London, and the next year Tangent Records in London released his LP Audiopoems. Whereas earlier Chopin used tape recorders in his own studio, by the 1970s he was recording in some of the best studios in Europe, including Atelier de Création at Radio France, the Fylkingen Studio in Stockholm, and the WDR Studio in Cologne. Another LP, Poesie Sonore, came out on the Igloo-Carmel label in Brussels in 1983. Chopin moved back to Paris in the late 80s. Since the mid-90s, much more of Chopin?s work has been released by various labels as more people have become aware of the groundbreaking work of this avant-garde artist, bridging the gap from the Dadaists of the World War One era to the experimental electronic artists of contemporary times.
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