NMSAT :: Networked Music & SoundArt Timeline

1930 __ « Weekend »
Walter Ruttmann (1887-1941)
Comment : On June 6th, 1930 a radically new form of radio was broadcast over the Berlin airwaves. An 11 minute, 20 second long collage of raw sounds greeted listeners accustomed to hearing news reports, occasional classical musical programs and, only very recently, literary works written specifically for radio performance, the nascent genre known as Hörspiel (”radio drama”). This startling work was Weekend, an audio documentary created by Walter Ruttmann, an avant-garde artist best known for his experimental filmmaking, most famously, his 1927 production “Berlin.Sinfonie einer Großstadt”. Weekend marks a milestone in the history of media arts as a first significant experiment in montage-based radio. The piece consists of six “movements,” transpiring from Saturday afternoon at the factory through a night out, a “pastoral” Sunday, and finally the city returning to work on Monday. Ruttmann gathered his sounds by driving around Berlin in a van with a hidden microphone, stopping at locations such as train stations, factories, and busy streets to record the uninhibited, rhythm of the city. For Ruttmann’s Hörspiel, the city of Berlin itself was the main actor, avoiding any traditional theatrical performers like other literary Hörspiele of the time. Ruttmann’s limited time recording in the studio was used to capture a few notes of classical instruments such as the violin and piano, but also to record the “playing” of non-traditional instruments such as a saw and hammer. Ruttmann recorded all of the material onto Tri-Ergon sound film, the Berlin company that pioneered the synthesis of sound and image technology in Europe. To understand the significance of editing and montage in Ruttmann’s work, one need only look at the amount of film processed from the beginning to the final product. After recording, Ruttmann had amassed 2000 meters of film, and the final piece was only 250 meters long, stitched together from 240 individual segments. [...] Ruttmann did not discuss Weekend extensively, but he did write a brief description of the piece. He said, “Weekend is a study in sound-montage…. In Weekend sound was an end itself.” These two short statements help to open a brief tour of the historical context in which the piece was developed. Weekend follows almost twenty years of experimentation with sound and montage across multiple media in the European avant-garde. Some of the earliest provocation in the sonic arena was from the Italian futurists Marinetti, Russolo and Pratella. Weekend was also developed in the context of widespread experiments into the representation of the rapid changes instigated by mass industrialization and modernization. In 1919, during his early work with abstract painting, Ruttmann recognized this. He wrote, “The specific character of time today is foremost brought forth through the ‘tempo’ of our times.” Montage was seen as a particularly adept technique for illustrating these jarring, dynamic transformations. Describing Hannah Höch’s famous 1919 collage Cut with a Kitchen Knife, Maud Levin writes, “The power of Dada is signified, on several levels, by movement; Dada is a destabilizing force. In addition to the formal echoing of the wheels and roller bearings, the dynamic action of the compositional design is paralleled iconographically by images indicating movement, either by machines or female dancers or revolutionary scenes.”Dadaism’s use of montage further overlapped with Ruttmann’s practices in its use of documentary materials. As Walter Benjamin writes, “The material of the montage is anything but arbitrary. Authentic montage is based on the document. In its fanatical struggle with the work of art, Dadaism used montage to turn daily life into its ally.”. (Jesse Moss Shapins)
French comment : La pensée qui plaide en faveur d'un rôle nouveau dévolu au phonographe se fonde sur certaines propriétés de cette machine qui n'échappe pas à l'imagination des artistes. Sans revenir sur la fonction d'ubiquité que lui associent très tôt les romanciers (Jules Vernes, "La Château des Carpathes" (1892); Villiers de L'Isle-Adam, "L'Ève Future" (1880-1881); Guillaume Apollinaire, "Le Roi Lune" (1916); Raymond Roussel, "Locus Solus" (1914)), les créateurs des disciplines diverses en appellent à un rapport inédit à l'environnement sonore. L'art audio, comme on le nomme parfois aujourd'hui, y prend ses sources. Ce qui en ressort est à la fois un caractère dense, violent, aussi heurté que l'est le tissu urbain boursouflé par les usines, les ateliers, les logements d'ouvrirs, les taudis, les voies éventrées par la construction du métropolitain ou des tramways, les poteaux des fils téléphoniques... En même temps, le rêve de l'environnement urbain s'étend à l'inaudible, à ce qui est situé au-delà de l'univers acoustique, à ce qui se produit à l'instant même dans les pays lointains. Résultat de la présence croissante de la téléphonie et de la radiophonie, on veut désormais croire que les sons trop éloignés pour être perçus par notre oreille sont bien pourtant une matière à capter et à inclure dans l'acte créateur de l'œuvre. Mais c'est le phonographe qui peut capter et retenir tout cela. La première œuvre sonore, fondatrice sans doute autant de l'art audio que de la musique électroacoustique, est celle du cineaste expérimental Walter Ruttmann, Week End (1930), un "film sans image", qui fait entendre un montage vertigineux d'enregistrements pris sur le vif, montage musical plus que cinématographique, car libéré du poids des images, les séquences forment des figures rythmiques s'appuyant sur des reprises, des répétitions et des changements agogiques. Cette œuvre était annoncée, entre autres, par un poème d'Apollinaire, l'un de ceux qu'il nomme "poèmes-conversation" et qui est un collage de moments captés dans la ville. Le plus clair d'entre eux est peut-être "Lundi rue Christine", publié dans "Les Soirées de Paris" en décembre 1913.". (Marc Battier)
Urls : http://www.jesseshapins.net/walter-ruttmanns-weekend-sound-space-and-the-multiple-senses-of-an-urban-documentary-imagination/ (last visited )

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