PRINT April 2000


Lunapark 0.10

Lunapark 0.10, released as part of the “Aural Documents” series by the Belgian label Sub Rosa, is more like a séance than a CD. Compiled by Marc Dachy, this spoken-word anthology begins with the ghostly voice of Apollinaire declaiming his poem “Le Pont Mirabeau” in 1912 and ends with Caetano Veloso performing the Brazilian poet de Campos’s work in the late ’70s. In between, Dachy includes scraps of recordings by Mayakovsky, Joyce, Artaud, Duchamp, Stein, and others, piecing together a personal survey of twentieth-century sound art. To those for whom the historical avant-garde constitutes a living past, Dachy’s collection is a communion with the dead.

None sounds more like a voice speaking from the beyond than Joyce, reading “Anna Livia Plurabelle” in 1929. This priceless recording, as well as those of Stein and others, will already be familiar to collectors of old Caedmon LPs or denizens of public-library album collections. Many other recordings, including those of Apollinaire, Artaud, Schwitters, and Duchamp, will also likely be known to followers of the avant-garde, as they have been available on various spoken-word CDs and cassettes over the years (including Sub Rosa’s own excellent collection Futurism and Dada Revisited, compiled by James Neiss and Paul Hammond in 1988). But even for the aficionado, not all the selections will be familiar––Dachy has included some rare and exclusive material, much of which came to him directly from the artists or their heirs, including readings by Tristan Tzara, Julian Beck, de Campos, and Brion Gysin. The most noteworthy of the pieces by Gysin has been reproduced elsewhere, however: “Pistol Poem” (1960), made up of gunshots and recited numbers, seems like a wry fulfillment of Breton’s oft-quoted statement that the simplest Surrealist act would be to fire at random into the street.

Of the more recent material, the best performance belongs to Veloso, recorded in 1979 experimenting with de Campos poems. The two brief tracks (less than three minutes total) achieve a unity of sound and poetry that is all too rare in works by “sound poets.” Those interested in the potential of the form would be wise to pursue the promise of these tracks and explore works in the field by musicians as well as artists. Veloso’s own album Araca Azul (1973), for example, contains moments every bit as provocative, but more interesting sonically, than many of the recent pieces included on this collection.

Still, the personal selections of Dachy make Lunapark 0.10 compelling. As historical survey, the collection may be haphazard and leaves large gaps in the story of twentieth-century sound poetry. As mix tape, it provides examples of some of the most striking voices of a century’s worth of sound art.

Damon Krukowski is a writer based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.