Wassily Kandinsky : Klänge (Sounds)

Front Cover
from Klänge (Sounds)

Judgement Day
from Klänge (Sounds)

Black Spot
from Klänge (Sounds)

Improvisation 19
from Klänge (Sounds)

Riding path
from Klänge (Sounds)

Motif from Improvisation 25
from Klänge (Sounds)

Klänge (Sounds)

Sounds comprised thirty-eight prose poems which were accompanied by twelve colour and forty-four black and white woodcuts, each hand-printed under Kandinsky’s supervision. It was published in an edition of 345 c.1912.

The poems contained in the album draw attention to and manipulate the sounds of words in such a way as to destabilise their conventional meanings. ‘Words’, Kandinsky wrote in On the Spiritual in Art, ‘are inner sounds … Skilful use of a word (according to poetic feeling) – an internally necessary repetition of a word twice, three times – can lead [to] unrealised spiritual qualities of the word. Eventually, manifold repetition … makes it lose its external sense as a name’. With this quest for ‘inner meaning’, ‘great possibilities open up for the literature of the future’ as language breaks from the constraints of its traditional usage.

As we read the poems, acoustic rhythms couple with spatial ones to halt our progress through them: we find ourselves re-reading, our eyes moving around the poems, attempting to re-engage or re-enter the works. The sound of the words and the unconventional spacing of words across the page, as well as the remnants of narrative, both ‘articulate’ and ‘dis-articulate’ the whole. The process of re-reading and moving visually around the poem seems to make the text more open: syntax and narrative are lost; the spaces between and beyond words, lines and stanzas, appear to threaten the unity of the text; and – according to Kandinsky’s claims – the words may evoke psychological, synaesthetic or even spiritual associations beyond their literal meanings. [Extract : Tate Modern]

Tate Papers : A Consideration of the Album ‘Sounds’

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