Art &Technology
- Fluxus, Text-Sound

Music and sonic research were influential factors for the development of Fluxus. The history of this movement has several alternate versions, which include a group of New York art students in the fifties experimenting with chance techniques and resurrecting the past traditions of such experiments. Many of them were involved with John Cage's Experimental Music Class held The New School for Social Research in Greenwich Village 1958-1960. Besides the students, Cage also invited performance poets and artists who were doing work which he found interesting to participate in the classes. Such people as Jackson MacLow, George Brecht, Toshi Ichiyanagi, Al Hanson, and Allen Kaprow were invited.

Many of them continued the course at composer's Richard Maxfield's house as an electronic music course after Cage ended the course. La Monte Young came to New York from California to enroll in it as part of his graduate studies. Also, Terry Riley, Terry Jennings, and Dennis Johnson participated in the course, and together the originated what they then called 'static music' which eventually became known as Minimal Music .

Polymath poet/composer/theorist/ playwright Dick Higgins has said of early FLUXUS:

"The principle ideas we came to share, mainly through Cage, were derived from Zen Buddhism, the I Ching, Erik Satie, and Marcel Duchamp... Many also favored the 'time structure' or 'temporal collage' method of composing musical and other temporal artworks, such as poems, plays, dances, happenings, and simultaneities."

From the composer Erik Satie they got through Cage a style of working which was characterized by the abrupt juxtaposition of contrasting and often mutually disparate passages without transitions between them. Performance artist Henry Flynt, described their work as 'Concept Art' in which the material which made up their art were concepts: Since 'concepts' are closely bound up with language, concept art is a kind of art of which the material is language.

Fylkingen: Text-sound, Art and Technology

Fig.: Catalogue for the Festival on Art and Technology, held in Stockholm in 1967

The FLUXUS concerts at Fylkingen were particularly influential as a precursor to text-sound composition. Their activities also had a significant influence on a number of other poets working with sound in Europe such as Bernard Heidsieck in France and Gerhard Rhm in Germany.

In Sweden, the text-sound composers-to-be took part in various fluxus and happening like activities from about 1960 on. Fylkingen was one of the focal points, and it was there that Lars-Gunnar Bodin organized Sweden's first major happening, while Bengt af Klintberg put on a number of events in which Sten Hanson and ke Hodell participated. From Sten Hanson's "Text-sound composition during the sixties: The Evolution of a Genre" in Literally Speaking edited by Teddy Hultberg (Sweden: Bo Ejeby Edition, 1993).

1. General Bussig, 1965 (6:34)
2. Djurgårdsfärjan över floden Styx 1972, (24:41)


From The Pioneers: Five Text-Sound Artists
(Phono Suecia, PSCD 63)

After returning from a meeting of contemporary radio producers in Holland in 1967, two members of the Fylkingen group, Bengt Emil Johnson and Lars-Gunnar Bodin, coined a term to both separate what they were doing from some of the similar material which they had been hearing, as well as to give their material a descriptive flourish and cohesive identity. Their term was text-ljudkomposition, or text-sound composition

In 1968, Fylkingen organized a three-day event which they called the International Festival of Text-Sound Composition. François Dufrêne and Bernard Heidsieck from France and Bob Cobbing from England were invited to come to Stockholm to use the recording and electronic music facilities along with the Swedish practitioners, to produced new pieces, as well as to perform and discuss their works. These individuals had been using the tape recorder, since the fifties, to produce works for the spoken voice. The Text-Sound Festival was expanded and held for at least a dozen more times in various places in the world. However by 1975, it had changed its name to the International Festival of Sound Poetry, with the term sound poetry being much more widely known and to include an acoustic, 'unplugged' version of the art.

On the other hand an artform, which was highly influenced by electronics and radio technology emerged. William Burroughs was one of the artists who combined literature, sound art and text-sound in a radiophonic context. Brion Gysin was another one, working with Burroughs in London, he influenced literature, concept art, lifestyle and many other artists of his time.