Henri Chopin – OH Audiopoems By Henri Chopin 2LP
Balsam Flex was a cassette label run by the artist Erik Vonna-Michell in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and evidence of a relatively overlooked moment when a number of London-based British poets were producing work that was influenced by performance art, conceptual art, sound art, text-sound composition, Fluxus, and situationism. One of their most impressive release is Oh: Audiopoems, by the legendary Henri Chopin, a collection of his work from 1958 to 1979.
Henri Chopin was a key figure of the French avant-garde during the second half of the 20th century.
Towards the end of the second world war, Henri Chopin, who has died aged 85, escaped from a forced labour camp in Olomouc, in what is now the Czech Republic, after it had been bombed. He then spent time with the advancing Red Army, until, recaptured by the Germans, he and inmates of concentration and extermination camps were sent west on a Nazi “death march”.
In the 1950s Henri created sound poetry, capturing breaths and cries made by his voice and body. He was, said his friend William Burroughs, an “inner space explorer”, but the Frenchman remained a solitary figure, outside any artistic grouping, almost the only exponent of his art, and almost certainly the only poet to record sounds and movements by swallowing a microphone.
Known primarily as a concrète and sound poet, he created a large body of pioneering recordings using early tape recorders, studio technologies and the sounds of the manipulated human voice. His emphasis on sound is a reminder that language stems as much from oral traditions as from classic literature, of the relationship of balance between order and chaos.
Edition of 150 copies only (!) so grab these while you can…Chopin skepticism about the written word and meaningful utterance is captured in the following statement:
“I prefer the sun, I’m fond of the night, I’m fond of my noises and of my sounds, I admire the immense complex factory of a body, I’m fond of my glances that touch, of my ears that see, of my eyes that receive… But I do not have to have the benediction of the written idea. I do not have to have my life derived from the intelligible. I do not want to be subject to the true Word which is forever misleading or lying, I can stand no longer to be destroyed by the Word, that lie that abolishes itself on paper.”