Kristen Loree

Jack Ox

Peter Gilbert

Karola Obermüller

Jane daPain

Artists Statements:






Ursonate links:

THE Magazine Review by

M. LaPalma

Scores from Schwitters performance:

Ox scores for painted visualization:

Letter from Ernst Schwitters

Theme images for Visualization of Ursonate

Movement I

Movement II

Movement III



The Ursonate Experience
A Complete Reconceiving of the Classic Epic Poem Ursonate

We will collaborate on a new work inspired by the epic sound poem Ursonate of iconic artist Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948), as well as a reimagined performance of the original masterpiece. This unique performance will combine poetry, visual art, film, music and theatre in an updated presentation of this intermedia(1) classic, side-by-side with work inspired by it.

Through the creation of new technological tools, it will become possible to have flexible adaptable presentation of projected images in conjunction with a theatrical performance of Ursonate as well as a new live-collaboration piece joining the voices of five artists fromnumerous media: Kristen Loree (performer and director), Peter Gilbert and Karola Obermüller (music composition/technology and interface design), Jack Ox (visual artist and metaphor theorist), and Jane Crayton (a.k.a Jane daPain—video artist, fulldome(2) specialist and programmer).


Project Description


Project Summary
Push the button and after a few seconds a video from Loree and Ox's performance with digital projections will play. Ox's painted syllables move to patterns mapped from Loree's extended vocal technique performance of Ur vowels. The data was captured with the ARTS Lab's motion capture system at the University of New Mexico.

Ursonate (sonata in primal sounds) by Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948) is a classic sound poem, consisting entirely of German phonemes, set in the traditional 19th century musical form of a four-movement sonata. Schwitters, a German artist renowned for his visual and protoinstallation art, generated this fusion of language, poetry and theater that he himself performed regularly, developing and extending it. Over the last century and into this, many dancers, singers, musicians and scholars have interpreted Ursonate, but they have relied upon the Jan Tschichold edition of the text, which is unspecific in its musical notation and not strongly indicative of Schwitters’s original performance. Artist Jack Ox’s discovery of an extremely rare tape of Schwitters himself performing Ursonate has made it possible to revive the musical qualities of this work accurately based upon its original conception.

Ox then undertook an 800-square-foot visual translation of the Schwitters performance in oil paint. Using the sonata structure(3) as her guide, Ox’s work is actually a series of smaller images (scans from 16 larger works), which relate moment by moment to the recording through a rich system of correspondences. For instance, each 'theme'(4) is connected with a landscape from Schwitters’s life that he had himself documented in painting or photography. As the Ursonate uses only phonemes, Ox made a complete phonetic analysis of the work at the Phonetics Institute, U. of Cologne. She then created a collage system for delineation of different consonants and a color system that visualizes how and where vowel sounds are made in the vocal tract. Even the silences in the original recording are incorporated.

Ox then teamed up with Kristen Loree, who had been performingUrsonate on her own for some time, to create a performance in which each of the 1200 individual sections from Ox’s painted visualization were successively projected during and in accordance with Loree’s
performance of the score. Ox and Loree have done performances in this manner for six years.

There are other limitations to the current performances as well. Loree has frequently felt detached from the visual images, which, since they are projected behind her, are never visible to
her as performer. Ox has also been unable to spontaneously respond to the moment-to-moment changes in quality of Loree’s performance and until now, Ox and Loree have not had the capacity to affect the diffusion(6) of Loree’s voice.

Developing a New Tool:
Our proposal is to develop a powerful tool for interactive performance—a newly designed application for the iPad that will utilize the tablet devise as a powerful interface for control and transformation of sound, image, and video. In order to have a fully customized tablet-controller tailor-made for our performance, we will employ a code programmer to work with the specific challenges of writing iPad application code. We will then go back and forth with the programmer through several phases of testing and development, as we identify all of the specific requirements our vision entails. We can then rehearse with and perfect the interface for performance.


  1. Intermedia: describing art which combines structural elements from two or more different disciplines into one medium. Higgins, D. (1966). Intermedia. Something Else Newsletter, 1(No. 1) & Higgins, D. (2001). Intermedia. Leonardo Journal of the International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology, 34(No. 1), 49--54.
  2. Fulldome: an immersive video-projection venue (as in planetariums, for instance).
  3. Schwitters’s use of the term sonata refers to the 18th and 19th century musical convention of sonata form.Schwitters’s homage includes the four-movement structure that typified 19th century sonatas.
  4. In music, sonata form was for many years defined as a melodic form based upon clearly recognizable and differentiable “themes.” This would have been the 19th c. German definition that Schwitters would have learned.
  5. Diffusion: A term used in the field of live-audio referring to the movement of sound through a performance space
    with a multiple-speaker array.