Apollinaire in Freddy de Vree’s multilingual radiophonic composition A Pollen in the Air
In this chapter, a reading of the radio play A Pollen in the Air (1970), serves to demonstrate the transnational and multilingual nature of the aural neo-avant-garde against the backdrop of theories of the neo-avant-garde. A Pollen in the Air, a fictional and aural biography of Guillaume Apollinaire, was created by the Flemish poet and radio producer Freddy de Vree. The context of its production as well as the composition of the piece are steeped in the idea of crossing boundaries: the play involves an intertextual, stereophonic and multilingual collage of sounds and voices, recounting the life of Apollinaire. In combining several intertexts, such as Gunnar Harding’s Guillaume Apollinaires gåtfulla leende and James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, the collage seems to efface the signature of De Vree as a creator, but in fact his creative contribution is recognisable in the selection of materials, the multilingual collage and the radiophonic effects. On an institutional as well as compositional level, the radio play is a result of avant-gardist cross-pollination. It is a work in which avant-garde views and strategies are brought together in a collage of intertexts, languages and electroacoustic manipulation.
Tuning in to the neo-avant-garde offers the first in-depth study of the radio play’s significance for the neo-avant-garde. In the postwar period, radio began to function as a site of artistic experimentation for the literary neo-avant-garde, especially in the form of the radio play. In the wake of the historical avant-garde, the neo-avant-garde had a strong interest in aural media, in the seemingly autonomous power of sound and voice. Therefore, it is not surprising that postwar avant-garde artists and literary writers in particular all across Europe, the US and the UK started to experiment with the radio play. Neo-avant-garde artists actively engaged with newly created studios and platforms in the postwar period. The contributions to this book examine how the radiophonic neo-avant-garde stages political questions and acknowledges its own ideological structure, while taking into account the public nature of radio. Alongside these cultural and political contexts, the book also reflects on intermedial and material issues to analyse how they have impacted artistic production in different parts of the world. Specific attention is paid to how artists explored the creative affordances of radio and the semiotics of auditory storytelling through electroacoustic manipulation, stereophonic positioning, montage and mixing, while also probing the ways in which they experimented in related genres and media such as music, sound poetry and theatre, questioning the boundaries between them. Because of its exclusive focus on the audiophonic realm, the book offers a valuable new perspective on the continuing debate surrounding the neo-avant-garde and its relationship with the historical avant-garde.
The acoustic neo-avant-gardes between literature and radio
Inge Arteel, Lars Bernaerts, Siebe Bluijs, and Pim Verhulst
The introductory chapter explains what is at stake in the exploration of postwar radiophonic experimentation and discusses some recent perspectives, such as those of sound studies and theories of the avant-garde. In particular, the chapter relates the radiophonic adventures of literary authors and other artists to the tradition of the avant-garde and the debates surrounding it. A lot of postwar creative radio art, for example pieces by Antonin Artaud or Georges Perec, continued the aims and strategies of the historical avant-garde. At the same time, they confronted and dealt with the intrinsic limitations of radio as a mass medium. This leads us to reconsider the question, raised by Peter Bürger, whether the neo-avant-garde is a failed avant-garde. Referring to a rich variety of radio plays and offering an outline of the volume, the introductory chapter argues that the neo-avant-gardes across Europe and North America both continued and renewed the views and means of the historical avant-gardes.