Making Music With Your Mouth: Sound Poetry, Beat-boxing, Scat-Singing, & Scottish Mouth Music. How do they compare and contrast?

Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948) was a German artist, graphic designer, typographer, set designer and poet. From 1923-1932 he published an arts and poetry magazine called “Merz”. What this blog is concerned about are his works of Sound Poetry.

In 1926, after a trip to Prague, he was inspired to work on his epic sound-poem called Sonate in Urlauten which he performed throughout Europe for years afterward. The sound poem depicts phonemic and syllabic expressions according to the German language. These were not words. They were sound elements from the language. The performer was expected to read every sound off the paper but improvise and interpret things like pitch and tempo.

This is an example of what the sound poem looks like and paper. Keep it mind that the letters represent German sounds not English.

Here are two short samples, as voiced by the man himself.



Now compare that to this bit of Jazz Scat Singing by the great Ella Fitzgerald.

To take this a step further, consider this example of Scottish Mouth Music.

People can do a lot with their mouths. Here is a famous example of The “Human Beat Box” style of rhythmic mouth sounds once used widely in hip-hop. It’s currently a global phenomena and does not show signs of abating. Here is a collection of mostly young people demonstrating their skills on TikTok

Take yet another turn, and here is an example of sampling mouth sounds and then triggering them with a computer or keyboard. Kraftwerk’s “Music Non Stop”.

For good measure, here is a more modern recording of Kurt Schwitter’s work.

What do you think about all of this? Leave you thoughts in the comment section below!

– WACKY ALEX

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