< Back to previous page


Introduction: The acoustic neo-avant-gardes between literature and radio

Book Contribution - Chapter

In 1968, literary writers Ernst Jandl and Friederike Mayröcker, known from their experimental poetry, created the piece of art Fünf Mann Menschen (Five Man Humanity). The witty 14 minute play exploits the stereophonic possibilities of the radio in new surprising ways. In Italy, authors of the ‘neoavanguardia’ showed an interest in translating their literary poetics into a radiophonic one: both Umberto Eco and Edoardo Sanguineti collaborated with the composer Luciano Berio (Osmond-Smith, 2013). In 1979, the American avant-garde composer John Cage composed Roaratorio, a radio play for electronic tapes, Irish folk music, and voice, based on James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. In the Netherlands, Lucebert and Bert Schierbeek, experimental poets of the so-called Vijftigers movement wrote scripts for radio plays. There are numerous examples of neo-avant-garde artists experimenting with radiophonic genres, creating fascinating works of art. In fact, all over Europe and North America, we can find examples of such radiophonic experimentation that uses and transforms avant-garde techniques, such as montage, collage, and improvisation. The radio play in particular provided a playground to further think about the semiotic power of the auditive domain. They challenge artistic conventions as well as the distinctions between different media and genres, supported by technological novelties of the postwar period, such as stereo, the transistor radio, and the tape recorder.
The time is right to further unearth, examine, and compare these inventive works for the ear, not just because they are becoming more widely available through archival work and digitisation, but also because the recent decades have brought us more suited approaches to describe and interpret experimental radio plays.
Book: Tuning in to the neo-avant-garde
Pages: 1-24
Number of pages: 24
Publication year:2021
Keywords:Literary Studies
  • ORCID: /0000-0002-0898-7909/work/97874364