Sounding The Body Electric: Experiments in Art and Music in Eastern Europe 1957-1984

@ Calvert 22, London


Boguslaw Schaeffer “PR-I VIII”, 1972
Graphic score, ink on paper

The exhibition presented art works from concept movements which grew on the technological revolution of the XX century and flourished in 60s. The ubiquity of radio, telephone, photography and cinema forced artists to redefine the purpose of art, walk away from the naturalistic approach, analyse various forms of communication and the relationship of the sound-word-image. New studios were established producing so called concrete music (Pierre Schaeffer – Club d’ Essai in Paris- 1940; Electronic Music Studio-Cologne-1951). Also words (which carry sounds and images) were de-constructed in order to unify them with their origins in form of a concrete poetry.

“The connections between the visual arts and experimental music were closer in the 1960s than perhaps any time before or since. Sound and image combined in artists’ films, ‘happenings’ and sounding installations. Experimental forms of notation were also created to stimulate uninhibited musical expression.

Eastern European artists and composers were at the forefront of these new experiments with sound and yet their achievements have never been recorded until now. The exhibition is the missing chapter in the history of Sound Art.” (from Calvert 22)

After Stalin’s death in 1953 “the Thaw” period in Soviet Union meant that propaganda tactics were lifted from art and artists could for a while experiment more freely with new ways of expression. It is when new electronic studios equipped with magnetic tape recorders  and later, synthesisers were established.

The Experimental Studio of Polish Radio
Established in 1957 by Jozef Patkowski and first of its kind in Eastern Europe . The studio provided the electronic tools for numerous Polish composers including Wlodzimierz Kotonski and Krzysztof Penderecki to experiment with new music and over the course of 1960s and 70s hosted guest composers from around the world.
The studio connections with visual arts were strong – providing soundtracks for movies and experimental films.Composers associated with the Studio developed new systems of notation, called graphic scores.

This euphoria declined along with the comeback of surveillance and censorship in the 70s.

Concrete Music

Andrzej Dobrowolski "Music For Magnetic Tape and Piano/Oboe Solo"

Andrzej Dobrowolski “Music For Magnetic Tape and Piano/Oboe Solo”

Wlodzimierz Kotonski, "Conrete Etude (for One Cymbal Stroke)" 1959

Wlodzimierz Kotonski, “Conrete Etude (for One Cymbal Stroke)” 1959

Walerian Borowczyk/Jan Lenica “Dom”/”House”(1958)

The animation shows objects which move without human intervention and human beings acting like machines.

Video(digital transfer), colour, sound, 4'55" extract, Music: Kotonski

Video, colour, sound, 4’55” extract,
Music: Kotonski

Daniel Szczechura “Podroz/Journey”, 1970

Video, colour, sound, 1' extract Music by Eugeniusz Rudnik

Video, colour, sound, 1′ extract
Music by Eugeniusz Rudnik

Zbigniew Rybczynski “Zupa/Soup”, 1974


Video, colour, sound, 1′ extract
Music by Eugeniusz Rudnik

Krzysztof Gradowski “Akademia Pana Kleksa/ Mr Blot’s Academy”, 1983

Krzysztof Gradowski "Akademia Pana Kleksa/ Mr Blot's Academy", 1983 video, sound, colour, 1' extract Music by Bohdan Mazurek

video, sound, colour, 1′ extract
Music by Bohdan Mazurek

Cezary Kowalski, Zygmunt Krazuze, Henryk Morel “Open up Yourself”/ “5x” exhibition/ happening , 1966, Foksal Gallery, Warsaw

5x news report

5x news report


Bulat Geleyev, Prometheus Institute “Eternal Movements”, 1969


video, colour, sound 5’36”
Music Edgar Varese

Founded by Galyev in 1962, within an aviation engineering research centre in Kazan, The Prometheus institute was a laboratory for studying the potential merging of various arts ad science. Galyev was fascinated by the discoveries of Leon Theremin, an inventor of electronic musical instruments, and by the ideas of Aleksandr Scriabin, who sought to achieve a synthesis of music and the visual arts in the lighting and colour effects of his compositions.

Milan Grygar, Acoustic Drawing, 1974

“Grygor discovered earl in his career that drawing a line on paper makes a sound. In 1965 he began experimenting with various drawing implements including objects- to intentionally expand these (at first) random sounds to create “sound polyphonies,” which he recorded; he calls the physical results “Akustická kresba” (Acoustical Drawings). Each consists of a sheet of white paper with the drawn traces of the composed sounds, accompanied by a sound recording. “(from MutualArt)




Dora Maurer, Andras Klausz, Zoltan Jeney “Kalah”, 1980


The rules of the old Arab game of Kalah call for two players each using thirty six stones. the chance moves of the game were translated into seventy two combinations of shapes and color and as many sounds by Hungarian artis Maurer and composer Jeney

Zbigniew Robakowski, Eugeniusz Rudnik “Dynamic Rectangle”, 1971

Robakowski’s visual experiment to film a red rectangle through a diaphragm which could be flattened, expanded and narrowed manually. Filmed in ‘real time’, the alterations in visual forms are Robakowski’s attempt to convey the shifts in Rudnik’s music.

Other links: Bolt Records (Sounding The Body Electric CD)

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