erdinger and shrdlu

Only anecdotal evidence exists of Erdinger’s oeuvre. It suggests that Erdinger – a mononymous concrete poet – was obsessed by his own name to the exclusion of all else. Driven by a desire to communicate something that was ‘unsayable’, Erdinger’s life was blighted by the fact that no one understood him or his work – and he remains to this day – a sound poet who’s work is clouded in obscurity. It seems that although he is mentioned in key papers, he never committed his work to print. He even seems to have chosen his collaborators purely in order to remain obscure, working with the equally enigmatic Etaoin Shrdlu, who’s sound poems appear as early as 1894(!), but who – as with Erdinger – seems to have left no great record of her art. Their collaborative piece still remains one of the great lost works of the concrete/sound poetry movement. Recently discovered behind a radiator in the Lyrik Kabinett, Munich, the pamphlet that you are holding, is based on a ‘bootleg’ chap-book of a performance Erdinger gave in 1964. It was clearly produced by an unknown admirer without Erdinger’s permission as an exhaustive search of the catalogue has found no further printed matter. There is, however, one incomplete audio recording, in which we hear the interviewer refer to Erdinger ‘speaking with a charming Liverpool accent’, unfortunately the tape is corrupted before the man himself begins his performance. Those who attended the Klang Farben Text event in Munich may have been lucky enough to have heard Chris McCabe perform two of the pieces. The first time they have been heard in over 50 years. We hope the rediscovery of this small example of his singular voice brings you as much pleasure as it brings us.

 

Etaoin Shrdlu. A name shrouded in mystery. Her work appears as early as 1894, and the last recorded instance in print is in 1976. A sound poet, who pre-dates the Futurist and Dadaist vanguards who are to this day considered the pioneers of the movement, her work only ever appeared as almost ‘interventionist’ statements in contemporary newspapers. Always credited to her by name, but never put in any other context, and dropped into the existing text matter seemingly at random, they could, and would be, overlooked for a century and a half. There is a known, but lost collaboration with Erdinger, and third-hand anecdotal evidence of a conversation between the two where Shrdlu spoke about the codes that underpinned her seemingly random sound poetry. We cannot even be sure how these statements were trans-lated, whether the printed versions are Shrdlu’s own, or transcripts by audience members… And what was her relationship with the elusive Erdinger? Mentor? Mother? Lover? An accidental coming together of two artists’ who sat outside of convention their entire lives? It cannot be an accident that these two impossible figures came to know each other. There must be some greater link than a random connection within an infinite universe. We can assume that Shrdlu must have been an active sound poet until her final years, that she must have died a centenarian, and that Erdinger who was first active in the 60s, was a much younger man. They are impossible figures to reconcile within the context of their art. What do the texts mean? What are the coded messages? Did Erdinger know the truth? Why do the first and last poems – some 80 years apart – start with that powerful connection of the ampersand? A character that implies a close connection between two parts. But all we have is that singular ‘t’. Alone. Unknown. Unknowing.

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