Sounds

Wassily Kandinsky; Translated by Elizabeth R. Napier; Introduction by Elizabeth R. Napier

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September 10, 1981
136 pages, 7 3/8 x 8 1/4
ISBN: 9780300026641
Paper

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Cloth

Wassily Kandisnsky’s Sounds (Klänge), a volume of poems written and illustrated by the Russian artist and pioneer of abstract painting, was originally published in a limited edition in Munich in 1912.  Although it was highly regarded by such artists as Hugo Ball and Jean Arp and acclaimed by the Zurich Dadaists, it remains one of the least known of Kandinsky’s major writings.  This is the first complete English translation of Kandinsky’s text. 
Sounds is one of the earliest, most beautiful examples of a twentieth-century livre d’artiste and a rare instance of a book in which text and illustrations are the work of a single artist.  The poems, alternately narrative and expressive in quality, are witty, simple in structure and vocabulary, and often startling in content.  They repeatedly treat questions of space, color, physical design, and the act of seeing in a world that offers multiple and often contradictory possibilities to the viewer.  The woodcuts range from early Jugendstil-inspired, representational designs to vignettes that are purely abstract in form.  
Published in the same year as his Concerning the Spiritual in Art, Sounds sheds a different but equally significant light on Kandinsky’s movement toward abstraction—a movement that was to exercise a profound influence on future directions in art.  In addition to the 38 poems and 56 woodcuts, which are arranged as in the original edition, the volume includes an introduction, the German text of the poems, and the artist’s chronology.

"Along with Napier's brilliant translation and the full-page woodcuts, this book includes an introduction, the German text printed as an appendix and an artist's chronology. Kandinsky's unjustly neglected masterwork is pregnant with ideas for artists, writers and poets."—Publishers Weekly

"[The poems] often have humor, but underneath there is the tone of another kind of instruction, on how to live in an apocalyptic era."—Stephen Spender, The New York Review of Books

"A work of rich content reflected between a multitude of varied images that strike the imagination in a wholly novel way."—Choice

"We should be profoundly grateful to have an impeccable English edition of Kandinsky's Sounds available at last, for it is one of the essential books of poetry of the century."
 
"The handsome presentation of the text is surely to be commended, yet Napier's wonder-working translation is the outstanding accomplishment here. I would venture to call this the finest translation from the German that I've read in many years. . . . Sounds is one of those rare combinations of the right book in exactly the right translator's hands."—Jed Rasula, The American Book Review

"Napier's sensitive translations and introduction, coupled with the handsome format that largely follows the original, is a fitting re-presentation of this neglected masterwork to the English-speaking public."—Antioch Review

"[Napier's] introduction to the volume is distinguished by both erudition and insight into the painter/poet's peculiar and in some respects unique semantic procedures."—F. Golffing, World Literature Today
Sounds

Wassily Kandinsky; Translated and with an introduction by E

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