Necropolis, Ampibians & Reptiles
NOTES : booklet that came with the LP
1864: born Bern Switzerland. Father a stone-mason, alcoholic, itinerant. Mother a laundress Adolf and his brothers in community care from very young age.
1873: Mother died. From then he was lodged with a series of farming families, who abused and overworked him, and neglected his education.
1881: fell in love with a neighbour's daughter but the affair was halted by the girl’s father. This deeply affected Wölfli, and he became restless and a petty thief, going through a rapid succession of jobs.
1888: he met a prostitute in town square and instantly fell in love. They became engaged but never married.
1890: his delusions begin as 'voices' begin talking to him. Twice he molests young girls. He never carries out his intentions, but nevertheless gets a two-year prison sentence.
1895: attempts to molest three and one-half year old girl. He is caught and incarcerated on October 23 at the Waldau asylum.
1897: owning to violence toward other patients he was locked up in an isolation cell, thus beginning a twenty-year period in solitary confinement.
1899: one night he breaks up all the fumiture in his cell and then the cell door and the window in the hall. In the morning he is found stock-still, pale and covered in perspiration; but having made no attempt to escape. This same year he began to draw, write and compose music. He draws continuously and plays his music on paper trumpets.
1908: his work has been continuous, and now he begins to work on a fabulous autobiography entitled "From the Craadle to the Graave." He draws less at this stage.
1916: the drawings are now in color and technique is developing. He is still very violent and complains of 'visions' imposing pictures on him. He composes march music as before.
1917 - 1919: transferred to an ordinary ward from his cell. Works furiously, going through one pencil and reams of paper every two days. Often scolds his 'voices' and hums down paper trumpets for hours on end.
1920: now becoming recognized as an artist by others. Sells a lot of paintings and delusions of grandeur increase, saying he is the world's greatest artist. He is more sociable, but convulsions and hallucinations continue.
1928: never ceases to work and now begins to work on his "Funeral March," his greatest work.
1929: he is very ill and tired. Operated on for pyloric cancer. Continues to work despite hardly being able to move. He never finished the work his heart was set on: the"Funcral March."
1930: died on November 6
|THE EXTENT OF WÖLFLI'S
ART AND MUSIC
Paintings: extant in the collection are 41 black and white drawings,
over 1,460 color illustrations included in texts, over 750 color drawings,
over 1,560 collages, and the decorated cell in which Wölfli spent
20 years of his life.
Text/Sound Poetry: beginning about 1920 began to rhyme creatively in a mixture of High German and Bernese dialect. At this state, "Das grosse Lalula" of Dadaist Christian Morgenstern existed to be sure, but Wölfli's work is not just tile glossolallia well-known in schizophrenia, but a creative play with dialect e.g. in poems written on an imaginary voyage to China he skillfully tries to get a chinese sound from Bernese: "N-Ha-angs-ssi, Ar ta-angs-ssi!! N-Ha-angs-ssi, win Witt!... Schittara i da, Krina-lina! Gwittara bi da Fina grin."
Collage: starting in 1916, Wölfli began to incorporate cutouts with his ornamental and textural style. Prominent themes are women, beauty, domestic happiness, catastrophes, machines, world of technology, powerful political personages, artists-actors, musicians, painters, exotic "Giant-Animals-and-Plants," mountains and glaciers, religious pictures, etc., mcluding a not-famous-enough example of Campbell's Tomato Soup (1929).
|Music: Wölfli was a self-titled
"composer," his pictures, "pieces of music." He also gave many written
indications as to how it should instruments ought to be used.
Indeed he often played his own compositions on the only available "mstrument;' the paper trumpet. He was conversant in some musical expressions and was also quite aware of what they sigffified, because he sometimes discovers and corrects one of his own errors. Furthermore, although he had no formal training, in the parallel development of motifs in treble and bass clef, one can discern deliberate musicality.
It seems best to do as Streiff and Keller in Catalogue of the Adolf Wölfli Foundation suggest, and that is to divide his music into three categories:
1) Pictures where the music dominates;
2) Pictures where music is only marginal or fragmentary, or the staves are empty;
3) those where the music is important but is not filling up the whole surface.
In interpreting any of his music, then, one would most likely attempt to transcribe literally only those pieces where the music was the main purpose for the picture. This does not mean that the others can not be interpreted as music, but simply that the role of any written notes is more likely to be purely ornamental in these pieces. Indeed in the pictures of 1904 - 1905, all the staves are empty, but Wölfli often enough referred to them as music to warrant their ideration as a valid expression, difficult as this may make their faithful interpretation.
Allgebrah: "that is, music in writting; self-invention" (AW). The distinction between music and Allgebrah is not so clear since both are part of this central process of self-invention, the cornerstone. But it was clear that the creation of a whole new numerical system was necessary to cope with the phenomenal excess of Wölfli's production. After trillions, quadrillions, etc., he creates Regoniffs, Suniffs, etc., through twenty-two levels of multiplication up to One Oberon, "which should not be exceeded because same is a cat-tas-strophe. HM!!" But later on even Oberon must be eclipsed by Zorn which is the dissolution of the numerical into music and emotion. Allegbrah is music!
"Allegbrah Donn'r, -rollen!
|THE MUSIC ITSELF - CHARACTERISTICS
AND THEORY OF REPRODUCTION
In his music, Wölfli uses two different kinds of notation:
A number of other signs cause more problems: the use of the sign '9'
at the end of bars, for example. The # sign is very often used other than
as a sharp because it is not next to any particular note. In these frequent
cases it seems most likely that it performs the function of a ‘rest.’
The result of reading the music by this system is on the record. Whilst
in his time, if it had ever been performed, it might have sounded somewhat
'atonal,' it certainly sounds quite melodic to a modem listener. No chords
seemed unrealizable,' and there are always interesting developments of
melody, harmony and counter-point.
|WÖLFLI'S IMPORTANCE TO
PHILOSOPHY / ANTI-PSYCHIATRY / ART HISTORY/ MUSICOLOGY
Adolf Wölfli was mad, of that there is no doubt. But it is vital not to categorize his art as separate - as mad, or 'naive.' Wölfli, like all artists, is confronting the essential question of art, religion, philosophy: Original Sin, in the sense of man's powerlessness to confront the Absolute. He sees himself as One: the sinner and the sinned against, and asks Why must humans suffer guilt, and some become insane as well?
Wölfli always spoke of art as 'a beautifully rhymed curse' which simultaneously endowed him with great power but ultimately imposed its ineluctable limitations.
Madness, in the sense of dissatisfaction with accepted nonns, is always asocial and lies at the origin of all creation. Creativity is always a deviance, a transgression of accepted modes of thought. In fact, art like Wölfli's casts light on the on'gin of art in general, because the creative mechanisms behind it are often more visible than in that of the 'healthy' artist. In contrast, cultural (i.e. accepted) art is only a controlled madness, a HYPERBOLE which can only be indulged by constantly referring back to the yardstick of its culture. Therefore instead of its being a supposed expression/symptom/result of an illness, art such as Wölfli's must be accepted as 'art,' and that is all. The 'illness' does not disappear, by reason of this acceptance, of course. But rather it exists alongside, affecting but not conditioning the creative process.
Wölfli's MUSIQUE BRUT is thus neither an Illness nor merely an aesthetic, but a challenge to the human condition, like any great oeuvre. It is process rather than product (a process of documentation); production rather than expression; creativity rather than communication, though of course it communicates a dimension beyond mere semantics.
|Wölfli creates an 'individual
mythology' (Barthes) which over-runs meaning: from the mythological/archetypal
it becomes transcendent/formal; and thence beyond intelligibility to irrational/transcendental,
a sphere of meaning which eventually appears as a metaphorical truth in
the "FUNERAL MARCH".
"A Water-Snake you shall become!
But he also wrote:
"Some day, again - in the dark
In the identity of art and artists, represented and representation,
schizophrenia poses the central issue of humanity (Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze
& Guattari). The artist's work must be seen both as part of his time
and also as something out of time.
|NOTES ON THE PARTICIPANTS
AND THEIR APPROACHES
"For NECROPOLIS, AMPHIBIANS, AND REPTILES (1911) I took the fragmentary
chord progression and expanded it using classical inversion, etc. I used
violin as the solo mstrument because this is the instrument most often
visually represented in his paintings. The other elements of the piece:
rooks/toads/bells are all ornamental features of nearly all Wölfli's
works. The EBONY TOWER IN THE ORIENT WATER/FANFAARE # 1 (1904) is a typical
example of his early pieces which are purely ornamental but which he still
always called Imusical compositions.' He had yet to develop the more standard
notation the ‘music’ being more a function of spatial arrangement circles
(loops), bell strings (church bells), and of course the fanfare (french
horns) and the oriental scale which derives, like the tower,
|Notes on the other participants
Countess Saladine (1911)
Walter Morgenthaler, Hermine Ferndriger-Marti, Ein Geisteskrankler als
Kunstler, (Bern/Leipzig, 1921).
Renee Shafransky, Schilling,
Elka Spoerri & Jurgen Glaesemer (Eds.)
BIBLIOGRAPHY: ART BRUT (annotated)
Alfred Bader (Ed.),
Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guattari,