Zaum Box, for solo speaking percussionist
duration: variable (17 seconds-24 minutes)

Zaum Box is a collection of ten compositions ranging in length from seventeen seconds to eight minutes, each scored for solo percussionist who orates Russian Futurist poetry while performing on a variety of instruments and devices. The work was commissioned by percussionists Katelyn Rose King and Alexv Rolfe for the speak/strike project. Zaum, or ‘trans-rational’ language, was developed by poet Alexei Kruchenykh in 1913, who asserted that ordinary language could not express the thoughts of the modern mind in a state of inspiration. The experimental poetry of Kruchenykh and others rapidly progressed from the creative deconstruction of grammar, to the invention of words, to the invention of entirely new language of sound beyond rational meaning, and finally to the complete deconstruction of phonemes into graphical constructions, all in the span of just a few years. Each composition of Zaum Box sets a single poem for solo performer. Speech, percussive technique, instrument selection, and the visual appearance of the score are all subject to creative disruption in the spirit of zaum. Performers design trajectories of movement by choosing which of the compositions to perform, their order, many of the instruments, and their physical placement.

Zaum Box Photo

Zaum Box was published in November, 2016 as a limited-edition box set of large-format scores printed on paper of various types and sizes. Each score includes an image of the original zaum poem, a transliteration into English, and when relevant, a translation. The box set is ten printed scores, a certificate of authenticity in an airmail envelope stamped with Soviet-era postage stamps, and a USB flash drive with printable digital versions of all the scores, inside an archival photo box.

Twenty-five boxes were produced and twenty-one were offered for sale at a price of $100 each. Purchase of the box included exclusive authorization to perform the work for a period of one-year following the sale of the last box. That period has now expired, so all performers are permitted to perform the work from the digital edition, the printed bound score, or the box set. No more printed boxes will be produced.

The limited-edition box set sold out on November 15, 2017. The PDF edition and printed bound score are available now in the Store and may be used for peformance.

Orignal Zaum Box editions are publicly accessible at the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library in La Jolla, CA, the University of Washington Music Library, and the Royal Conservatory of Brussels library in Belgium.

In August, 2016, the complete Zaum Box was recorded by percussionst Kateyn Rose King with videography by Ute Freund and sound by Christoph Utzinger.

The Zaum Box videos will be on display at the exhibition "Louder Than Words" at the Zuckerman Museum of Art, Kennesaw State University, Georgia, Feburary 2 through May 9, 2019.

Errata (for owners of Zaum Box printed scores):

  • S-K-L: complete the inner circle of arrows by adding an arrow from А to Б

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Christopher Adler, University of San Diego Music Program, 5998 Alcala Park, San Diego, 92110-2492

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