The Squid's Ear Magazine

Monach, Greta: Fonerga (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

Playful in its seriousness, the sound poetry of Greta Monach (1928-2018), an early proponent of computer generated concrete poetry, and known for her notated sound poem series for four voices, "Fonerga", is performed by University of Victoria voice artists Cathy Fern Lewis, Laura Brandes, Daniel Brandes and Christopher Butterfield; awe-inspiring and exotically amusing.

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product information:

UPC: 4011778039600

Label: Edition Wandelweiser Records
Catalog ID: EWR 2125
Squidco Product Code: 31532

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2021
Country: Germany
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold 3 Panels
Recorded at the University Of Victoria, in Victoria, BC, Canada, in 2020 and 2021, by Kirk McNally.


Greta Monach-composer

Christopher Butterfield-voice

Cathy Fern Lewis-voice

Laura Brandes-voice

Daniel Brandes-voice

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Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"Greta Monach (greta vermeulen) was born in 1928 in The Hague, Netherlands. She spent her childhood in Indonesia and Curaçao.

In 1946 she returned to The Hague. She saw abstract painting for the first time, and started to think about abstract (non-semantic) poetry. For decades she experimented without success. From 1946 to 1948 Monach studied literature at Leiden University, then switched to music. She studied the flute for seven years at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague. From 1955 to 1961 she worked in classical music, including chamber and symphonic music, opera, and oratorio.

In 1961 she attended the darmstadt summer course for the first time, exploring contemporary classical music. "Contemporary music" opened a new world to Monach, and in the years that followed she gathered experience in this field, living in Munich at the time. In 1965 she was back in Holland, where she studied electronic music. From 1966 to 1986 she held a job at the Institute Of Sonology in Utrecht and got familiar with computer music. From 1970 on she used the computer to generate concrete poetry (letter-drawings called "automaterga").

Monach is perhaps best known for her series of "Fonerga", notated sound poems for one to four voices. Each comes with a detailed set of instructions for the speakers regarding pronunciation, tempo, dynamics, and rhythm. She was explicit that they not be considered as music, and not performed in any musical context.

Greta Monach died in 2018 at the age of 89.

A note about analysis 78-3

in october 1978, Greta Monach attended the 11th International Sound Poetry Festival in Toronto, Canada. She wrote "Analysis 78-3" shortly before the festival. The piece is made up of syllables found in the phrase "many poets came to Toronto and saw no eskimos." the full phrase itself is spoken only once, at the very end.

Given Canada's journey of reckoning, truth, and reconciliation, and the historical misuse of the word "eskimo" and other harmful labels and stereotypes, we put serious thought into whether to include this piece on the recording. We had conversations with each other and with karla point / hii nulth tsa kaa, indigenous resurgence coordinator in the university of victoria's faculty of fine arts, and came to the decision to include analysis 78-3, but with a responsibility to provide this broader context.

All of Greta Monach's sound poetry is remarkably playful in its seriousness (which is part of what we love about it). Through analysis 78-3, Greta Monach comments on the absurd expectations of non-canadians visiting the country for the first time and expecting to be freezing cold and see polar bears and igloos (even in toronto in october!). We have included this short piece in the spirit of both respect for Greta Monach's work as an artist, and acknowledgment of the work of decolonization that we also take on as performers."-Editions Wandelweiser

This album has been reviewed on our magazine:

The Squid
The Squid's Ear!

Artist Biographies

"Greta Monach (born Greta Vermeulen, 1928-2018) was a Dutch sound poet. She was one of the first to use a computer for writing poetry. Her work has been anthologised in Richard W. Bailey's Computer Poems (1973) as well as Steve McCaffery and bpNichol's Sound Poetry, A Catalogue (1978)."

-Monoskop (

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"Christopher Butterfield. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, 1952. Composer.

Born in Vancouver in 1952, Christopher Butterfield moved to Halifax N.S. when he was six weeks old. As a chorister in King's College Choir in the UK, he absorbed the English choral tradition. On his return to Canada in the mid-60's he was immediately exposed to pop radio and the musical and artistic avant-garde. He's been trying to bring all these elements together ever since. After studying composition with Rudolf Komorous at the University of Victoria, and Bülent Arel at SUNY Stony Brook, he moved to Toronto where he became involved in the performance art/sound poetry scene there. Between 1977 and 1982 he mounted installations at Mercer Union, YYZ, and, under the pseudonym Isobel Foot, at the A.K.A. Gallery. He also played lead guitar in the rock band Klo for seven years. In 1992 he moved back to the west coast to teach composition at the University of Victoria. Career highlights include performing Kurt Schwitters' Ursonata on tour with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company in the US and Europe in 1996/97; the production of his opera Zurich 1916, at the Banff Summer Festival in 1998; composer in residence of the Victoria Symphony 1999-2002; the premiere of his score for Bill Coleman's dance epic Convoy PQ17 in St. Petersburg, Russia in 2001 (remounted in Victoria in 2013); the first performance of his complete settings of Jacques Prévert's Contes pour enfants pas sages in Toronto by Continuum Contemporary Music and Choir 21 (2012). Recent activities include co-ordinating and curating the Cage 100 Festival in Victoria (2012), celebrating American composer John Cage's centenary; and judging the International Gaudeamus Composition competition in Utrecht, Netherlands (2012), where Bosquet, his piece for 22 flutes and 1 'cello, was performed. His most recent work, parc, a concerto for vibraphonist Rick Sacks and the Aventa Ensemble, toured to New York, Ottawa and Regina this past March.

Over the years Christopher Butterfield has been the recipient of many commissions from the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Ontario and BC Arts Councils. His music has been recorded on the Artifact and CBC labels. His translations of three plays by Paris Dada Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes will be published by Wakefield Press in fall 2014."

-Quatuor Bozzini Website (

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"An ambassador of the professional new music and art scene in Canada since 1974, versatile and experimental soprano/voice artist Catherine Fern Lewis graduated from the University of Victoria, B.C. where she specialized in contemporary music. Lewis spent a further three years in Europe, predominantly in Paris, studying French song with the noted Peirre Bernac, Madame Chereau and Winifred Radford."

-Catherine Fern Lewis Website (

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"Laura Brandes leads the Water Sustainability Project's communications, outreach, and knowledge mobilization activities. Bringing her expertise as a writer, editor, and science communicator, her work focuses on creatively and effectively communicating new research and innovative ideas to a variety of audiences, including communities, media, governments, and practitioners. She has led the Creating a Blue Dialogue webinar series since 2011, which has brought together thousands of expert water practitioners and thinkers, as well as emerging water leaders, to engage with innovative ideas on water policy and governance in Canada. Laura completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Guelph where she studied wildlife biology and music. She is an alumna of the renowned Banff Science Communications Program and has training through both the International Environmental Communication Association and Editors Canada. Laura is the proud mother of Peter. She is also an active musician and co-founder of A Place to Listen, a monthly experimental music concert series in Victoria, B.C."

-University of Victoria (

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"Daniel Brandes is a husband, father, composer, performer, choir director, and teacher. He lives in Victoria, BC with his wife Laura and son Peter.

Daniel's musical practice aspires to create, and inspire, spaces that are predicated upon gentleness and receptivity as first principles, and that honour and bear witness to our shared human vulnerability.

Daniel is an active member of the Wandelweiser experimental music community. In 2012, Daniel and Laura founded the monthly listening series A Place to Listen, a home for experimental music in Victoria, BC. Daniel is also a founding member (piano, melodica, voice) of the A Place to Listen Ensemble, a community of friends and musicians that has grown and evolved over the course of the A Place to Listen series.

Daniel's music has been performed around the world. He is grateful to the amazing community of artists that has given his music a home, including: A Quiet Night In, Atalier Jaku, Dogstar Orchestra, Extradition Series, KLANGRAUM, Klan dim dach, Quatuor Bozzini, Duo 1010, Same Ensemble, Antoine Beuger, Dante Boon, Cheryl Duvall, Odeya Nini, Leo Svirsky, Andrea Young, and many others.

In addition to his activities as a composer and performer, Daniel teaches at the Victoria Conservatory of Music and is the program director for the ChoirKids outreach initiative. Daniel has also been the music director at James Bay United Church since 2011."

-Editions Wandelweiser (

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Track Listing:

1. Fonergon 78-1 10:08

2. Analysis 78-3 3:09

3. Fonergon 79-5 20:38

4. Polar Bear Eats Ostrich 4:57

5. Fonergon 85-1 22:03

Related Categories of Interest:

Compositional Forms
Unusual Vocal Forms
Spoken Word
Song Based Music
Quintet Recordings
Canadian Composition & Improvisation
New in Compositional Music

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