Leo Küpper ‘Kouros et Korê/Innominé’

Leo Küpper LP front coverThe santur in the elctronic music studioIgloo records label logoLeo Küpper LP back cover

  1. Kouros et Korê, 1979 (23:40)
    Jeannette Inchauste: phonemes
    Jean-Claude Frison: phonemes
  2. Innominé, 1974 (21:17)
    Allessandra Mihail: voice
    Foreign students from Brussels Free University: vocals

Total time 45:00
LP released by Igloo, Belgium, 1981

Belgian composer Leo Küpper (b.1935) started to experiment with electronic music in 1959 as a student at Liège University, Belgium, using two Brüel & Kjaer oscillators and a tape recorder. From 1961, while studying musicology in Brussels, he worked at Brussels Apelac electronic music studio, founded by Henri Pousseur in 1959. Küpper founded his own ‘Studio de Recherches et de Structurations Electroniques Auditives’ in Brussels in 1967. He created interactive sound installations he called ‘Public Computer Music’ (Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Roma, 1977) and various electronic instruments like the ‘Automates Sonores’, the Kinephone in 1987, or the ‘Ordinateur Musical’, a voice-activated computer with electronic sounds interacting with the audience. These interactive musical events sometimes took place in Sound Domes (1977-1987), architectural structures with up to 100 speakers, like in Linz, Austria, 1984. Küpper was always fascinated with the human voice and some of his best works use it as source material. He researched the world of phonemes and glossolalia, or speaking in tongues in Christian and Orthodox liturgy. He founded the Phonemic and Vocal group in 1982, with singers using the musical machines described above. One of his compositions of 1974 is based on Antonin Artaud’s poem ‘L’enclume des Forces’. He often worked with actors and students, more rarely with professional singers (like mezzo-soprano A.M. Kieffer), in which case his music is comparable to Luciano Berio’s compositions for Cathy Berberian. In 1973, Küpper traveled to Iran to study santur with Hossein Malek. Since then, he has been a noted santur player, performing abroad during festivals and composing for santur and electronics.

‘Kouros et Korê’ (1979) is constructed from the extraordinary performances of dancer Jeannette Inchauste and actor Jean-Claude Frison, whose ability to produce a wide array of microscopic vocal sounds is used by Küpper to build a delicate, complex architecture of intertwined phonemes. The latter include such sub-categories as (in French): allophones, phonatomes, logatomes and phonetic micro-sounds. The close-up miking goes inside the sub-atomic structure of sound, while the studio montage organizes the phonetic sounds into a fascinating voicescape. No surprise sound poet Henri Chopin found the piece beautiful when Küpper played it to him in the 1980s (from a 2009 interview). Retrospectively, the works of Anna Homler, David Moss or Phil Minton seem to be inspired by these experiments.

‘Innominé’ (1974) uses the ‘Ordinateur Musical’ to process the utterances of a group of students. At the beginning, the program reacts with semi-aleatoric electronic sounds to the inchoate, indistinct ushed vocals. Then the seductive voice of Allessandra Mihail expresses the interrogations of an isolated individual. A fascinating electronic passage of dignified computer interjections follows at 6:00. Vocals return on 17:00, when all the students proposes new words and phonetic sounds according to their mother tongue (Chinese, Arab, Danish, French) during a collective performance using the interactive computer’s electronic treatment. In the end, the beauty of ‘Innominé’ impresses more than the technology used, which is indicative of its musical accomplishment.


1971 ‘L’Enclume Des Forces/Électro-Poème/Automatismes Sonores‘, LP, Deutsche Grammophon
1981 ‘Kouros et Korê/Innominé’, LP, Igloo 007
1985 ‘Amkéa/Aérosons’, LP, Igloo 032
199? ‘Litanea’, CD, Harmonia Mundi CM 2023
1996 ‘Electro-Acoustic’, CD, Pogus 21009-2
1999 ‘Ways of the Voice’, CD, Pogus 21018-2
2003 ‘Complete Electronic Works 1961-74’, CD, Sub Rosa

Appears on:
1991 ‘Cimbalom World Congress’, CD, Hungaroton HCD 18209

14 Responses to “Leo Küpper ‘Kouros et Korê/Innominé’”

  1. 1 twinkle August 5, 2009 at 10:00 am

    really fascinating

  2. 2 continuo August 5, 2009 at 10:10 am

    I think it’s beautiful music for voices.

  3. 3 gd August 5, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    wow, thanks for this.

  4. 4 continuo August 5, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    You’re welcome.

  5. 5 jan August 5, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    This is great. Thanks!!


  6. 6 gLgL August 13, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    You have to see the maginificent documentary portrait of Leo Küpper “Le Plaisir du regret” made by O.M.E. (Observatoire des musiques électroniques, a.k.a. Guy-Marc Hinant + Dominique Lohlé).

    They are making portraits of musicians where their speech, what they have to say, is central. They released two of them on DVD: David Toop and Henri Pousseur. If they sell enough copies to be able to invest in future releases they will publish the other ones on DVD: Léo Küpper, Luc Ferrari…

    see > http://www.ome-production.net/

  7. 7 continuo August 13, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    To Jan: thanks for commenting.
    To gLgL: Sounds interesting, at least for Leo Küpper. Thanks for the info.

  8. 8 Acousmata August 30, 2009 at 5:10 am

    Somehow, I’d never heard of him. Another piece to the puzzle. Continuo, you are an angel of music.

  9. 9 continuo August 30, 2009 at 8:54 am

    Thank you, very flattering.

  10. 10 Rob October 23, 2009 at 9:03 am

    there’s a wonderful piece called ‘electro-voice on deutsche gramaphone’s avant garde series. many years ago a friend played it to me, and it became formative, somehow – unforgettable, hilarious, and something to compare other e/a voice compositions to.

  11. 11 continuo October 23, 2009 at 9:32 am

    Hi Rob. I’ve not heard the track you’re mentioning, but this composer is really one of a kind. As gLgL reader suggested above, I’d recommend the Sub Rosa/OME DVD. It’s really a wonderful roadtrip with many musical excerpts.

  12. 12 -sto August 18, 2010 at 10:44 am

    rob is probably talking about “electro poème”, to be found on the küpper / virasoro / frison lp on deutsche grammophon (check discogs for detais) – I might rip it one day, when I’m less busy than right now.

  13. 13 continuo August 18, 2010 at 10:49 am

    The sooner the better, sto, if you want my opinion.

  14. 14 seiswork November 16, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    Great blog ! Thanks for talking about belgian experiments :)

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