Wassily Kandisnsky's Sounds (Klange), 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.