Zaum Box: New Music for Speaking Percussionist


  • Christopher Adler University of San Diego



composition, contemporary music, futurism, percussion, sound poetry


Zaum Box is a collection of compositions for solo speaking percussionist setting transrational Russian futurist sound poetry called zaum. Zaum arose among a small interdisciplinary group of artists, writers, musicians and thinkers who invented a beyond-rational language as part of the radical disruption of traditional artistic and expressive forms, necessary to bring about the accelerated experience of a technologically-driven future. The subgenre of contemporary concert music for solo speaking instrumentalist dates from the 1970’s and has grown into a significant branch of the solo percussion repertoire. The composition of Zaum Box was founded on an extended period of research into zaum, futurism and Russian language. The complete set of compositions was produced as a limited-edition box set of uniquely formatted scores, which were realised by percussionist Katelyn Rose King in a set of ten videos. This article by the composer reviews all the phases of this project, including research and production, and examines the relationships between text, sound, music and theatricality in selected scores.


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Author Biography

Christopher Adler, University of San Diego

Christopher Adler is a composer, performer and improviser living in San Diego, California. His compositions encompass cross-culturally hybrid forms drawn from contemporary concert music and traditional musics of Thailand and Laos, and the application of mathematics to composition. His recent works have concerned Russian futurism and classical Latin epic poetry. He is a foremost performer of traditional and new music for the khaen, a free-reed mouth organ from Laos and Northeast Thailand, and has promoted the khaen as a concert instrument by commissioning, performing and recording pieces by composers from around the world. He is a Professor of Music at the University of San Diego, and has degrees in music composition from Duke University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


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How to Cite

Adler, C. (2020). Zaum Box: New Music for Speaking Percussionist. Malaysian Journal of Music, 9, 55–64.