An ABC in Sound

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Bob Cobbing 1920-2002
RT - An ABC in Sound

The Radiophonic Workshop helped Bob Cobbing produce a 20-minute[1] treated version of his work Sound poems: An A B C in Sound. Recorded in 1965,[2] it was broadcast on 7th January 1966.[3]

“Cobbing performed the poems at one of the regular readings held at the ICA, Dover Street, in 1964, organised by Bill Butler and Eric Mottram, which led, via Anthony Thwaite and George MacBeth, to the BBC Electronic Workshop version and Cobbing's first BBC broadcast.”[4]

“Bob Cobbing's word combinations form an alphabet of effects whose impact has been varied and underlined in tonight's programme by the use of radiophonic techniques including speeding up and slowing down, multiple recording, echo, and feed-back.”[5]

The work also gets called Alphabet Poetry, while Sono-Montage is a different, if similar, work based on the poetry of Rosemary Tonks.


  • Broadcast on the BBC Third Programme at 10:25pm on 7th January 1966.[5][6]
  • In the BBC Sound Archive on tape TRW 6373: "ABC in Sound: Alphabet Poetry (Sono-Montage). 3 reels: 1: Makeup; 2: Premaster: 3: Sono-Montage. Completed programme inserts (master)."[6]
  • Excerpts on TRW 5 and TRW 7059.[6]
  • Published on An ABC in Sound (recorded 1965)/Trilogy (recorded 1968) (C60 cassette) Blasam Flex [should be "Balsam Flex"[7]], 1980[2]
  • Published on cassette An ABC in Sound: poetry of Bob Cobbing, 1966, 20 minutes. Producer: Radiophonic Workshop, BBC (London, Great Britain)[8]
  • It is included as item 492 of the International Digital ElectroAcoustic Music Archive,[1] which aims "to preserve [708 of] the most important and most endangered early works of electroacoustic music".[9] If they have it, it can be heard by going in person to one of the IDEAMA partner institutions. However, their list[1] does not give an IDEAMA CD number for it, so it may be that they have not recovered it yet.
  • The Bob Cobbing Diskographie at and Christian Scholz' Untersuchungen zur geschichte und typologie der lautpoesie, Teil III: Discographie list:
    • Drei Stücke aus "ABC in Sound (d - p - t)" (1965). Sprecher: Bob Cobbing, auf: PHONETISCHE POESIE. Luchterhand Schallplatte, hrsg. von Franz Mon. Neuwied und Berlin 1971. LP
    • "B, C, G & I" aus "ABC in Sound". Sprecherin: Lily Greenham. Auf: internationale sprachexperimente der 50/60er jahre. edition hoffmann: frankfurt a. m. 1971. LP


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 The IDEAMA list of 708 pieces of early electronic music to be preserved, item 492.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Robert Shepard, The Poetry of Saying: British Poetry and its discontents, 1950-2000, p.231, note 33.
  3. DD110122: The top half of DD110130, giving the date.
  4. A page on in July 2012, now a dead link.
  5. 5.0 5.1 DD110130: An article in the Radio Times accompanying its first broadcast.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 The Tape Library List's entry for TRW 6373.
  7. The bibliography of the book cultural revolution?: the challenge of the arts in the 1960s edited by Bart Moore-Gilbert and John Seed.
  8. The ZKM/IDEAMA catalogue entry for An ABC in Sound
  9. ZKM_Mediathek audio collection -> IDEAMA