Presentation on theme: "The Futurists Umberto Boccioni, The Dynamism of a Cyclist."— Presentation transcript:
The Futurists Umberto Boccioni, The Dynamism of a Cyclist
"Away! Let us break out since we cannot much longer restrain our desire to create finally a new musical reality, with a generous distribution of resonant slaps in the face, discarding violins, pianos, double-basses and plaintive organs. Let us break out!" Luigi Russolo wrote these incendiary words nearly 100 years ago in an iconoclastic essay called The Art of Noises But what was he really calling for? Who were The Futurists? How did they turn these words into art?
F. T. Marinetti F. T. Marinetti was born in 1876 in Alexandria, Egypt He was the son of a wealthy Italian merchant He took up writing in his teens and in 1894 he began studying law at the University of Pavia As he progressed, it became clear that he was more interested in writing than in the law
F. T. Marinetti In 1898 Marinetti published his first poem Shortly afterward, he won an award for his poetry, and was subsequently published in many major literary magazines In 1901 Marinetti published his first book, The Conquest of the Stars The book was an allegorical epic about masculinity overcoming femininity But the symbols and the florid language were stretched to the point of being deliberately ridiculous In other words, Marinetti used language to push one point so hard that the reader wasn't sure what he was really trying to say
F. T. Marinetti In Marinetti's next two collections of poetry, he began using the imagery that would distinguish his artistic leadership as a whole In Destruction and The Carnal City, Marinetti deals with the experience of the modern city and new technology He treats the city/technology as something that is both alluring and simultaneously horrible Almost all of Marinetti's work steers toward the violent and macabre At this point in his career, Marinetti was something of a celebrity He was obsessed with making a splash, and with poems that blended beauty with fatality he wanted to shock his readers
The Second Industrial Revolution Marinetti was living at the tail end of The Second Industrial Revolution The Second Industrial Revolution is usually dated from about 1860 until World War I (1914) This period saw rapid changes in the way people lived in Europe and the United States Many real and life-altering advances in technology were made at this time Living standards and the purchasing power of money increased greatly This period saw the invention or expansion of world-shrinking technologies such as railroads, telegraph, photography, electricity and radio
The Second Industrial Revolution The period witnessed the rise of great monopolies, such as Carnegie Steel in the United States With the streamlining of manufacturing and transportation systems, economies of scale began to develop for the first time The crowning achievement of the Second Industrial Revolution, and perhaps the invention that most effected people in general and Marinetti in particular, was the invention of the automobile Automobiles and factories lent industrial cities an entirely new attitude than they had in the first half of the 19 th Century This would have a profound influence on many artists, and Marinetti was keenly aware of the power and appeal of the modern city
The Founding of The Futurists In 1908, Marinetti flipped his car into a ditch, although nobody was injured in the accident, he claimed that the event changed him Shortly after the accident he began work on The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism Later that year he made the trip to Paris, where he called in a favor from one of his father's old cronies who happened to own many shares in Paris's largest newspaper The next day, his manifesto appeared on the front page!
The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism starts with a mostly fictional narrative about Marinetti flipping his car It employs the same dark imagery as Marinetti's other works, describing machines as beautiful living things and humans as inferior creations I stopped short, and to my disgust rolled over into a ditch, with my wheels in the air.... Oh! Maternal ditch, nearly full of muddy water! Fair factory drain! I gulped down your bracing slime, which reminded me of the sacred black breast of my Sudanese nurse.... When I climbed out, a filthy and stinking rag, from underneath the capsized car, I felt my heart deliciouslybeing slashed with the red-hot iron of joy! A crowd of fishermen armed with hooks and naturalists stricken with gout formed a thronging circle around the prodigy. With patient and meticulous attention, they rigged up a derrick and enormous iron grapnels to fish out my car, stranded like a large shark. The car slowly emerged from the ditch, leaving behind in the depths its heavy chassis of good sense and its soft upholstery of comfort, like scales. They thought it was dead, my beautiful shark, but one caress from me was enough to revive it, and there it was again, once more alive, running on its powerful fins. And so, our faces covered with the good factory slimea mix of metallic scum, useless sweat, heavenly sootour arms bruised and bandaged, we, still fearless, have dictated our first intentions to all the living men of the earth:
The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism Then the manifesto breaks into a series of pronouncements that vaguely detail an aesthetic agenda 3. Up to now literature has exalted contemplative stillness, ecstasy, and sleep. We intend to exalt movement and aggression, feverish insomnia, the racers stride, the mortal leap, the slap and the punch. 5. We intend to hymn man at the steering wheel, the ideal axis of which intersects the earth, itself hurled ahead in its own race along the path of its orbit. 7. There is no beauty that does not consist of struggle. No work that lacks an aggressive character can be considered a masterpiece. Poetry must be conceived as a violent assault launched against unknown forces to reduce them to submission under man. 9. We intend to glorify warthe only hygiene of the worldmilitarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of anarchists, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and contempt for woman. 10. We intend to destroy museums, libraries, academies of every sort, and to fight against moralism, feminism, and every utilitarian or opportunistic cowardice. Museums: cemeteries! Identical, really, in the horrible promiscuity of so many bodies scarcely known to one another. Museums: public dormitories in which someone is put to sleep forever alongside others he hated or didnt know! Museums: absurd slaughterhouses for painters and sculptors who go on thrashing each other with blows of line and color along the disputed walls!
The Growth of Futurism From 1908 until the first world war, Futurism would expand and encompass artists from many backgrounds and disciplines In 1910, Marinetti met three painters who enthusiastically joined the Futurist movement These were Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carra and Luigi Russolo The group immediately published two manifestos on Futurist painting These manifestos expanded the technology-focused aesthetic from literature and into the visual arts The painters wanted to shift focus away from human subjects:We declare, for instance, that a portrait, in order to be a work of art, must not resemble the sitter, and that the painter carries in himself the landscapes which he would fix upon his canvas. To paint a human figure you must not paint it; you must render its surrounding atmosphere. (Boccioni, 1910) The manifestos publicized the group and kept them in the spotlight between shows
The Growth of Futurism 1910 also saw Futurism's rise in the theaters Through variety theater, the futurists created performance art with abstract, free-form theater pieces that presaged the happenings of the 1960s and 1970s It's important to remember that The Futurists were not musicians They were almost entirely trained as writers and painters, with the exception of Pratella, who studied with the Italian opera master Mascagni This most productive period was marked with many speeches and exhibitions where the Futurists instigated brawls with a rambunctious crowd that was fueled by their incendiary speeches In July Marinetti went with a small group of Futurists to Venice; they climbed to the top of the clock tower that overlooks the piazza San Marco and proceeded to hurl thousands of leaflets down on the citys residents, damning the city as a market for counterfeiting antiquarians and urging them to fill in little reaking canals with the ruins from its leprous and crumbling palaces, all to be replaced with the imposing geometry of metal bridges and factories plumed with smoke … [When they went back for another speech in August they ] provoked a terrible battle.... The passeists were beaten up. The Futurist painters Boccioni, Russolo, and Carra punctuated the speech with resounding slaps. The fists of Armando Mazza, a Futurist poet who is also an athlete, left an unforgettable impression. Violence, once again. Nobody understood its media appeal and power better than Marinetti. (Rainey, Introduction, Futurism: An Anthology, 2008 10-11)
The Art of Noises This is the atmosphere in which The Art of Noises was written Marinetti was trying to break Italian arts from the shackles of the past by literally beating it out of them The musician Balilla Pratella had joined the movement in 1910, and although he produced two manifestos, neither had the impact of the one penned by the painter Russolo In The Art of Noises Russolo wrote perhaps the most daring, iconoclastic essay in the entire history of music Russolo called for no less than the abolition of modern musical instruments and ensembles He wanted to replace these with ensembles of noise-making machines First of all, musical art looked for the soft and limpid purity of sound. Then it amalgamated different sounds, intent upon caressing the ear with suave harmonies. Nowadays musical art aims at the shrilliest, strangest and most dissonant amalgams of sound. Thus we are approaching noise-sound. This revolution of music is paralleled by the increasing proliferation of machinery sharing in human labor. In the pounding atmosphere of great cities as well as in the formerly silent countryside, machines create today such a large number of varied noises that pure sound, with its littleness and its monotony, now fails to arouse any emotion. To excite our sensibility, music has developed into a search for a more complex polyphony and a greater variety of instrumental tones and coloring. It has tried to obtain the most complex succession of dissonant chords, thus preparing the ground for Musical Noise.
The Art of Noises First of all, musical art looked for the soft and limpid purity of sound. Then it amalgamated different sounds, intent upon caressing the ear with suave harmonies. Nowadays musical art aims at the shrilliest, strangest and most dissonant amalgams of sound. Thus we are approaching noise-sound. This revolution of music is paralleled by the increasing proliferation of machinery sharing in human labor. In the pounding atmosphere of great cities as well as in the formerly silent countryside, machines create today such a large number of varied noises that pure sound, with its littleness and its monotony, now fails to arouse any emotion. To excite our sensibility, music has developed into a search for a more complex polyphony and a greater variety of instrumental tones and coloring. It has tried to obtain the most complex succession of dissonant chords, thus preparing the ground for Musical Noise. The most complicated orchestra can be reduced to four or five categories of instruments with different sound tones: rubbed string instruments, pinched string instruments, metallic wind instruments, wooden wind instruments, and percussion instruments. Music marks time in this small circle and vainly tries to create a new variety of tones. We must break at all cost from this restrictive circle of pure sounds and conquer the infinite variety of noise-sounds. Let's walk together through a great modern capital, with the ear more attentive than the eye, and we will vary the pleasures of our sensibilities by distinguishing among the gurglings of water, air and gas inside metallic pipes, the rumblings and rattlings of engines breathing with obvious animal spirits, the rising and falling of pistons, the stridency of mechanical saws, the loud jumping of trolleys on their rails, the snapping of whips, the whipping of flags. We will have fun imagining our orchestration of department stores' sliding doors, the hubbub of the crowds, the different roars of railroad stations, iron foundries, textile mills, printing houses, power plants and subways. And we must not forget the very new noises of Modern Warfare.
The Art of Noises Finally, Russolo listed his six families of noises 1. Rumbles, Thundering, Explosions, Crashes, Splashes, Booms 2. Whistles, Hisses, Snorts 3. Whispers, Murmurs, Mutters, Buzzes, Gurgles, Scuffles, etc. 4. Screeches, Creaking, Rustles, Throbs, Crackles 5. Noises made by percussion on metals, woods, skins, stones, terracotta 6. Voices of animals and people: Shouts, Screams, Groans, Howls, Wails, Laughs, Wheezes, Sobs Then he ended with a series of pronouncements 1. Futurist musicians must constantly enlarge and enrich the field of sound 2. Futurist musicians must replace the limited variety of timbres offered by contemporary orchestral instruments with the infinite variety of the timbres of noises, reproduced by suitable mechanisms. 6. It will not be through a succession of noises imitating those of life, but through a fantastic combination of the various timbres and rhythms that the new orchestra will achieve the newest and most complicated aural emotions. For that purpose every instrument will have to offer the possibility of varying its pitch, or will need a more or less extended range. 7. The variety of noises is infinite.
The Art of Noises It's unclear exactly how Russolo's manifesto was received While it was one of the most forward-thinking of the manifestos, Marinetti had published a lot of them by that point Furthermore, the world could feel the encroaching war... But Russolo himself definitely believed in the philosophy he espoused Three months after the publication of his manifesto, he demonstrated the first of his Intonarumori These noise-intoners were intended to become the orchestra of sounds envisioned by Russolo But most of the music that was created with them was very modest
Futurist Music Not much actual music was created with the intonarumori, and what little was created barely followed Russolo's creed Balilla Pratella incorporated the intonarumori into a few of his orchestral works, but they were used more as sound effects, much like Beethoven used cannons in his Ode to Joy nearly 100 years prior On April 21, 1914, Luigi Russolo offered a concert of nine musicians playing the intonarumori in Milan at the Teatro del Verme Apparently they played music for the intonarumori by Russolo and music for mixed ensemble by Pratella Inevitably, Marinetti and the other Futurists started a fistfight in the middle of the concert Russolo and Pratella offered a handful of other concerts in for the intonarumori – mostly in Italy, but with occasional excursions to other parts of Europe (6 total) They also offered many private demonstrations of the instruments for famous composers such as Stravinsky Unfortunately, we can only speculate about these concerts – they were scantily documented, and the reviews are vague The instruments themselves were destroyed in WWII All of Russolo's scores have been lost to history Only a handful of Pratella scores remain, and in these, the sound-makers take a secondary role to the traditional instruments
Intonarumori Reconstructions Modern scholars have attempted to reconstruct Luigi Russolo's visionary ensemble http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYYkMux6Dgw http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbbmPD7NuDY http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kERwOEHJ4yI
Dada In many ways, the Dada movement was very similar to the Futurist movement – but in other ways, the movements were worlds apart In terms of their impact on music, they achieved similar ends, but the way in which they achieved them was quite different Nonetheless, the story of Dada begins once again with F. T. Marinetti In 1914 Marinetti published the words in freedom piece Zang Tumb Tumb This book is a demonstration of futurist typography that illustrates the Battle of Adrianople, which he witnessed as a war correspondent The book utilizes creative typesetting and onomatopoeic words to paint a sort of text-based multimedia picture of the events This book was seized upon by Hugo Ball and others throughout Europe http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1Yl d7wGWEI http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1Yl d7wGWEI
World War I As the first world war approached in 1913 and 1914, the world thought that a war couldn't possibly last more than a few months People widely believed that the economic interests of the time would exert such pressure to keep business flowing that war couldn't possibly persist So when the bitter trench warfare set in after only weeks of battle, people and governments were disillusioned Governments cracked down on artists European artists fled to Zurich, in neutral Switzerland
Cabaret Voltaire In 1915, Hugo Ball and Emmy Hennings were two such artists Ball was disillusioned by the war And Hennings was wanted for forging passports to help artists avoid serving in the military Under assumed names, the pair fled to Zurich Penniless, they fell back on their skills as artists and entertainers and convinced a local bar owner to let them use his space for a cabaret of the sort they left in Germany They subsequently posted this notice in the local paper Cabaret Voltaire. Under this name a group of young artists and writers has been formed whose aim is to create a center for artistic entertainment. The idea of the cabaret will be that guest artists will come and give musical performances and readings at the daily meetings. The young artists of Zurich, whatever their orientation, are invited to come along with suggestions and contributions of all kinds.
Cabaret Voltaire The cabaret thus became a beacon of new art creation during World War I Many artists immediately joined up with Ball and Hennings, including Tristan Tzara, Marcel Janco, Georges Janco, Richard Huelsenbeck and Hans Arp Nights at the Cabaret evolved into wild happenings of simultaneous art They read poetry, performed plays, sang songs and performed on all sorts of musical instruments – often at the same time The variety was immense, and the members were open to all sorts of expressive work Tzara and Ball began working on publications while the group developed a nihilist, anarchist anti-war stance Although the group was not as monolithic as The Futurists – they didn't have an iron-fisted Marinetti to lead them – they generally created art that ridiculed modern society and pointed out the pointlessness of it all Unfortunately, it's hard to maintain a successful business based on the patronage of refugee artists...
Dada Diaspora Cabaret Voltaire lasted for only 6 months, but the Dada movement that was forged there proved to be quite resilient As artists left Zurich, they took Dada with them, and formed Dada offshoots in other countries One of the major new forms of art that emerged from Cabaret Voltaire was sound-poetry Influenced by Marinetti's ground-breaking work, the Dadaists developed sound poetry into and early form of multimedia art (text and sound) While at the Cabaret Voltaire, Hugo Ball wrote and performed a sound poem called Karawane http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVpjIJ8a9cA Sound poetry was the only way that these refugee artists could break into the nascent field of sound art envisioned by Russolo, Marinetti and Pratella The artists couldn't afford to build the magnificent intonarumori ensemble that was funded by Marinetti's fortune
Kurt Schwitters Richard Huelsenbeck and Hans Arp took Dada to Berlin, where they met a prominent young artist named Kurt Schwitters Schwitters was well known as a painter and visual artist Unfortunately, he worked at a factory in Germany during the war, and he was associated with the Expressionist school of painting, which was ridiculed by the Dadaists So when he applied to join the Berlin Dada movement after the war, he was turned down by Huelsenbeck and Arp One reason that I like Schwitters is that, after he was turned down, he started a fantastic art movement called Merz
Kurt Schwitters Despite being rejected by the Dadaists, he participated in Dada events, and lectured on Dada He even formed his own Dada off-shoot in Holland The reason Schwitters is remembered by musicians today is that he left behind a wonderful, large-scale sound poem called Ursonate The Ursonate was written using musical structures such as a Rondo and Cadenza But instead of using musical notes, Schwitters used written syllables Thus, Ursonate, and the other sound poems, become the first notated sound art that has survived In fact, Schwitters left us both a score, and a magnificent recording of his own performance of the poem (The performance might strike modern ears as humorous, but please restrain your laughter so that we can all listen)
The Legacy of The Futurists and Dada It's difficult to overstate the iconoclastic nature of these groups Their work presaged much of the electroacoustic and tape music that was to be made in the coming century Russolo's manifesto in particular is vividly descriptive of the Musique Concrete movement that would be initiated by Pierre Schaeffer in the late 1940s Also, Russolo seemed to describe modern synthesizers and recording software when he described his sound-making ensemble Writing in the 1950s, Igor Stravinsky summarized the musical careers of the futurists On one of my Milanese visits Marinetti and Russolo, a genial quiet man but with wild hair and beard, and Pratella, another noisemaker, put me through a demonstration of their "futurist music." Five phonographs standing on five tables in a large and otherwise empty room emitted digestive noises, static, etc., re- markably like the musique concrete of seven or eight years ago (so perhaps they were futurists after all; or perhaps futurisms aren't progressive enough). I pre- tended to be enthusiastic and told them that sets of five phonographs with such music, mass produced, would surely sell like Steinway Grand Pianos.
The Legacy of The Futurists and Dada Dada is the groundwork to abstract art and sound poetry, a starting point for performance art, a prelude to postmodernism, an influence on pop art, a celebration of antiart to be later embraced for anarcho-political uses in the 1960s and the movement that lay the foundation for Surrealism. Marc Lowenthal, translator's introduction to Francis Picabia's I Am a Beautiful Monster: Poetry, Prose, And Provocation The Futurists and the Dadaists created the artistic and theoretic basis that flowered into 20 th Century electroacoustic music!
Bibliography and Further Reading Futurism: An Anthology, Edited by Lawrence Rainey Payton, Rodney J. The Music of Futurism: Concerts and Polemics, The Musical Quarterly 62:1, Jan. 1976. 25-45. http://www.dada-companion.com/ Dennis, Flora. Powell, Jonathan. Futurism, Oxford Music Online. Accessed on 9/26/2011.