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1Umberto Boccioni, The Dynamism of a Cyclist The FuturistsUmberto Boccioni, The Dynamism of a Cyclist
2"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?
3F. T. Marinetti F. T. Marinetti was born in 1876 in Alexandria, Egypt He was the son of a wealthy Italian merchantHe took up writing in his teens and in 1894 he began studying law at the University of PaviaAs he progressed, it became clear that he was more interested in writing than in the law
4F. 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 magazinesIn 1901 Marinetti published his first book, The Conquest of the StarsThe book was an allegorical epic about masculinity overcoming femininityBut the symbols and the florid language were stretched to the point of being deliberately ridiculousIn other words, Marinetti used language to push one point so hard that the reader wasn't sure what he was really trying to say
5F. T. MarinettiIn Marinetti's next two collections of poetry, he began using the imagery that would distinguish his artistic leadership as a wholeIn Destruction and The Carnal City, Marinetti deals with the experience of the modern city and new technologyHe treats the city/technology as something that is both alluring and simultaneously horribleAlmost all of Marinetti's work steers toward the violent and macabreAt this point in his career, Marinetti was something of a celebrityHe was obsessed with making a splash, and with poems that blended beauty with fatality he wanted to shock his readers
6The Second Industrial Revolution Marinetti was living at the tail end of The Second Industrial RevolutionThe 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 StatesMany real and life-altering advances in technology were made at this timeLiving standards and the purchasing power of money increased greatlyThis period saw the invention or expansion of world-shrinking technologies such as railroads, telegraph, photography, electricity and radio
7The Second Industrial Revolution The period witnessed the rise of great monopolies, such as Carnegie Steel in the United StatesWith the streamlining of manufacturing and transportation systems, economies of scale began to develop for the first timeThe 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 automobileAutomobiles and factories lent industrial cities an entirely new attitude than they had in the first half of the 19th CenturyThis would have a profound influence on many artists, and Marinetti was keenly aware of the power and appeal of the modern city
8The 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 himShortly 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 newspaperThe next day, his manifesto appeared on the front page!
9The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism “The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism” starts with a mostly fictional narrative about Marinetti flipping his carIt employs the same dark imagery as Marinetti's other works, describing machines as beautiful living things and humans as inferior creationsI stopped short, and to my disgust rolled over into a ditch, with my wheels in the airOh! 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—deliciously—being 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 slime—a mix of metallic scum, useless sweat, heavenly soot—our arms bruised and bandaged, we, still fearless, have dictated our first intentions to all the living men of the earth:
10The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism Then the manifesto breaks into a series of pronouncements that vaguely detail an aesthetic agenda3. Up to now literature has exalted contemplative stillness, ecstasy, and sleep. We intend to exalt movement and aggression, feverish insomnia, the racer’s stride, the mortal leap, the slap and the punch.5. We intend to hymn man at the steering wheel, the ideal axis of which intersectsthe 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 war—the only hygiene of the world—militarism, 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 fightagainst 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 didn’t know! Museums: absurd slaughterhouses for painters and sculptors who go on thrashing each other with blows of line and color along the disputed walls!
11The Growth of FuturismFrom 1908 until the first world war, Futurism would expand and encompass artists from many backgrounds and disciplinesIn 1910, Marinetti met three painters who enthusiastically joined the Futurist movementThese were Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carra and Luigi RussoloThe group immediately published two manifestos on Futurist paintingThese manifestos expanded the technology-focused aesthetic from literature and into the visual artsThe 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
12The 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 1970sIt's important to remember that The Futurists were not musiciansThey were almost entirely trained as writers and painters, with the exception of Pratella, who studied with the Italian opera master MascagniThis 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 speechesIn 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 city’s 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, )
15The Art of NoisesThis is the atmosphere in which “The Art of Noises” was writtenMarinetti was trying to break Italian arts from the shackles of the past by literally beating it out of themThe 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 RussoloIn “The Art of Noises” Russolo wrote perhaps the most daring, iconoclastic essay in the entire history of musicRussolo called for no less than the abolition of modern musical instruments and ensemblesHe wanted to replace these with ensembles of noise-making machinesFirst 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.
16The Art of NoisesFirst 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 jumpingof 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.
17The Art of Noises Finally, Russolo listed his six families of noises 1. Rumbles, Thundering, Explosions, Crashes, Splashes, Booms2. Whistles, Hisses, Snorts3. Whispers, Murmurs, Mutters, Buzzes, Gurgles, Scuffles, etc.4. Screeches, Creaking, Rustles, Throbs, Crackles5. Noises made by percussion on metals, woods, skins, stones, terracotta6. Voices of animals and people: Shouts, Screams, Groans, Howls, Wails, Laughs, Wheezes, SobsThen he ended with a series of pronouncements1. Futurist musicians must constantly enlarge and enrich the field of sound2. 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.
18The Art of NoisesIt's unclear exactly how Russolo's manifesto was receivedWhile it was one of the most forward-thinking of the manifestos, Marinetti had published a lot of them by that pointFurthermore, the world could feel the encroaching war...But Russolo himself definitely believed in the philosophy he espousedThree months after the publication of his manifesto, he demonstrated the first of his IntonarumoriThese noise-intoners were intended to become the orchestra of sounds envisioned by RussoloBut most of the music that was created with them was very modest
19Futurist MusicNot much actual music was created with the intonarumori, and what little was created barely followed Russolo's creedBalilla 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 priorOn April 21, 1914, Luigi Russolo offered a concert of nine musicians playing the intonarumori in Milan at the Teatro del VermeApparently they played music for the intonarumori by Russolo and music for mixed ensemble by PratellaInevitably, Marinetti and the other Futurists started a fistfight in the middle of the concertRussolo 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 StravinskyUnfortunately, we can only speculate about these concerts – they were scantily documented, and the reviews are vagueThe instruments themselves were destroyed in WWIIAll of Russolo's scores have been lost to historyOnly a handful of Pratella scores remain, and in these, the sound-makers take a secondary role to the traditional instruments
20Intonarumori Reconstructions Modern scholars have attempted to reconstruct Luigi Russolo's visionary ensemble
21DadaIn many ways, the Dada movement was very similar to the Futurist movement – but in other ways, the movements were worlds apartIn terms of their impact on music, they achieved similar ends, but the way in which they achieved them was quite differentNonetheless, the story of Dada begins once again with F. T. MarinettiIn 1914 Marinetti published the “words in freedom” piece Zang Tumb TumbThis book is a demonstration of futurist typography that illustrates the Battle of Adrianople, which he witnessed as a war correspondentThe book utilizes creative typesetting and onomatopoeic words to paint a sort of text-based multimedia picture of the eventsThis book was seized upon by Hugo Ball and others throughout Europe
22World War IAs the first world war approached in 1913 and 1914, the world thought that a war couldn't possibly last more than a few monthsPeople widely believed that the economic interests of the time would exert such pressure to keep business flowing that war couldn't possibly persistSo when the bitter trench warfare set in after only weeks of battle, people and governments were disillusionedGovernments cracked down on artistsEuropean artists fled to Zurich, in neutral Switzerland
23Cabaret VoltaireIn 1915, Hugo Ball and Emmy Hennings were two such artistsBall was disillusioned by the warAnd Hennings was wanted for forging passports to help artists avoid serving in the militaryUnder assumed names, the pair fled to ZurichPenniless, 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 GermanyThey subsequently posted this notice in the local paperCabaret 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.
24Cabaret VoltaireThe cabaret thus became a beacon of new art creation during World War IMany artists immediately joined up with Ball and Hennings, including Tristan Tzara, Marcel Janco, Georges Janco, Richard Huelsenbeck and Hans ArpNights at the Cabaret evolved into wild happenings of simultaneous artThey read poetry, performed plays, sang songs and performed on all sorts of musical instruments – often at the same timeThe variety was immense, and the members were open to all sorts of expressive workTzara and Ball began working on publications while the group developed a nihilist, anarchist anti-war stanceAlthough 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 allUnfortunately, it's hard to maintain a successful business based on the patronage of refugee artists...
25Dada DiasporaCabaret Voltaire lasted for only 6 months, but the Dada movement that was forged there proved to be quite resilientAs artists left Zurich, they took Dada with them, and formed Dada offshoots in other countriesOne of the major new forms of art that emerged from Cabaret Voltaire was sound-poetryInfluenced 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 KarawaneSound poetry was the only way that these refugee artists could break into the nascent field of sound art envisioned by Russolo, Marinetti and PratellaThe artists couldn't afford to build the magnificent intonarumori ensemble that was funded by Marinetti's fortune
26Kurt SchwittersRichard Huelsenbeck and Hans Arp took Dada to Berlin, where they met a prominent young artist named Kurt SchwittersSchwitters was well known as a painter and visual artistUnfortunately, 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 DadaistsSo when he applied to join the Berlin Dada movement after the war, he was turned down by Huelsenbeck and ArpOne reason that I like Schwitters is that, after he was turned down, he started a fantastic art movement called “Merz”
27Kurt SchwittersDespite being rejected by the Dadaists, he participated in Dada events, and lectured on DadaHe even formed his own Dada off-shoot in HollandThe reason Schwitters is remembered by musicians today is that he left behind a wonderful, large-scale sound poem called UrsonateThe Ursonate was written using musical structures such as a Rondo and CadenzaBut instead of using musical notes, Schwitters used written syllablesThus, Ursonate, and the other sound poems, become the first notated sound art that has survivedIn 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)
28The Legacy of The Futurists and Dada It's difficult to overstate the iconoclastic nature of these groupsTheir work presaged much of the electroacoustic and tape music that was to be made in the coming centuryRussolo's manifesto in particular is vividly descriptive of the Musique Concrete movement that would be initiated by Pierre Schaeffer in the late 1940sAlso, Russolo seemed to describe modern synthesizers and recording software when he described his sound-making ensembleWriting in the 1950s, Igor Stravinsky summarized the musical careers of the futuristsOn 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.
29The 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 ProvocationThe Futurists and the Dadaists created the artistic and theoretic basis that flowered into 20th Century electroacoustic music!
30Bibliography and Further Reading Futurism: An Anthology, Edited by Lawrence RaineyPayton, Rodney J. “The Music of Futurism: Concerts and Polemics,” The Musical Quarterly 62:1, JanDennis, Flora. Powell, Jonathan. “Futurism,” Oxford Music Online. Accessed on 9/26/2011.