The Art of Noises
Dear Balilla Pratella, great Futurist composer,
In Rome, in the Costanzi Theatre, packed to capacity,
while I was listening to the orchestral performance of
with my Futurist
friends, Marinetti, Boccioni, Carrà, Balla, Soffici, Papini
and Cavacchioli, a new art came into my mind which
only you can create, the Art of Noises, the logical
consequence of your marvelous innovations.
Ancient life was all silence. In the nineteenth century,
with the invention of the machine, Noise was born.
Today, Noise triumphs and reigns supreme over the sensibility of men. For many centuries life went by in
silence, or at most in muted tones. The strongest noises which interrupted this silence were not intense or
prolonged or varied. If we overlook such exceptional movements as earthquakes, hurricanes, storms,
avalanches and waterfalls, nature is silent.
Amidst this dearth of
that man drew from a pieced reed or streched string were
regarded with amazement as new and marvelous things. Primitive races attributed
to the gods; it was
considered sacred and reserved for priests, who used it to enrich the mystery of their rites.
And so was born the concept of sound as a thing in itself, distinct and independent of life, and the result was
music, a fantastic world superimposed on the real one, an inviolatable and sacred world. It is easy to
understand how such a concept of music resulted inevitable in the hindering of its progress by comparison with
the other arts. The Greeks themselves, with their musical theories calculated mathematically by Pythagoras and
according to which only a few consonant intervals could be used, limited the field of music considerably,
rendering harmony, of which they were unaware, impossible.
The Middle Ages, with the development and modification
of the Greek tetrachordal system, with the Gregorian
chant and popular songs, enriched the art of music, but
continued to consider sound
in its development in time,
a restricted notion, but one which lasted many centuries,
and which still can be found in the Flemish
contrapuntalists’ most complicated polyphonies.
The chord did not exist, the development of the various
parts was not subornated to the chord that these parts
put together could produce; the conception of the parts
was horizontal not vertical. The desire, search, and taste for a simultaneous union of different sounds, that is for
the chord (complex sound), were gradually made manifest, passing from the consonant perfect chord with a few
passing dissonances, to the complicated and persistent dissonances that characterize contemporary music.
At first the art of music sought purity, limpidity and sweetness of sound. Then different sounds were
amalgamated, care being taken, however, to caress the ear with gentle harmonies. Today music, as it becomes
continually more complicated, strives to amalgamate the most dissonant, strange and harsh sounds. In this way