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Watkins-Futurism - 1 930 CHAPTER 12 FUTURISM MAN IFESTOS...

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Unformatted text preview: 1 930 CHAPTER 12 FUTURISM: MAN IFESTOS AND MACHINES ITALIAN FUTURISM The Futurist movement had its origins in an Italian turn—of-the-century sociopolitical revolt against outworn institutions whose roots were seen to reside in an uncritical acceptance of the past. This state of affairs, it was believed, had led to a state of cultural inertia in Italy, and the early figures associated with the movement shared a typical disdain for the church, socialism, and the monarchy, while in music this extended to the critics, publishers, Puccini, and melodrama. Seeking to blend the riches of the past with a dynamic present, a new, highly nationalistic view of the future was proclaimed. The founder and leader of the movement was the Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (187671944) who spelled out his new credo in The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism [1909): We will sing of great crowds excited by work, by pleasure, and by riot; we will sing of the multicoloured polyphonic tides of revolution in the modern capitals; we will sing of the vibrant nightly fervour of arsenals and shipyards blazing with violent electric moons; greedy railway stations that devour smokeeplume serpents; factories hung from clouds by the crooked lines of their smoke; bridges that stride the rivers like giant gymnasts, flashing in the sun with the litter of knives; adventurous steamers that sniff the horizon; deep-chested locomotives whose wheels paw the tracks like the hooves of enormous steel horses bridled by tubing; and the sleek flight of planes whose propellers chatter in the wind like banners and seem to cheer like an enthusiastic crowd.1 Marinetti’s Manifesto of Futurist Poetry was also published in 1909, and similar manifestos soon appeared for painting (1912], sculpture (1912], and music [1910—12]. In an open letter entitled ”Down with the Tango and Parsifal” [1914] Marinetti decried the ”effeminizing poisons of the tango," a clear reference to the rage for tango teas of the time, and the “industrialization of Baudelaire, Fleurs du ma] weaving around the taverns of Jean Lorraine for impotent voyeurs a la Huysmans and inverts like Oscar Wilde." He added that ”If 235 236 NEW ISMS AND NATIONAL IDENTITIES, 1910-1930 the tango is bad, Pcirsifal is worse, because it inoculates the dancers swaying in languorous boredom with an incurable musical neurasthenia."2 In general the masterpiece was decried, and while Debussy and Musorgsky were acknowl- edged as important, their influence was declared moribund. Beyond the prolix and bellicose nature of their statements, the principal binding ingredients between the various arts were a reverence for the dynamism of urban life, a glorification of speed, and the polyphony of noises inspired by the machine age. The music of consequence that emerged from the Futurist movement directly was virtually nonexistent. Pratella [1880—1955], the only trained composer of the group and author of the principal manifestos on music, wrote a Musica Futurism for orchestra that was essentially too conservative to reflect properly the rhetoric of the movement. In addition to his “Manifesto of the Futurist Musicians" of 1910, Pratella wrote two additional manifestos, the ”Technical Manifesto of Futurist Music" and "The Destruction of Quadrature," all three being published together in 1912. The latter of these three tracts was directly analogous to Marinetti’s ”Destruction of Syntax,” which was obviously Symbolist inspired, and the "Technical Manifesto" explicitly recommended rhythmic irregularities, atonality, and microtones. Pratella’s own composition, however, failed to demonstrate the efficacy of his theories and was judged to be too repetitive, shapeless, and reliant on whole tones. It was Luigi Russolo, a painter by training, who brought the Futurist movement in music to a head. He opened his Futurist manifesto entitled The Art of Noises [1913} with the declaration, 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 sensibilities of men. His injunction to the contemporary musician came in a passage whose lyricism vied with Marinetti. We must break out of this narrow circle of pure musical sounds, and conquer the infinite variety of noise-sounds. . . Let us wander through a great modern city with our ears more alert than our eyes, and enjoy distinguishing between the sounds of water, air, or gas in metal pipes, the purring of motors {which breathe and pulsate with indisputable animalism), the throbbing of valves, the pounding of pistons, the screeching of gears, the clatter of streetcars on their rails, the cracking of whips, the flapping of awnings and flags. We shall enjoy fabricating mental orchestrations of the hanging of store shutters, the slamming of doors, the hustle and bustle of crowds, the din of railroad stations, foundaries, spinning mills, printing presses, electric power stations, and underground railways. He concluded his manifesto with an alarming but refreshing admission. I am not a musician, I have therefore no acoustical predilections, nor any works to defend. I am a Futurist painter using a much loved art to project my determination to renew everything. And so, bolder than a professional musician could be, unconcerned by my apparent incompetence, and convinced that all rights and all possibilities open up to daring, I have been able to initiate the great‘renewal of music by means of the Art of Noises.3 Russolo’s noise machines, which he labeled Intonarumori [Figure 12.1], were designed to demonstrate his theories, but their success cannot be judged FUTI Figure 4930 1 FUTURISM: MANIFESTOS AND MACHINES 237 ing in al the nowl- icipal mism ‘ed by turist only music, ive to sto of -s, the .ture," s was ously ended :itlon, , to be turist __ x :l The . try-mam; ~ 1’3: it. . as“, Figure 12.1. Russolo and his assistant Piatti with Noise Intoners l"1ntonarurnori"]. of the e, the because they were destroyed in World War II, and a single gramophone record that survives is inconclusive His Noise Intoners were to be arranged into six 'icism main categories forming the basis of a Futurist orchestra: [er the l 2 3 4 5 6 y with — — —— — —— .nds of Rumbles Whistles Whispers Screeches Noises Voices of lulsate Roars Hisses Murmurs Creaks obtained by animals ns, the Explosions Snorts Mumbles Rustles percussion and men: Whips, » Crashes Grumbles Buzzes on Shouts ations Splashes Gurgles Crackles metal Screams sac of Booms Scrapes wood Groans I‘CSSCS, skin ShIleS stone Howls , terracotta, Laughs ion. etc. Wheezes )rks to ‘ Sobs nation dd be, md all A single Exploder was demonstrated in Modena in 1913, but the first wal of concert was given in April 1914 in Milan. In a private demonstration in Marinetti’s house prior to the first public performance, an illustrious audience 12.1}, assembled, including Marinetti, Pratella, Boccioni, Carra, Cangiullo, Stravinsky, udged Diaghilev, Massine, and a Slav pianist. In his autobiography, Cangiullo— Neapolitan, Futurist poet, and painter—remembered the evening, which began 238 NEW iSMS AND NATIONAL IDENTITIES. 1910—1930 with a piece by Pratella, followed by Russolo at work with eight or nine of his Noise Intoners, thus: A Crackler crackled and sent up a thousand sparks like a gloomy torrent. Stravinsky leapt from the divan like an exploding bedspring, with a whistle of overjoyed excitement. At the same time a Rustler rustled like silk skirts, or like new leaves in April. The frenetic composer hurled himself on the piano in an attempt to find that prodigious onomatopoetic sound, but in vain did his avid fingers explore all the semi-tones. Meanwhile, the male dancer [Massinel swung his professional legs, Diaghilev went Ah Ah like a startled quail, and that for him was the highest sign of approval. By moving his legs the dancer was trying to say that the strange symphony was danceable, while Marinetti, happier than ever, ordered tea, cakes and liqueurs. Boccioni whispered to Carr‘a that the guests were won over. The only person who remained unmoved was Russolo himself. He tweaked his goatee beard and said there was a lot to modify; he hated praise. As a polite murmur of disagreement started, Piatti declared that experiments would have to begin again from scratch. Stravinsky and the Slav pianist played a frenzied four-handed version of The Firebird. and Pratella slept soundly through it all.“ On April 21, 1914, three of Russolo's pieces for Noise Intoners—The Awakening of a City, Luncheon on the Kursaal Terrace, and Meeting of Automobiles and Aeroplanes—were performed in Milan. Only the month before, Russolo had forwarded a new notation (Fig. 12.4l which replaced traditional notation with a number system and a network of solid lines. Later the same year Pratella, in combining Russolo's Noise Intoners with his more traditional orchestra, wrote a piece entitled Joy, which made use of both standard and the newly devised notations. A footnote to the score amazingly c'E'Tar/r LE NOMBRE EXIsrAT—IL mm... pug.“— I... r“. con MENqAT-IL ET (Leash—n. —-a... .u. .125- q—i u...- .a 0-h- pd—n w... .. mi 52 CHIFPRATJL nw—unppyw ILLUMINATJL CE SERAIT p. “W“ “rm—m LE HASARD Claw 1. pl... ”Mm,“ "-1le in mm [nun-do, In: (rm-u mph/1.. "pan, 1'» "tilt-In n- 40.» 10,.) m (in: firm for I; "vial/n4 rénliyu 1. pa," Figure 12.2. A page from Mallarme’s Un coup de dés originally published in the review Cosmopolis [1897]. i l l FUTU RUSS 0—1930 30f his torrent. istle of or like 3 in an ris avid swung for him ; to say n ever, ts were elf. He 3e. As a would renzied all“ —The ing of rnonth placed . Later ; more f both zingly review FUTURISM: MANIFESTOS AND MACHINES 2 39 prefigures directions typically found in the scores of Cage, Stockhausen, and Reilly of a later decade: Immense shout from the crowd. Each single individual will attempt the most acute intonation of his own chosen tone. The intonation and the duration will be arbitrary and independent, but the entries will be rigorously observed.5 Just as contemporary challenges to typography may be traced from Mallarmé's Un coup de de’s [1897; Figure 12.2] to Marinetti‘s various parole in liberta {e.g., ”Turkish Captive Balloon” from Zang Tomb Tuum, 1914,- Figure 1233), Apollinaire’s Calligrammes (1918), and to later configurations by numerous modern poets from Ezra Pound and e. e. cummings on, so the notational chal— lenge of Russolo's The Awakening of a City [1914; Figure 12.4} signalled the be- ginning of a rethinking of the musical score, which persists to the present day" RUSSIAN FUTURISM The vigorous artistic activity in Russia at precisely this time saw the appearance of a profusion of isms: Futurism, Cubo-Futurism, Suprematism, Rayonism, and later Constructivism. Lacking a significant base in the world of music, in general they need not concern us here. The appearance of the word imboscata di T. S. F. bulgarl Vlbbbrrrrrrrarrrrrre arrrrrrruflame comunlcazioni turche Scuukr‘l Pastia - Costantinopoli p T ’66 <2 5 ’7‘», (t) ’7- b F ’1‘, (35 0,4; is QHIMdOOS 'nm—t \ Q. o» \O~ \ \N ’/ , O ‘9’, I I t“ m assslto contro Seyloglou mascherare assalto Figure 12.3. Marinetti, "Turkish Captive Balloon," from Zang Tumb Tuum [1914]. NEW lSMS AND NATIONAL IDENTITIES, 1910—1930 nmmaimrlzl imunmmcma. “I i 1 1111-1111 Ill-Ill 1111']!!! 1113111 311.1111 1 1 ".1111 I I “a: “-‘= w».- w..— Figure 12.4. Russolo, Score of The Awakening of a City [19141 Futurism, however, demands our attention. While it has been argued that Marinetti did not visit Russia until 1914, his Futurist Manifesto had appeared in translation in Russia shortly after its appearance in Paris’s “Figaro” in 1909. Virtually the whole of the Primitivist movement headed by Larionov and Goncharova, interestingly, had been subsumed under the banner of Futurism from a date at least this early and probably before, and it was natural that claims of priority would be made. It was not until the period 1911—12, however, that anything even vaguely resembling Italian Futurist premises surfaced in Russian art, and even here a distinction should be made. The appearance of the painter Kasimir Malevich (1878—1935) as successor to Larionov and Concharova at this time was crucial for such developments. His first independent work dating from 1909 predictably depicts peasant rural themes, but by the time of The Woodcutter [1911) such themes had found a new and energetic rhythm, and in his pathbreaking Scissors Grinder of 1912 (Figure 12.5) he openly betrays the influence of the Cubists (Duchamp's Nude Descending 0 Staircase, 1912, is exactly contemporary) and, through its focus on the machine, the Italian Futurists. It has been argued that this remarkable painting manifests little of the Italian's interest in speed, that the machine itself is of a primitive type, and that the theme of the work is man's control over it and hence his destiny. Significantly, however, it also secures the easy alliance between Futurism's reductive fascination for the sounds of everyday life and urban pulse, and Primitivism's devotion to natural song and ritual rhythm. By the end of 1913 Malevich’s endorsement of Cubo-Futurism had led him to other frontiers, but Concharova's The Cyclist [1912—13] and Larionov's FUTl. 1930 that rated 909. and rism aims that ;sian :ssor ants 'ural new gure Jude Lson .able tself : and ance and him iov’s 241 MR Figure 12.5. Kasirnir Malevich, The Scissors Grinder (1912). Yale University Art Gallery. Gift of Collection Sociéte Anonyme. Rayonist Manifesto [1913), which opens with the following words, suggest lingering Italian Futurist values: We declare: the genius of our days to be: trousers, jackets, shoes, tramways, buses, aeroplanes, railways, magnificent ships—what an enchantrnent—what a great epoch unrivalled in world history.7 As Larionov and Concharova left Russia to join Diaghilev in Paris in 1915, Stravinsky could not have been unaware of the Russian developments just outlined. Their collaboration with the composer in Renard 11915—16} and Les noccs [1916 and 1921 I, respectively, naturally enough project Primitivist values in light of their subject matter, but the presence of the two artists could hardly have failed to sensitize Stravinsky to the variegated premises of Futurism, and perhaps explain his willingness to go along with Italian Futurist experiments. Following a refusal by Stravinsky to write music for a portrayal of the Mass on stage, Diaghilev had toyed with the idea of a Futurist orchestra as an accompaniment to a projected ballet, Liturgie (19151, but nothing came of it. Two years later, however, on April 12, 1917, at the Rome premiere of Tomma- sini‘s The Good-Humoured Ladies, Diaghilev extended the Futurist theater to a presentation of Stravinsky’s early Fireworks, with the composer conducting. For this work, Balla constructed a set of prismatic wooden shapes stretched with 242 NHVKMSANDNAWONALHHNWTESIWOJ%O painted canvas. Smaller forms were translucent and capable of being illuminated from the inside. Against a black background a movement of colored lights replaced the movement of the dancers, and in the five-minute work forty-nine different sequences were projected from a keyboard activated from the prompter’s box by Balla, the designer of the entire project. The relation of such Futurist experiments to the work of Skriabin and others of a slightly earlier period is apparent. Malevich's alliance with the Russian Revolution of 1917 was inevitable, believing as he did that Cube-Futurism was actually an artistic prophecy of and preparation for social upheaval, and Stravinsky‘s reaction to Revolutionary prospects was initially extremely positive as well. At the same concert that saw the Futurist production of his Fireworks, Stravinsky made a setting for wind instruments of The Song of the Volga Boatmen to replace the Russian National Anthem typically played at the beginning of the concert. I-Iis illusions about a new order in Russia even led him to contemplate ending his Swiss exile and returning to Russia. At the Rome performance, however, Stravinsky was introduced to Picasso for the first time, and their collaboration on Pulcinella projected. Not only his involvement in the West but news from Russia of a second Bolshevist uprising soon brought him to the realization that his hopes for the Revolution had been misplaced. On the Italian side, Stravinsky's expressed delight over Russolo’s machines at the private concert in Milan in 1914 he later claimed was feigned. Nonetheless, his own Study for Pianola [1917} and the piano and percussion ensemble of Les noces [including a mechanical piano in an early version that was abandoned because of the difficulties in synchronization) may fairly be said to reflect his interest in the experiments of the Futurists.8 Though Stravinsky stated that his Study was inspired by the sounds of the mechanical pianos and orchestrinas in the streets and taverns of Madrid, elsewhere he acknowledged that his interest in player-pianos dated from 1914 following a demonstration of the pianola by the Aeolian Company in London, which offered him a commission for an original piece for the instrument. In addition to the mechanics of the instrument, Stravinsky was attracted to its capacity to rule out nuance in the fixing of tempo relationships. The importance of this to his music at large is mirrored in the transcriptions for pianola of numerous works from Petrushka to Pulcinella, Les noces, and The Five Fingers that he made for the Pleyel company in Paris—a time-consuming project ”to no purpose” with which he was involved between 1921 and 1924 (Figure 12.6). LATER REPERCUSSIONS OF FUTURISM: ANTI-IEIL, MILHAUD, HONEGGER, PROKOFIEV, ORNSTEIN, COWELL, VARESE, HINDEMITH From the standpoint of advocates and manifestos, the Italian Futurist movement was expended by the end of the war, though its effect could be spotted throughout the next decade. Russolo’s concerts in Paris in the early 19205 still engendered a certain excitement and were known to have attracted several important composers, including Ravel, Honegger, Milhaud, and Varese. Finally, more sophisticated versions of the Intonarumori were advanced under the name of Rumorarmonio (Noise Harmonium) and Russolophone, which brought FUTL ines ned. sion that said isky and iged in Of m a the rule 1 his orks : for Nith nent Itth still reral ally, .ame ught 243 Figure 12.6. Stravinsky at work with the Pleyela, Paris, 1923. Photo by Vera Sudeikina. together a collection of Noise Intoners operable from a rudimentary keyboard. The latter was promoted by Varese in a public concert of 1929, but he was soon attracted to the thérémin and ondes martenot. While the official ”Futuristi" spawned slim musical results, their influence was more salutary than would appear at first glance. Although the emphasis placed on speed, sport, and war cast a somewhat grim political shadow over the movement (Marinetti, for example, had written an article as early as 1911—15 entitled "War, the World's Only Hygiene," and Mussolini was the patron of a Futurist architectural exhibition as late as 1928), the experimental nature of the movement fascinated numerous composers who pursued their own interpreta- tion of the machine age in various ways. The Futurist-inspired instrumental choices in the works of Stravinsky, for example, found an echo in the work of the American-in—Paris George Antheil, who in 1924 began a cooperative venture with painter Fernand Léger (18814955) and the film maker Dudley Murphy on a work already in progress, Ballet mécanique {1923—25}. One of the earliest abstract films, its procession of gears, pots, clocks, and various types of repetitive motion was intended to be accompanied by Antheil’s music performed by sixteen player pianos utilizi...
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