February 1, 2012
“What the Futurists proposed instead was an art that celebrated the modern world of industry and technology: ‘We declare a new beauty, the beauty of speed.’ ”
Futurism was a modern art movement which began in 1909, launched by Filippo Marinetti in Italy. The movement did not last a long time, disintegrating around 1940, but continuing to influence other aspects of modern art. There are aspects of Futurism in the surrealist Marcel Duchamp’s work and Russian artists Malevich and Mayakovsky.
Futurist artists were enthusiastic about accepting and pushing the limits of new technology without being restrained by the past. They were not limited to any one medium but used the whole spectrum, including sculpture, painting, architecture, cinema, and music, having written manifestos for each.
“The Futurists loved speed, noise, machines, pollution, and cities; they embraced the exciting new world that was then upon them rather than hypocritically enjoying the modern world’s comforts while loudly denouncing the forces that made them possible. Fearing and attacking technology has become almost second nature to many people today; the Futurist manifestos show us an alternative philosophy. Too bad they were all Fascists.”
The quote above was taken from a page with a list of manifestos and statements made by the futurists all between 1909 and 1926. In the founding manifesto the futurists refer to their art as poetry and strive to sing the love of danger, have the courage to revolt, enrich the world by bringing out the beauty of speed and progression, and destroy the institutions and academies. Umberto Bocciono’s, States of Mind: Those Who Go, done in 1911, and Joseph Stella’s Battle of Lights, Coney Island, 1914, both show the intensity of the Futurist paintings. In Stella’s painting the emphasis on speed and movement with his use of line and shape give a definite sense of energy. This work was inspired by the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, and the Coney Island, an entertainment district. Futurist musicians stayed with the idea of deserting the academic circles and educational facilities to pursue free study of music. They avoiding commercial recognition and instead strove to remain unknown and modest. They were also adamant about ending the reign of the singer and bring the human voice down to the level of every other instrument.
“I unfurl to the freedom of air and sun the red flag of Futurism, calling to its flaming symbol such young composers as have hearts to love and fight, minds to conceive, and brows free of cowardice. And I shout with joy at feeling myself unfettered from all the chains of tradition, doubt, opportunism and vanity.”
Above is an excerpt from the introduction to the Futurist musicians manifesto which is an example of their almost violent need to fight against the past and break forward to the future. Luigi Russolo was another futurist composer and painter who wrote a manifesto called The Art of Noises in which he makes lists and classifies noises into 6 categories which he made up the ‘Futuristic orchestra’.
Russolo is also known for his set of compositions, Intonarumori, which he made with the instruments pictured on the right. These are horns used to generate banks of noise to create the compositions.
“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 we come ever closer to noise-sound.”6 -Russolo
It is understandable that such a group of artists would be fiercely passionate about the opportunities of the new age and would race forward to embrace them. In the current time, it seems that we are almost moving too fast to be in control, which is a mistake. In my musical piece responding to the Futurist movement I seek to capture that same awe of the future and new opportunities, as well as incorporate their focus on noise, speed, and the machine. I was also intrigued by Russolo’s classification of noises and the use of human voice apart from singing. There are small moments of human and chimpanzee laughter inserted to draw the listener out of the piece to think of the possible setting. Are they laughing in naivety of the state of the universe? Is the Chimpanzee suffering from the progression of humans? Making a Futuristic piece in 2012, I am also trying to suggest at a slight pause and contemplation of possibly rushing to a future we may regret, which is in distinct contrast with the Futurist movement of the early 1900s.
The Tate Glossary, Futurism; http://www.tate.org.uk/collections/glossary/definition.jsp?entryId=114.
Delahunt, Michael; http://www.artlex.com/ArtLex/f/futurism.html.
Futurism, Scarborough, Kim; http://www.unknown.nu/futurism/.
Manifesto of Futurist Musicians, Pratella, Balilla; http://www.unknown.nu/futurism/musicians.html.
The Art of Noises, Russolo, Luigi; http://www.unknown.nu/futurism/noises.html.