As we prepare for c:n’s upcoming concerts, “Serving Up the Four Seasons,” many of us on the production and planning team have been doing our homework in efforts to enlighten our audience about the music.
With a program as vast as this one, the change in musical styles can be a really fascinating and cerebral experience. The music ranges from early classical to, well, about as contemporary and modern as you can get.
Music lovers can usually tell you the difference between Renaissance, Classical, and Romantic music – at least on a very basic level. But ask about the Futurist Movement and you’re likely to get a few blank stares.
Six months ago, you would have gotten that same exact blank stare from me. It wasn’t until my first quarter as a DMA clarinetist at CCM, that the Futurist movement was even a topic of discussion.
So…you find yourself asking:
What the heck is Futurist Music?
WELL – since you asked – The Futurist movement was an early 20th century reaction, in Italy, against the archaic traditions and rules bound to art, music, and politics.
And in 1909 Filippo Tomaso Marinetti, the founding father of Futurism, published the “Futurist Manifesto” which sparked the flame of many artists, thinkers, and writers in embracing a desperate need for change.
Marinetti says it most eloquently (and I just love his descriptive use of the language, I won’t say it’s so much poetic but more…thought-provoking):
Italy has been too long the great second-hand market. We want to get rid of the innumerable museums which cover it with innumerable cemeteries.
This one’s even better:
…we today are founding Futurism, because we want to deliver Italy from its gangrene of professors, archaeologists, tourist guides and antiquaries.
Marinetti’s manifesto inspired other forward thinkers in composing “manuals” of their own. Luigi Russolo was one such musician and artist that championed the Futurist regime. Russolo’s manifesto “The Art of Noise (Futurist Manifesto, 1913), brought to fruition Marinetti’s ideas.
One of my favorite excerpts from Russolo’s writing:
Noise…comes to us confused and irregular as life itself, never reveals itself wholly but reserves for us [innumerable] surprises. We are convinced, therefore, that by selecting, [coordinating], and controlling noises we shall enrich mankind with a new and unsuspected source of pleasure.
The Futurist movement creates this bridge between what society conceives as noise an harmoniously (and not so harmoniously) juxtaposing it with music to create a new and homogenous sound.
Russolo did some really rather interesting and thought-provoking things for the Futurist movement. How many of you remember, from music history class, the term intonarumori? The rough translation being “intoners” or “noise makers.” These were a set of “instruments” that Russolo invented as a vehicle for Futurism. These instruments created an very original and interesting sound. Here’s a link (you can click it now, it’ll open a new window) to a website that is hosting some audio clips of our “famed” intonaurmori.
“Traditional” art was intended to invoke and inculcate certain emotions and humanistic pathos. While on the transverse, Futurist wanted to homogenize the industrialized surroundings of ones life (speed, violence, machinery, etc.) with art, regardless of whether or not it created a pleasing aural and visual experience.
Again, my love of Marinetti’s work is rooted in his writing:
Let us leave good sense behind like a hideous husk and let us hurl ourselves, like fruit spiced with pride, into the immense mouth and breast of the world! Let us feed the unknown, not from despair, but simply to enrich the unfathomable reservoirs of the Absurd!
Marinetti lays out the principles of futurism for us. Here are the articles, as he refers to them, of Futurism
- We want to sing the love of danger, the habit of energy and rashness.
- The essential elements of our poetry will be courage, audacity and revolt.
- Literature has up to now magnified pensive immobility, ecstasy and slumber. We want to exalt movements of aggression, feverish sleeplessness, the double march, the perilous leap, the slap and the blow with the fist.
- We declare that the splendor of the world has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing automobile with its bonnet adorned with great tubes like serpents with explosive breath … a roaring motor car which seems to run on machine-gun fire, is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace.
- We want to sing the man at the wheel, the ideal axis of which crosses the earth, itself hurled along its orbit.
- The poet must spend himself with warmth, glamour and prodigality to increase the enthusiastic fervor of the primordial elements.
- Beauty exists only in struggle. There is no masterpiece that has not an aggressive character. Poetry must be a violent assault on the forces of the unknown, to force them to bow before man.
- We are on the extreme promontory of the centuries! What is the use of looking behind at the moment when we must open the mysterious shutters of the impossible? Time and Space died yesterday. We are already living in the absolute, since we have already created eternal, omnipresent speed.
- We want to glorify war — the only cure for the world — militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of the anarchists, the beautiful ideas which kill, and contempt for woman.
- We want to demolish museums and libraries, fight morality, feminism and all opportunist and utilitarian cowardice.
- We will sing of the great crowds agitated by work, pleasure and revolt; the multi-colored and polyphonic surf of revolutions in modern capitals: the nocturnal vibration of the arsenals and the workshops beneath their violent electric moons: the gluttonous railway stations devouring smoking serpents; factories suspended from the clouds by the thread of their smoke; bridges with the leap of gymnasts flung across the diabolic cutlery of sunny rivers: adventurous steamers sniffing the horizon; great-breasted locomotives, puffing on the rails like enormous steel horses with long tubes for bridle, and the gliding flight of aeroplanes whose propeller sounds like the flapping of a flag and the applause of enthusiastic crowds.
Ah, Futurism. Smells wonderful doesn’t it? Futurism was really, at least in my opinion, what sort of laid the foundation and ground work for other great artistic developments – like Dadaism and Cubism. More importantly, Futurism – though not LOVED by everyone and has had difficulty surviving in a world of “traditionalist” – it has provoked a new concept of ones aural stimulation. You hear “traditional” music in a new light – both fascinating and interesting. And, let us not forget, Futurism lay its roots in some of the great composers ,past and present, such as Stravinsky, Hoenneger, KERNIS, and Varèse.
I hope this has enlightened you a little to Futurism and that when you experience Kernis’s The Four Seasons of Futurist Cuisine, it will be a thought-provoking and cerebral experience!
Unfortunately, I think this might be a good stopping place for me now, as I can inevitably (and without complaint) go on for many – many – more hours.
Can’t wait to see everyone at the upcoming c:n concert!!