Balilla Pratella, great Futurist composer,
Rome, in the Costanzi Theatre, packed to capacity, while I was listening to the
orchestral performance of your overwhelming Futurist music, 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.
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.
this dearth of noises, the first sounds that man drew from a
pieced reed or streched string were regarded with amazement as new and
marvelous things. Primitive races attributed sound to the gods; it was
considered sacred and reserved for priests, who used it to enrich the mystery
of their rites.
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.
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.
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.
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.
musical evolution is paralleled by the multipication of machines, which
collaborate with man on every front. Not only in the roaring atmosphere of
major cities, but in the country too, which until yesterday was totally silent,
the machine today has created such a variety and rivalry of noises that pure
sound, in its exiguity and monotony, no longer arouses any feeling.
excite and exalt our sensibilities, music developed towards the most complex
polyphony and the maximum variety, seeking the most complicated successions of
dissonant chords and vaguely preparing the creation of musical noise. This
evolution towards “noise sound” was not possible before now. The ear of an
eighteenth-century man could never have endured the discordant intensity of
certain chords produced by our orchestras (whose members have trebled in number
since then). To our ears, on the other hand, they sound pleasant, since our
hearing has already been educated by modern life, so teeming with variegated
our ears are not satisfied merely with this, and demand an
abundance of acoustic emotions.
the other hand, musical sound is too limited in its qualitative variety of
tones. The most complex orchestras boil down to four or five types of
instrument, varying in timber: instruments played by bow or plucking, by
blowing into metal or wood, and by percussion. And so modern music goes round
in this small circle, struggling in vain to create new ranges of tones.
limited circle of pure sounds must be broken, and the infinite variety of
everyone will acknowledge that all musical sound carries with it a development
of sensations that are already familiar and exhausted, and which predispose the
listener to boredom in spite of the efforts of all the innovatory musicians. We
Futurists have deeply loved and enjoyed the harmonies of the great masters. For
many years Beethoven and Wagner shook our nerves and hearts. Now we are
satiated and we find far more enjoyment in the combination of the noises of
trams, backfiring motors, carriages and bawling crowds than in rehearsing, for
example, the “Eroica” or the “Pastoral”.
cannot see that enormous apparatus of force that the modern orchestra
represents without feeling the most profound and total disillusion at the
paltry acoustic results. Do you know of any sight more ridiculous than that of
twenty men furiously bent on the redoubling the mewing of a violin? All this
will naturally make the music-lovers scream, and will perhaps enliven the
sleepy atmosphere of concert halls. Let us now, as Futurists, enter one of
these hospitals for anaemic sounds. There: the first bar brings the boredom of
familiarity to your ear and anticipates the boredom of the bar to follow. Let
us relish, from bar to bar, two or three varieties of genuine boredom, waiting
all the while for the extraordinary sensation that never comes.
a repugnant mixture is concocted from monotonous sensations and the idiotic
religious emotion of listeners buddhistically drunk with repeating for the nth
time their more or less snobbish or second-hand ecstasy.
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!
no good objecting that noises are exclusively loud and disagreeable to the ear.
seems pointless to enumerate all the graceful and delicate noises that afford
convince ourselves of the amazing variety of noises, it is enough to think of
the rumble of thunder, the whistle of the wind, the roar of a waterfall, the
gurgling of a brook, the rustling of leaves, the clatter of a trotting horse as
it draws into the distance, the lurching jolts of a cart on pavings, and of the
generous, solemn, white breathing of a nocturnal city; of all the noises made
by wild and domestic animals, and of all those that can be made by the mouth of
man without resorting to speaking or singing.
us cross a great modern capital with our ears more alert than our eyes, and we
will get enjoyment from distinguishing the eddying of water, air and gas in
metal pipes, the grumbling of noises that breathe and pulse with indisputable
animality, the palpitation of valves, the coming and going of pistons, the howl
of mechanical saws, the jolting of a tram on its rails, the cracking of whips,
the flapping of curtains and flags. We enjoy creating mental orchestrations of
the crashing down of metal shop blinds, slamming doors, the hubbub and
shuffling of crowds, the variety of din, from stations, railways, iron
foundries, spinning wheels, printing works, electric power stations and
should the newest noises of modern war be forgotten. Recently, the poet
Marinetti, in a letter from the trenches of Adrianopolis, described to me with
marvelous free words the orchestra of a great battle:
“every 5 seconds
siege cannons gutting space with a chord ZANG-TUMB-TUUMB mutiny of 500 echos
smashing scattering it to infinity. In the center of this hateful
ZANG-TUMB-TUUMB area 50square kilometers leaping bursts lacerations fists rapid
fire batteries. Violence ferocity regularity this deep bass scanning the strange
shrill frantic crowds of the battle Fury breathless ears eyes nostrils open!
load! fire! what a joy to hear to smell completely taratatata of the
machine guns screaming a breathless under the stings slaps traak-traak whips
pic-pac-pum-tumb weirdness leaps 200 meters range Far far in back of the
orchestra pools muddying huffing goaded oxen wagons pluff-plaff horse
action flic flac zing zing shaaack laughing whinnies the tiiinkling
jiiingling tramping 3 Bulgarian battalions marching croooc-craaac [slowly]
Shumi Maritza or Karvavena ZANG-TUMB-TUUUMB toc-toc-toc-toc [fast] crooc-craac
[slowly] crys of officers slamming about like brass plates pan here paak
there BUUUM ching chaak [very fast] cha-cha-cha-cha-chaak down
there up around high up look out your head beautiful! Flashing flashing
flashing flashing flashing flashing footlights of the forts down there behind
that smoke Shukri Pasha communicates by phone with 27 forts in Turkish in
German Allo! Ibrahim! Rudolf! allo! allo! actors parts echos of prompters
scenery of smoke forests applause odor of hay mud dung I no longer feel my
frozen feet odor of gunsmoke odor of rot Tympani flutes clarinets everywhere
low high birds chirping blessed shadows cheep-cheep-cheep green breezes
flocks don-dan-don-din-baaah Orchestra madmen pommel the performers they
terribly beaten playing Great din not erasing clearing up cutting off slighter
noises very small scraps of echos in the theater area 300 square kilometers
Rivers Maritza Tungia stretched out Rodolpi Mountains rearing heights loges
boxes 2000 shrapnels waving arms exploding very white handkerchiefs full of
gold srrrr-TUMB-TUMB 2000 raised grenades tearing out bursts of very
black hair ZANG-srrrr-TUMB-ZANG-TUMB-TUUMB the orchestra of the noises
of war swelling under a held note of silence in the high sky round golden
balloon that observes the firing...”
want to attune and regulate this tremendous variety of noises harmonically and
attune noises does not mean to detract from all their irregular movements and
vibrations in time and intensity, but rather to give gradation and tone to the
most strongly predominant of these vibrations.
in fact can be differentiated from sound only in so far as the vibrations which
produce it are confused and irregular, both in time and intensity.
noise has a tone, and sometimes also a harmony that predominates over the body
of its irregular vibrations.
it is from this dominating characteristic tone that a practical possibility can
be derived for attuning it, that is to give a certain noise not merely one
tone, but a variety of tones, without losing its characteristic tone, by which
I mean the one which distinguishes it. In this way any noise obtained by a
rotating movement can offer an entire ascending or descending chromatic scale,
if the speed of the movement is increased or decreased.
manifestation of our life is accompanied by noise. The noise, therefore, is
familiar to our ear, and has the power to conjure up life itself. Sound, alien
to our life, always musical and a thing unto itself, an occasional but
unnecessary element, has become to our ears what an overfamiliar face is to our
eyes. Noise, however, reaching us in a confused and irregular way from the
irregular confusion of our life, never entirely reveals itself to us, and keeps
innumerable surprises in reserve. We are therefore certain that by selecting,
coordinating and dominating all noises we will enrich men with a new and
unexpected sensual pleasure.
it is characteristic of noise to recall us brutally to real life, the art of
noise must not limit itself to imitative reproduction. It will achieve its
most emotive power in the acoustic enjoyment, in its own right, that the
artist’s inspiration will extract from combined noises.