The Futurist Noise Machine

The European Legacy 14 (7):821-840 (2009)
Abstract
Futurism is famous for promoting “the art of noise” in its manifestos, serate (theatrical evenings), poetry, music, and visual art. Noise appears in Futurism as an avatar of the machine age, as a means of assaulting the senses of complacent audiences, and as a sign of the conflict inherent in matter. Beginning with the “Founding and Manifesto of Futurism” of 1909, where the noises of the street galvanize Marinetti and his friends to break out of a prison-like domestic space, to early paintings representing the vibrations of music/noise by Balla, Severini, Carr , and Russolo, to Russolo's 1913 manifesto “The Art of Noises” and his invention of a series of “noise tuners,” discordant sound played a vital role in Futurist art and politics. Often it was associated with moments of rebirth or awakening to new forms of consciousness, as in Russolo's noise score “Awakening of the City,” but it could also signify the destruction of life, as in Marinetti's Zang Tumb Tuuum . It served both to shatter older forms of perception based on notions of order and harmony, and to instantiate the violence the Futurists believed was inherent in matter as well as in social life. It allowed repressed energies to be released, but also sought to re-channel these energies towards the integration of man and machine, flesh and metal, war and the universe of matter
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