Futurism & Dada Reviewed [LTMCD 2301]
Futurism & Dada Reviewed is an archive primer compiling original sound recordings made by luminaries from both 20th century avant-garde art movements, including F.T. Marinetti, Antonio Russolo, Jean Cocteau, Marcel Duchamp, Wyndham Lewis, Guillaume Apollinaire, Kurt Schwitters, Tristan Tzara, Marcel Janco and Richard Huelsenbeck. The audio content includes interviews, tone poetry and avant-garde musical pieces, all of which were recorded between 1913 and 1959.
1. LUIGI RUSSOLO Risveglio di una citta
2. ANTONIO RUSSOLO Corale
3. F.T. MARINETTI Sintesi Musicali Futuriste
4. ANTONIO RUSSOLO Serenata
5. F.T. MARINETTI La Battaglia di Adrianopoli
6. F.T. MARINETTI Definizione di Futurismo
7. LUIGI GRANDI Cavalli + Acciaio
8. WYNDHAM LEWIS End of Enemy Interlude
9. GUILLAUME APOLLINAIRE Le Pont Mirabeau
10. T. TZARA/M. JANCO/R. HUELSENBECK L'amiral cherche une maison à louer
11. MARCEL DUCHAMP La Mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même
RICHARD HUELSENBECK Inventing Dada
TRISTAN TZARA Dada Into Surealism
12. KURT SCHWITTERS Die Sonate in Urlauten
13. JEAN COCTEAU La Toison d'Or
14. JEAN COCTEAU Les Voleurs d'Enfants
Available on CD and digital download. Deluxe booklet with text and images. Collage artwork by Joël van Audenhaege.
"Exceptional - from Wyndham Lewis' posh tones to some skippy jazz-hot from Jean Cocteau, this is unremittingly fresh and joyous" (The Wire, 10/2000)
"Wonderful. You could imagine Tim Burton using it for a camp re-creation of a silent frightener" (The Guardian, 11/2000)
"The most enthralling LTM project to date, should lie in every record collection bar none" (Melody Maker, 12/1988)
"Blows the pants off most of the crap which passes for pop these days" (Marie Claire, 1988)
1. LUIGI RUSSOLO Risveglio di una città (0.31)
The principle exponent of Futurist musical theory was Luigi Russolo (1885-1947), a painter whose vast canvas Music painted in 1911-12 depicted its subject as a swirl of keyboard crescendos assailing the player's head. In March 1913 Russolo published The Art of Noises (L'arte dei rumori), now seen as the true manifesto of Futurist music, and far closer to Marinetti's radical conception of free words (parole in liberta) than the fuzzy theorising of Francesco Balilla Pratella. In The Art of Noises Russolo flaunted his anti-qualifications with pride: 'I am not a musician by profession, and therefore I have no acoustical prejudices, nor any works to defend. I am a Futurist painter who projects beyond himself, into an art much-loved and studied, his desire to renew everything. Thus, bolder than a professional musician, unconcerned by my apparent incompetence, and convinced that my audacity opens up all rights and all possibilities, I am able to divine the great renewal of music by means of the Art of Noises.'
Russolo set about constructing so-called noise generators (intonarumori), essentially crude synthesisers intended to mimic a variety of modern noises, and able to regulate their harmony, pitch and rhythm. The first public demonstration came in June 1913 at the Teatro Storchi in Modena, when Russolo unveiled an exploder (scoppiatore) which aimed to reproduce the sound of an internal combustion engine. By the spring of 1914 Russolo and Piatti had constructed four intonarumori - the exploder, crackler (crepitatori), buzzer (ronzatori) and scraper (stropicciatori) - and published scores for two 'noise networks' titled Risveglio di una città (Awakening of a City) and Convegno d'aeroplani e d'automobili (The Meeting of Automobiles and Aeroplanes).
The first massed performance took place at the Teatro dal Verme in Milan on 21 April 1914, although following a rehearsal during the afternoon the show was banned by the police on the grounds that it was likely to trigger a public disturbance. After two local politicians intervened on the side of the Futurists the show went ahead, with predictable results. Russolo recalled that 'the immense crowd were already in uproar half an hour before the performance'. Missiles were thrown throughout, the abuse supposedly led by a group of 'pastist' music professors from the Royal Conservatory of Milan. The noise of the brawl drowned out the radical new music, and Marinetti would later describe the experience of demonstrating the intonarumori to an incredulous public as 'like showing the first steam engine to a heard of cows.'
The outbreak of the First World War curtailed Futurist activity outside Italy, and in July 1914 Marinetti and other Futurists enlisted in the Lombard Volunteer Cyclist Battalion, apparently the speediest unit in King Victor Emmanuel's army. But Italy's war was conducted in a haphazard and incompetent fashion, and cost the Futurists dear. According to Marinetti, 13 of their number were killed, and 41 wounded. Russolo himself suffered a serious head wound at Monte Grappa in 1917 which required cranial surgery and a year of recuperation. It seems likely that this injury caused him to reconsider his earlier appraisal of modern war as a 'marvellous and grand and tragic symphony.' Performed by Daniele Lombardi.
2. Antonio Russolo Corale (1.58)
4. Antonio Russolo Serenata (2.34)
In June 1921 Luigi Russolo and his younger brother Antonio (1877-1942) staged a performance at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, from which a hostile Dada faction lead by Tristan Tzara were forcibly ejected. 'The Italian bruitistes, led by Marinetti, were giving a performance of works written for their new instruments,' recalled Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes. 'These works were pale, insipid and melodious in spite of Russolo's noise-music, and the Dadaists who attended did not fail to express their feelings - and very loudly. Marinetti asked indulgence for Russolo, who had been wounded in the war and had undergone a serious operation on his skull. This moved the Dadaists to demonstrate violently how little impressed they were by a reference to the war.'
In Paris Russolo tried to demonstrate how intonarumori might work as part of a conventional orchestra, and may have performed the Corale and Serenata subsequently recorded by his brother in 1924 for the HMV label. Later innovations included a noise harmonium (rumorarmonio) and an enharmonic bow, while Russolo also provided live soundtracks to several avant-garde films at Studio 28. Unfortunately the advent of talking pictures closed this avenue, and Russolo performed in public for the last time in 1929. Tasting poverty and disappointment, he abandoned Futurism in favour of mysticism and the occult, publishing a book titled Beyond the Material World in 1938 and passing away on 4 February 1947.
3. F.T. Marinetti Sintesi Musicali Futuriste (6.56)
In his founding Manifesto of February 1909, Futurist leader Filipo Tomasso Marinetti recognised that the Futurist ideology would include sound and noise in the armoury of the war against traditionalism. The roar of a motor car, so he claimed, was more beautiful than anything by Michaelangelo. Moreover Futurists would "sing in praise of the gliding flight of aeroplanes with their propellers screeching in the wind like a flag, and their roar reminiscent of the applause of an enthusiastic crowd."
This piece for narrator and improvised piano (by Aldo Giuntini) was originally issued in 1931 as a 78 rpm disc on Columbia Records (DQ 3661/CB 10633). The componant parts are: Le macchine; L'infinito; Il mare; La festa dei motori; Amanti in volo; Battaglia simultanea di terra, mare e cielo.
5. F.T. Marinetti Definizione di Futurismo (2.56)
6. F.T. Marinetti La Battaglia di Adrianopoli (3.03)
As chief theorist of the speed-loving, machine-celebrating Italian Futurists, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti declared war to be "the sole hygiene of the world" in his founding manifesto of 1909, then trucked around various small Balkan conflicts as a tourist, and found himself imprisoned in 1914 for agitating in favour of Italy's early entry into the First World War. The "finest and wildest" of his free-verse creations, The Battle of Adrianopolis offered a vivid description of Turkish wounded returning home in a train attacked by Bulgarian cavalry. The poem first appeared in his publication Zang Tumb Tumb, and this audio recording made by the poet in 1924 evidences a poem intended to be performed rather than merely read.
In an article published in the Evening News in January 1914, Henry Nevinson described an animated performance by Marinetti at the Dore Gallery in London thus: "Listen to Marinetti's recitations of one of his battle scenes - a train of wounded stopped by the enemy, or the destruction of a bridge under fire. I may very well have witnessed both the events he describes for he was with us in the Bulgarian Second Army a year ago. But I have never conceived such descriptions as these, nor heard such recitations. The noise, the confusion, the surprise of death, the terror and courage, the grandeur and the appalling littleness, the doom and chance, the shouting, curses, blood and agony - all were recalled by that amazing succession of words, performed or enacted by the poet with such passion of abandonment that no-one could escape the spell of listening."
Both of these historic recordings by Marinetti were recorded in April 1924 and issued by the Societa Nazionale del Grammofono (La Voce del Padronne) as R6915.
7. Luigi Grandi Cavalli + Acciaio (2.45)
Little is known about the life and career of Luigi Grandi (1902-1973) save that he lived in Bologna, and may have known Balilla Pratella. His Futuristic piece Aeroduello (Dogfight) was published in 1935 in versions for piano and orchestra, and was dedicated to Marinetti. Cavalli + Acciaio is a "mechanical cavalcade" also dating from 1935, written by Grandi for large orchestra, with a piano reduction by the composer. Piano performance by Daniele Lombardi, recorded in 1978.
8. Wyndham Lewis End of Enemy Interlude (1.20)
Born in 1882 to a British mother and American father, Percy Wyndham Lewis was educated in England, first at Rugby School, then at the Slade School of Art in London. Between 1902 and 1908 he undertook a bohemian grand tour of Europe, during which he studied art in Paris and Munich, absorbing there the innovations of Cubism and Expressionism. Lewis subsequently produced his first Cubist/Futurist paintings, and between 1913 and 1915 developed the style of angular, geometric abstraction christened Vorticism by his friend Ezra Pound. Based on machinistic and architectural forms, the work produced by this unique English avant-garde art movement combined the dynamism of the Italian Futurists with the strong structure of Cubism. Lewis was the principal author of the Vorticist manifesto; other notable Vorticists included Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, William Roberts, Edward Wadsworth, Jacob Epstein and Frederick Etchells.
Vorticism and its house journal Blast established Lewis as the leading British avant-garde artist of his day, and one of the 'Men of 1914' alongside James Joyce, T.S. Eliot and Pound. Unfortunately both his group and career would be all but destroyed by the outbreak of the First World War. This reading of the poem End of Enemy Interlude was recorded by Lewis at Harvard University in 1940, after the artist had largely renounced the avant-garde and instead devoted most of his energies to writing.
9. Guillaume Apollinaire Le Pont Mirabeau (1.14)
Born in Rome and educated in France, Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918) published his first writings in La Revue blanche of 1902 before meeting Max Jacob and Pablo Picasso three years later, thereafter frequenting the artistic and literary circles of Montmartre and Montparnasse. As well as novels and short stories he would write much influential art criticism, and was one of the first to champion the Cubist movement. When the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre by a former associate in 1911 Apollinaire found himself arrested on suspicion of complicity. He was soon cleared, and despite being seen by some as a dangerous foreigner and thief his verse collections Alcools (1913) and Calligrammes (1918) would establish him as the leading French poet of his day.
This priceless recording of Le Pont Mirabeau was made in 1913. In an ultra modern form, with short verses, a refrain that repeats throughout the poem like a song, and without punctuation, the poem speaks of the classic themes of the fatality of passing time and the pain of love.
Volunteering for the infantry in 1914, Apollinaire suffered a serious head wound two years later and was invalided out of the army. He died in Paris in November 1918, a victim of the great influenza pandemic which broke out that year. Nevertheless, despite his early demise he remained a significant influence on many of the poets of both Dada and Surrealism. Indeed it was Apollinaire who first coined the word "surrealist" in the programme notes for Parade, a ballet by Jean Cocteau and Erik Satie first performed on 18 May 1917. His own play Les Mamelles de Tiresias (The Tits of Tiresias) further established the term.
11.1. Marcel Duchamp La Mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même (10.06)
Born near Blainville, France, Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) ranks among the leading artists and theorists of the 20th Century. After early experiments with traditional and Cubist styles Duchamp chose to abandon orthodox techniques, and in 1915 relocated to New York. There he worked on provocative "readymade" artworks such as Fountain (1917), a porcelain urinal signed R. Mutt, and promoted avant-gardism and Dada along with Man Ray and fellow expatriate Francis Picabia. Duchamp produced relatively few orthodox paintings, the best known of these being Nu descendant un éscalier (Nude Descending a Staircase) from 1912. The large glass, La Mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même (The bride stripped bare by her batchelors, even) gradually evolved between 1915 and 1923. Other notable works include 3 Standard Stoppages (1913-14), L.H.O.O.Q (1919) and latterly the unsettling installation Etant Donnés (1946-66).
While not a composer in any conventional sense, Duchamp conceived two pieces of music. Both are titled Erratum Musical (or Musical Erratum), and both appear to have been written in 1913. The first was a short vocal piece, to be sung by Duchamp and his sisters, and composed par hasard. The second, sub-titled La Mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même, is a far more complex and open-ended work. In fact in his marginal notes Duchamp variously describes the piece as 'inachevable' (unachievable/impossible to finish), and the component sections 'interchangeable'. Furthermore the artist discouraged any attempt at virtuoso performance, suggesting instead that the piece might be played on a mechanical piano or organ, or some other type of novel instrument. In closing, Duchamp noted of his work, 'execution is rather pointless, in any event.'
No definitive score exists. One of Duchamp's novel suggestions for performance amounts to an exercise in composition by pure chance, using a vase (or funnel) and a toy train set: "An apparatus for the automatic recording of fragmented musical periods. Vase containing the 89 notes (or more: 1/4 tone), numbers written on each ball. Opening A allows the balls to drop into a series of small wagons B, C, D, E, F etc. Wagons moving at variable speed, each one receiving one or more balls. When the vase is empty, the period of 89 notes (in so many) wagons is written and may be performed by the designated instrument."
The version included here is performed by Mats Persson and Kristine Scholz using a modified piano, on which the ordinary action with a small electric motor with a rotary disc, which moves against the strings to produce the tones heard. In this respect the performance reflects something of the form of Duchamp's Precision Optics and spiral Rotoreliefs, created between 1920 and 1935.
11.2. Richard Huelsenbeck Inventing Dada
Born in Frankenau, Germany, Richard Huelsenbeck studied medicine in Berlin and Munich and there met Hugo Ball, the founding father of Dada. In 1916 Huelsenbeck followed Ball to Zurich and began performing at the Cabaret Voltaire, Dada's anarchic literary nightclub. "He is regarded as arrogant, and that's also how he looks." wrote Hans Richter. "His nostrils vibrate, his eyebrows are arched." Together with Tristan Tzara and Marcel Janco, Huelsenbeck co-created the celebrated 'simultaneous poem' L'amiral cherche une maison à louer in 1916.
Huelsenbeck returned to Germany the following year, and in April 1918 founded a Club Dada in Berlin with Raoul Hausmann, George Grosz, Johannes Baader, Hannah Hoch, John Heartfield and others. More aggressive and directly political than its Zurich forebear ("there is a difference between sitting quietly in Switzerland and bedding down on a volcano"), Berlin Dada issued numerous proclamations and manifestos, and also embraced visual art techniques such as photomontage, assemblage and typography. Huelsenbeck's own works include Dada Almanac and En Avant Dada, both published in 1920, the same year in which the German faction organised the First International Dada Fair.
Berlin was outraged. "These individuals spend their time making pathetic trivia from rags, debris and rubbish. Rarely has such a decadent group, so totally void of ability or serious intention, so audaciously dared to step before the public as the Dadaists have done here." After Berlin Dada petered out, Huelsenbeck fell back on his medical training and became a ship's doctor, before fleeing Nazi Germany and practising as a psychoanalyst in New York under the name Charles R. Hulbeck. In 1974 he published an autobiography, Memoirs of a Dada Drummer.
In this interview Richard Huelsenbeck speaks on 'Inventing Dada' with Basil Richardson in 1959. The recording appears courtesy of Mariele B. Richardson.
11.3. Tristan Tzara Dada Into Surrealism
Born Samuel Rosenstock in Moinesti, Romania, Tristan Tzara moved to Zurich in 1916 and founded the original Dada group together with Hugo Ball, Emmy Hennings, Hans Arp, Marcel Janco, Hans Richter, Richard Huelsenbeck and other émigrés. The anarchic and anti-art Zurich Dadaists concerned themselves chiefly with literary activity, much of it presented on the stage of the celebrated Cabaret Voltaire. In contrast to the combative Italian Futurists led by Marinetti, the exponents of Dada reacted to the First World War with disgust, choosing to remain in neutral Switzerland. "It's not Dada that is nonsense - but the essence of our age that is nonsense."
Primarily a writer and poet, Tzara claimed to have coined the term Dada (French for hobby-horse), becoming chief propagandist for the group through the pages of his review Dada, which he mailed to a large number of contemporary artists, Apollinaire and Marinetti included. Dada quickly spread abroad, notably to New York and Berlin, and in January 1920 Tzara relocated to Paris, where he planned to continue artistic provocation in company with the proto-Surrealist group centred around Louis Aragon, André Breton and Philippe Soupault.
By 1923 this alliance was in tatters, and factional scuffles broke out at a performance of Tzara's play The Gas Heart in July. During the 1930s Tzara would be reunited with his former Surrealist colleagues under the common banner of Marxism, this as a means to combat the rise of Fascism in Europe. An eager connoisseur and collector of African art, Tzara died of lung cancer in Paris in December 1963, having published 37 volumes of poetry, five plays, six collections of criticism and one volume of manifestos. This interview with Tzara (in French) was recorded by Olivier Todd in 1959.
10. Tristan Tzara / Marcel Janco / Richard Huelsenbeck L'amiral cherche une maison à louer (2.20)
Written in 1916 as a simultaneous performance piece for the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, L'amiral cherche une maison à louer (which translates as The Admiral looks for a house to rent) is one of the best known examples of Dada tonal poetry, incorporating speech, shouts, singing and whistling. This 1975 recording is performed by the Trio Exvoco and appears courtesy of Ark Records.
Marcel Janco (1895-1965) was a Romania painter and engraver who became acquainted with Tzara in 1912, working with him on the magazine Simbolul. While studying architecture in Zurich three years later Janco met Tzara again and became involved in the Cabaret Voltaire, for which he created woodcuts and abstract reliefs, posters, costumes and masks.
12. Kurt Schwitters Die Sonate in Urlauten (3.27)
Born in Hanover, Germany, Kurt Schwitters came to the Dada movement relatively late, meeting Raoul Hausmann and Hans Arp in Berlin only in 1918. Abandoning his previous Expressionist style, Schwitters adapted certain of Arp's collage and assemblage techniques to style his own unique variant, Merz. On hearing Hausmann's sound poem fmsbw in 1921 Schwitters also recognised the potential of this radical form of expression. The resulting phonetic poem Die Sonata in Urlauten (or Ursonate) grew in size and scope over the years, eventually being published in 1932 (in Merz #24) with typography by Jan Tschichold.
According to Dada historian Hans Richter: "No one could perform poetry as Schwitters could. What Schwitters made of the poem, and the way he spoke it, were totally unlike Hausmann. Schwitters was a total free spirit. He was ruled by nature. No stored-up grudges, no repressed impulses. Everything came straight from the depths, without hesitation… Everything he said was coloured by his Hanover dialect, one notoriously ill-suited to poetical and gnomic utterances. But everything he said was so new that one ended up being ready to accept Hanoverian as the new world language. People laughed at him. They were right to laugh, but only if they understood why."
This abridged recording of the Ursonate was made by Kurt Schwitters for Sud-deutschen Rundfunk radio on 5 May 1932 and appears courtesy of Ernst Schwitters and Cosmopress Geneva.
13. JEAN COCTEAU La Toison d'Or (2.52)
French poet, auteur and cultural catalyst Jean Cocteau (1889-1963) became a creative figure of considerable influence worldwide. Mischievous, morbid, shocking and brilliant, Cocteau's poetic oeuvre even extended to this lively side recorded in March 1929, backed by the Dan Parrish Jazz Orchestra.
The music played behind La Toison d'Or (The Golden Fleece) is based on Holidays, written by band leader and pianist Dan Parrish. Despite being a leading figure in the avant-garde, and briefly associated with Tzara, Cocteau was disliked by core Surrealists such as Breton, Aragon and Eluard. Nevertheless, this novel recording is included here as an evocative snapshot of the jazz age.
14. JEAN COCTEAU Les Voleurs d'Enfants (3.47)
Another recording by Cocteau with the Dan Parrish Jazz Orchestra cut in March 1929, with the poet this time set to the foxtrot Pourquoi j'ai regretté by banjo player Vance Lowry. During his lifetime Cocteau was President of the Jazz Academy and of the Academy of the Disc.