Francesco Balilla Pratella

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Cover of the 1912 edition of Musica futurista by Francesco Balilla Pratella – cover art by Umberto Boccioni

Francesco Balilla Pratella (February 1, 1880 – May 17, 1955) was an Italian composer and musicologist, who joined the Futurist movement in 1910 and composed a number of modernist works for voice as well as for orchestra and chamber ensemble.


Manifesto of Futurist Musicians (1910)[edit]

Balilla Pratella "Manifesto dei musicisti futuristi." 11 Gennaio 1911 in: Il Manifesto del futurismo p. 38-45; Translated and (re)published in: Poggi, Christine, and Laura Wittman, eds. Futurism: An Anthology. Yale University Press, 2009. 75-80

  • I address myself to the young. They alone will have to listen to me, they alone will be able to understand me. Some people are born already old, drooling specters from the past, cryptograms tumid with poisons: to them, no words or ideas except a single injunction: the end.
    • Poggi et al (2009, p. 75)
    • Original text:
      Io mi rivolgo ai giovani. Essi soli mi dovranno ascoltare e mi potranno comprendere. C’è chi nasce vecchio, spettro bavoso del passato, crittogama tumida di veleni: a costoro, non parole, nè idee, ma una imposizione unica: fine.
  1. Convince young composers to desert musical lyceums, conservatories, and academies, and to consider free study as the only means of regeneration.
  2. Fight with assiduous disdain against the critics, fatally venal and ignorant, and liberate the public from the malignant influence of their writings. To this end, found a new independent musical review resolutely opposed to the criteria of conservatory professors and the debased standards of the public.
  3. Abstain from participating in any competition with the customary closed envelopes and related admission charges, publicly denouncing the mystifications and revealing the incompetence of juries that are generally composed of cretins and dotards.
  4. Keep away from commercial and academic environments, disdaining them, and instead preferring a modest life over the large profits which mean that art has to sell out.
  5. Free one’s own musical sensibility from all influence or imitation of the past...
  • Poggi et al (2009, p. 79)
  • Original text:
  1. Convincere i giovani compositori a disertare licei,conservatori e accademie musicali, e a considerare lo studio ibero come unico mezzo di rigenerazione.
  2. Combattere con assiduo disprezzo i critici, fatalmente venali e ignoranti, liberando il pubblico dall'influenza malefica dei loro scritti. Fondare a questo scopo una rivista musicale indipendente e risolutamente avversa ai criteri dei professori di conservatorio e a quelli avviliti del pubblico.
  3. Astenersi dal partecipare a qualunque concorso con le solite buste chiuse e le relative tasse d'ammissione, denunziandone pubblicamente le mistificazioni e svelando la incompetenza delle giurie, generalmente composte di cretini e di rammolliti.
  4. Tenersi lontani dagli ambienti commerciali o accademici, disprezzandoli, e preferendo vita modesta a lauti guadagni per i quali l'arte si dovesse vendere.
  5. Liberare la propria sensibilità musicale da ogni imitazione o influenza del passato...

Technical Manifesto of Futurist Music (1911)[edit]

Francesco Balilla Pratella "La Musica futurista," in: Il Manifesto del futurismo p. 46-45; Translated and (re)published in:

"Technical Manifesto of Futurist Music" 29 March 1911; Republished in: Poggi, Christine, and Laura Wittman, eds. Futurism: An Anthology. Yale University Press, 2009. 80-85

  • All innovators, logically speaking, have been Futurists in relation to their time. Palestrina would have thought that Bach was crazy, and Bach would have thought Beethoven the same, and Beethoven would have thought Wagner equally so.
Rossini liked to boast that he had finally understood the music of Wagner—by reading it backward; Verdi, after listening to the overture to Tannhäuser, wrote to a friend that Wagner was mad.
So we stand at the window of a glorious mental hospital, even while we unhesitatingly declare that counterpoint and the fugue, which even today are still considered the most important branches of musical instruction...
  • p. 80
  • Original text:
Tutti gli innovatori sono stati logicamente futuristi, in relazione ai loro tempi. Palestrina avrebbe giudicato pazzo Bach, e così Bach avrebbe giudicato Beethoven, e così Beethoven avrebbe giudicato Wagner.
Rossini si vantava di aver finalmente capito la musica di Wagner leggendola a rovescio! Verdi, dopo un’audizione dell’ouverture del Tannhäuser, in una lettera a un suo amico chiamava Wagner matto.
Siamo dunque alla finestra di un manicomio glorioso, mentre dichiariamo, senza esitare, che il contrappunto e la fuga, ancor oggi considerati come il ramo più importante dell’insegnamento musicale...
  • Knowledge of instrumentation should be acquired through experience. Instrumental composition should be conceived instrumentally, imagining and hearing a particular orchestra for each particular and diverse musical condition of the mind.
    • p. 82

Quotes about Balilla Pratella[edit]

  • When we talk of architecture, people usually think of something static; this is wrong. What we are thinking of is an architecture similar to the dynamic and musical architecture achieved by the Futurist musician Pratella. Architecture is found in the movement of colours, of smoke from a chimney and in metallic structures, when they are expressed in states of mind which are violent and chaotic.
    • Carlo Carra "The Painting of Sounds, Noises and Smells" (1913); As translated in: Mary Ann Caws (2001) Manifesto: A Century of Isms. p. 203
  • Musicas-machinery-noise and urban-sound-as-music received their first notable currency among the Italian Futurists in the immediate prewar years. Balilla Pratella and his “ideologist” Luigi Russolo yearned for a music that not only celebrated the city in some programmatic way but that reproduced it.
    • Richard Stites (1988) Revolutionary Dreams: : Utopian Vision and Experimental Life in the Russian Revolution. p. 178

External links[edit]

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