Now That’s What I Call Not Music 1!

Here’s the first of three excerpts about the initial reactions to early-20th-century experiments in avant-garde “noise music.” While I think that Andy’s comments in Culture Making about John Cage’s most (in)famous work—that in the end it amounted to “a provocative but fruitless attempt to cut off the cultural tradition of music”—are certainly worth bearing in mind. Still, there is something thrilling about the passion evident on both sides of this particular audience dispute. In the next excerpts we’ll from some of the more thoughtful (and less pugnacious) early listeners.

The first public performance of the noise orchestra took place on 21 April 1914 at the Teatro dal Verme in Milan. According to Russolo, the audience of conservative critics and musicians came only “so that they could refuse to listen.” As soon as the orchestra began to play, the crowd broke into a violent uproar. The musicians continued undaunted while fellow Futurists hurled themselves into the audience and defended the Art of Noises with their fists. In the end, eleven people were sent to the hospital, none of them Futurists, as belligerence was a central component of the Futurist approach to art and life, and many were talented boxers.

Originally published at

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