Abstract and Keywords
This chapter tracks timbre through the mediated public sphere of Milan, as it came to congeal in Italian Futurism. Long mythologized as the origin of noisy art, sound scholars have yet to consider what the movement’s timbres meant in their time. They emerged beneath the rubric of “musical sensibility”—a coinage that harked back to timbre’s eighteenth-century emergence under the sign of aesthetic attention within Western modernities. The Futurists’ activities can thus be broadly historicized; vice versa, in their own context, timbre becomes estranged as a centuries-old concern. The Futurists’ interest in timbre dates them; it also proves their undoing: they set out to colonize the world of timbre, but social and technological factors intervene. Thus, while Futurism may not yield origins for modernism, it underscores the relational nature of listening—especially listening for timbre, which, as the social organization of concentrated listening, unexpectedly manifests when aesthetic attention breaks down.
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