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Ghosts in the Machine, and the Machine's Ghosts: The present pastness of Futurism

Dr Edward Venn (Senior Lecturer, Lancaster University)


Despite the aggressive rejection of tradition that informs many of the Futurist manifestos in the early twentieth century, critics then and now have frequently drawn attention to the uneasy balance between the past and the supposed future in much of the resulting art (see for instance Venn 2010). The tensions that arise offer fertile ground for critical interpretation. In this paper, I shall begin by framing the attempted suppression of the past in Futurist works with reference to Derridean _hauntological_ precepts, arguing that the very rejection of tradition serves to inscribe it all the more forceably in those places where it is superficially denied.

In the second half of the paper, I shall turn my attention to present invocations and echoes (intentional or otherwise) of Futurist ideologies in the music of the present, focussing on recent British music (ranging from Harrison Birtwistle to the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony). In all of the examples I will present, Derridean spectres of Futurism can be found to roam freely, challenging and reinforcing in equal measure perceptions of the past, present and future.

Reference:

CV:

Dr Edward Venn is Senior Lecturer at the Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts (Lancaster University, UK). He has written widely on twentieth-century and contemporary British music, and regularly gives papers in conferences around Europe. Recent writings include a monograph, 'The Music of Hugh Wood' (2008), and numerous book chapters, articles and reviews on composers such as Thomas Adès, Luciano Berio, Luigi Russolo, and Michael Tippett. He is currently working on a book on Thomas Adès. A leading figure in UK analysis, he served for many years on the executive committee for the 'Society for Music Analysis' and is currently Critical Forum Editor for the journal 'Music Analysis'. He also serves on the editorial board of the 'Journal for Music and Meaning', was on the programme committee for the Seventh European Music Analysis Conference (Rome, 2011), and organised the joint Lancaster University Music Analysis Conference/Seventh Biennial Conference on Music Since 1900 (Lancaster, 2011).

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