Artaud: Musical Instruments

Posted: April 1, 2019 in Uncategorized

Jimi-Hendrix-on-stage-in-1967

They will be used for their qualities as objects and as part of the set. Also, the need to act directly and profoundly upon the sensibility through the sense organs invites research, from the point of view of sound, into qualities and vibrations of sounds to which we are absolutely unaccustomed, qualities which contemporary musical instruments do not possess and which compel us to revive ancient and forgotten instruments or to create new ones. They also compel research, beyond the domain of music, into instruments and devices which, because they are made from special combinations or new alloys of metals, can achieve a new diapason of the octave and produce intolerable or ear-shattering sounds or noise.

The Theater of Cruelty



The idea of a play created directly on stage, by encountering the obstacles of production and of the stage, compels the discovery of a language that is active, active and anarchic, in which the habitual boundaries of feelings and words are abandoned.

A theater that subordinates mise en scéne and production–that is, everything that is specifically theatrical–to the script is a theater for idiots, madmen, perverts, grammarians, grocers, anti-poets, and positivists, in short, a theater for Westerners.

Mise en Scéne and Metaphysics

THE PUBLIC: First of all, this theater must exist.
[i.e., The public be damned!]

–Antonin Artaud

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Comments
  1. Ben Battistone says:

    This is interesting to me because I played in my school orchestra in high school and can kind of see what Artaud means. I had a friend who used a black carbon fiber violin instead of the usual wood kind. It sounded a little different and was definitely a lot louder than the usual violin but I think the cool part was the visual effect of having it contrast all the other instruments. The appearance is really important to how the audience perceives the sound. I have also played and heard electric classical instruments, which are often used for completely different pieces than the conventional cellos or violins. There are tons of possibilities for different styles of classical instruments than haven’t been made.

    • Artaud is certainly interested in exploring previously impossible timbres, though the use of novel materials. Of greatest interest to him though would have been the development of the electric violins you mention. Not only do they sound different, but they can be extremely frkn loud. Loud enough to impact not just a listener’s ear, but their entire body. Have a listen to my friends in SubRosa, who are currently killing it on the international heavy metal circuit.

  2. Parker Law says:

    I know Ben’s comment was from last year, but I was actually that friend he mentions who played the carbon fiber violin! So, thanks to Ben for getting me started on this one. It was definitely strange switching from wood to carbon fiber, but now that I made the switch, I would never go back. The durability and versatility of the carbon fiber is amazing, and I have grown to really enjoy the sound it produces, even though it is a little loud at times. “They will be used for their qualities as objects and as part of the set” really resonated (no pun intended) with me. During concerts, I always felt different for having the only violin that was not made of wood, but it was a good kind of different. I liked using what Artaud would refer to as “novel materials” to upset the status quo, so to speak. I always got lots of positive comments on my carbon fiber violin from concert attendees and fellow orchestra members, and I loved that it was being appreciated not only for its sound but for its futuristic style.

    • While never materials and technologies aren’t necessarily better, they certainly can be. Bob Dylan, you will probably know, was once called Judas for plugging in an electric.

      I once swore I would never play some weird-ass fake guitar. And now I have a graphite guitar which sound surprisingly natural and warm, and an aluminium guitar which is, frankly, utterly terrifying. I would never have known this if I hadn’t been willing to try something new and odd.

  3. Jeffrey Soper says:

    I was just reading about Charlie Parker and Ornette Coleman and how they used plastic Graftone saxophones rather than traditionally made ones. You can tell they’re cheap by the tone and sound quality, but at the same time it’s still cool to listen to something new that’s outside of the norm for jazz. It’s interesting hearing the differences between two of the same instrument that are made of completely different materials.

    • Yeah. Those white plastic saxes look pretty cheap. But using one makes especial sense in the case of Coleman, who it seems to me was trying to make anything but conventional jazz. A Selmer would have sound, frankly, too musical. Coleman needed something that sounded ugly.

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