Here is Carnegie Hall. You have heard something of the great Beethoven and it has been charming, masterful in its power over the mind. We have been alleviated, strengthened against life—the enemy—by it. We go out of Carnegie into the subway and we can for a moment withstand the assault of that noise, failingly! as the strength of the music dies….
But as we came from Anthiel’s “Ballet Mechanique,” a woman of our party, herself a musician, made this remark: “The subway seems sweet after that.” “Good,” I replied and went on to consider what evidences there were in myself in explanation of her remark. And this is what I noted. I felt that noise, the unrelated noise of life such as this in the subway had not been battened out as would have been the case with Beethoven still warm in the mind but it had actually been mastered, subjugated. Antheil had taken this hated thing life and rigged himself into power over it by his music. The offense had not been held, cooled, varnished over but annihilated and life itself made thereby triumphant. This is an important difference. By hearing Antheil’s music, seemingly so much noise, when I actually came up on noise in reality, I found that I had gone up over it.
Hyperprism was performed again in November by Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra, with a siren borrowed from a local fire company. The Philadelphia premiere went “splendidly,” according to the conductor; “practically all the audience remained to hear it.” Olin Downes, music critic for the New York Times, could only describe it as a medley of “election night, a menagerie or two, and a catastrophe in a boiler factory,” but others were more willing to accept the piece on its own terms. The Herald-Tribune‘s Lawrence Gilman thought the work “a riotous and zestful playing with timbres, rhythms, sonorities.” While the audience “tittered a bit” during the performance, after its conclusion they “burst into the heartiest, most spontaneous applause we have ever heard given to an ultra-modern work.”
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.