Suggestions of a housemaid with a duster

September 7, 2009


‘The very latest came to Steinway Hall yesterday afternoon from Russia via New York…Mr Leo Ornstein ….is a Russian pianist who two years ago began to write ‘futurist’ music for the piano.’

‘Mr. Ornstein is a trick pianist of the first order.   An energetic housemaid with a duster might do some of the things he did, but not nearly all of them.  His facility is amazing, even if it is granted that the actual notes he plays may be the chance of the moment.’

‘Probably the writer of the programme note was write in saying that they are meant to be felt, not analysed.   They are quite unthinkable, but one is stirred by their crudity, their energy, and often by their absurdity.The Times, Saturday, Mar 28, 1914; pg. 6; Issue 40483; col G      A “Futurist” At The Piano. Suggestions Of A Housemaid With A Duster

In 1909 Filippo Tommaso Marinetti published his ‘Manifeste de fondation du Futurisme’,  heralding an approach to the composition and performance of music, art, drama and literature characterised with an impression of speed, violence, militarism, and anarchic energy  kicking against the artistic traditions of the previous centuries,  such as Roman classicism and Italian opera, creating their own mechanical musical instruments , and rejecting all the existing art establishments such as museums and galleries.

At the end of the First World War, the futurist movement moved into turbulent politics with the creation of the Partito Politica Futurista in 1918 [Marinetti writing his Democrazia futuriasta in 1919] ,  shortly to be absorbed into the Fascist movement around 1920, with futurist artists giving the Fascist movement a gloss of  artistic modernism.  

If you would like to learn more about Marinetti and Futurism, please see the resources below.

La futurista by Benedetta Cappa Marinetti shelved at 759.5 MAR/FUT on Level 2

The untameables by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti shelved at 823.8/MAR on Level 2

Marinetti :selected writings /edited, and with an introduction shelved at 709.04033/MAR on Level 2

The genesis of Futurism :Marinetti’s early career and writings 1899-1909 by Günter Berghaus shelved at 809.04/BER on Level 2

Futurist performance /by Michael Kirby ; with manifestos and playscripts translated from the Italian by Victoria Nes Kirby shelved at 792.0945/KIR on Level 2

Italian Futurism

Distruzione Poema Futurista

I manifesti del futurismo

Three Reasons Why Futurism is more Contemporary than Ever – essay by  Marco Bevolo

Literature Online

Web of Science


Project Muse

July 6, 2009


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Project MUSE is excited to announce two new features that help users more easily locate articles relevant to their research.

The new features are: 

A ‘Search this Journal’ search box. This search box appears on each journal’s home page, on the Table of Contents (TOC) of each issue, and on each article.

The ‘Search This Journal’ feature enables a user to quickly check all issues of the journal in MUSE, with a single search, for all articles in that journal pertaining to a particular subject.

Summaries (abstracts) for articles. MUSE now provides a link for the summary of each article. Users know that the ability to scan summaries of articles is essential to determining which articles are relevant to their research.

That ability is now available in MUSE. The Summary links appear on the TOCs and in search results, next to the article format options of HTML and PDF.

MUSE on MetaLib

Project Muse is available on MetaLib

Your Athens username and password is required to access this database.  If you do not have your Athens username and password please contact Ask a Librarian.

MUSE on Facebook 

MUSE has been on Facebook for some time now….Find MUSE at  Become a fan of MUSE! You can also follow Muse on Twitter, @ProjectMUSE.

The Gr8 Deb8

January 27, 2009

Copyright: Crickee

The Library has recently acquired David Crystal’s new book on the phenomenon of texting ‘Txting: the Gr8 Deb8’
A lot of opinion makers think that texting is ruining the English language, the BBC Radio 4 presenter John Humphreys has argued that those who text are “vandals who are doing to our language what Genghis Khan did to his neighbours 800 years ago. They are destroying it: pillaging our punctuation; savaging our sentences; raping our vocabulary. And they must be stopped”
Crystal argues that since the invention of printing – said to be an instrument of the devil because it filled people’s minds with false notions – pundits have been scaremongering about the consequences new technology will have on language. Texting has caused the most controversy. A lot of stories in the press have given the impression that young people write in abbreviations all the time. In 2003 a teenager was supposed to have written an essay entirely in text which her teacher could not decipher. Parts of it appeared on the Internet and it was used in many tabloid articles on texting but since no one was ever able to find a source for the whole essay, it was decided that it was likely to be a hoax.
A number of researchers have produced reports on text messaging from many points of view – sociological, psychological and linguistic. The evidence shows that the ability to write well is not adversely affected by the texting habit.
Texters like to break grammatical rules, use phonetic spellings (wot instead of what) and abbreviations but they know that they must be understood so are careful not to use forms that will render their messages incomprehensible. An American study found that only 20% of messages studied included abbreviations and a Norwegian study found there were even fewer – 6%.
There are elements of text messages which are thought to be innovatory but in fact date back a hundred years or more. One of the most obvious is the use of single letters, numbers and symbols to stand for words or parts of words e.g. c for “see” and 4 instead of “for”.  These are known as rebuses; in the
Oxford English Dictionary the first recorded use of the word was in 1605. A favourite pastime in the 1700s was to write rebus letters in which people drew as many symbols to represent parts of words as they could think of.
The use of abbreviations has existed since phonetic script came into being and, paradoxically, increased with the growth of literacy between the 15th and 17th centuries. Children of military men often talk of how their fathers used to speak almost entirely in abbreviations when talking to the colleagues – AWOL (absent without leave, 2IC  (second in command)and NTR (Nothing to report).
The linguistic innovation in texting is to conflate rebuses and abbreviations as in LtsGt2gthr (lets get together) and T+ (think positive).   Texters use  letters, symbols and words without any spaces, a practice which was unknown before in the use of alternative writing systems.
Crystal says that many texts are linguistically complex and  that texting enables people to have fun with language.
In 2007  T-Mobile set up a competition to find the first “Txt laureate”  and offered a prize for the best romantic text poem.
The runner up, Eileen Bridge, a 68 year old grandmother from Accrington dedicated her poem to her husband: “O hart tht sorz, My luv adorz, He mAks meliv, He mAks me giv, Myslf 2 him,  As my love porz”.
Five years of research is underway hoping  to contradict the belief that texting stops children learning to read and write.  Beverley Plester and Clare Wood of Coventry University undertook some research to find if the habit of texting adversely affected children’s literacy. They tested thirty five eleven year olds and found that the children who were the best at using textisms were also found to be better writers and spellers.

Mousie, thou art no thy lane

January 21, 2009




Wee sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an chase thee,
Wi murdering pattle

On turning her up in her nest, with the plough, November, 1785


Ayrshire farmer, lover, Freemason, flax-comber, drunk, Excise Officer, Royal Dumfries Volunteer and poet, Robert Burns remains Scotland’s National Bard, and 2009 marks the 250th anniversary of his birth.   

Debt and love affairs dogged Burns’s colourful life. The first Scottish Poems by Robert Burns were published on 31 July 1786  by John Wilson of Kilmarnock, in a limited edition of 600 copies,  a copy of which is on display at  Robert Burns House, Dumfries and may have been published in order for Burns to emigrate and escape his problems. 

Burns’ life was in constant flux but by 1786 his success by writing made him consider himself  ’in a fair way of becoming as eminent as Thomas à Kempis or John Bunyan’ , earning at one time a guinea per copy for the second edition of his poems, as well as receiving money from sponsors such as Lord Glencairn and Patrick Miller, who both enjoyed Burn’s poetry. In a letter to John Ballentine, a friend and banker from Ayr, in December 1786, Burns worried that, as a ‘rustic bard’…

 ‘I was first honoured with your notice, too obscure; now I tremble lest I should be ruined by being dragged too suddenly into the glare of polite and learned observation.‘

Burns travelled through the lowlands, central and the highlands of Scotland, and collaborated in the publication of Scottish ayrs with James Johnson in 1787. In 1786, with mounting money troubles and family scandal,  Burns was undecided as to whether to leave Scotland and travel abroad to Jamaica, or stay in Scotland, and in a letter written around October 1786 to Mr Robert Aikin, a writer friend in Ayr, Burns seemed to find himself in the same situation as the mouse in the poem, with nowhere to run. Burns wrote in a letter …

‘I have seen something of the storm of mischief thickening over my folly-devoted head…… I saw myself alone, unfit for the struggle of life, shrinking at every rising cloud in the chance-directed atmosphere of fortune, while, all defenceless, I looked about in vain for a cover.’    

Hard work, hard living, debauchery and disease gradually deteriorated Burns’s health.  His prodigious writing of over 600 items made Burns famous and considerably more than just a ‘rhymer like by chance’, but his life seemed to be constantly unsettled, both finacially and emotionally.  Even a few days before his death he wrote..

 ‘After all my boasted independence, curst necessity compels me to implore you for five pounds. A cruel wretch of a haberdasher, to whom I owe an account, taking it into his head that I am dying, has commenced a process, and will infallibly put me into jail.’

Robert Burns died a premature death, at the age of 37, but as a member of the Royal Dumfries Volunteer he was given a military funeral on the 21 July 1796. 


For more information on Robert Burns, the following resources are available

Literature online – full text drama and prose

The National Burns Collection

The Official Robert Site

For a web-guide to Robert Burns click here , and a BBC guide is also available. 

The letters of Robert Burns are available through the Robert Burns Archive  and the Gutenberg Project