One of the pieces that I am researching is the third movement of Funf Pittoresken, "In futurum".

IMSLP link to the score pg 8

This composition has a few notations that I am at a loss at how to interpret. Question marks, exclamation points, and faces with stems.

"In futurum", m. 7 "In futurum", m. 11
mm. 7 and 11

What does this even mean from a non-subjective viewpoint? How is this intended to be interpreted/how does Schulhoff expect a musician to begin interpretation?

  • The initial instruction, "Zietmass zeitlos" roughly translates (thanks google) as "Timeless" . That should be a clue :-). – Carl Witthoft Jan 25 '17 at 12:48

Read the instructions: "Tempo: unmeasured". "The whole song with expression and feeling ad lib, always, from beginning to end!".

This was composed in 1919. From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erwin_Schulhoff,

He was one of the first generation of classical composers to find inspiration in the rhythms of jazz music. Schulhoff also embraced the avant-garde influence of Dadaism in his performances and compositions after World War I. When organizing concerts of avant-garde music in 1919, he included this manifesto:

Absolute art is revolution, it requires additional facets for development, leads to overthrow (coups) in order to open new paths...and is the most powerful in music.... The idea of revolution in art has evolved for decades, under whatever sun the creators live, in that for them art is the commonality of man. This is particularly true in music, because this art form is the liveliest, and as a result reflects the revolution most strongly and deeply–the complete escape from imperialistic tonality and rhythm, the climb to an ecstatic change for the better.

IMO, do whatever you want - which may or may not involve actually playing the instrument. The basic principle of Dadaism was to reject logical reasoning in favour of nonsense, irrationality, and intuition.


You are talking about the 3rd piece, In Futuram, yes? Schulhoff pretty much expects the musician to sit still for those bars - you'll note that all the salient conventional markings are rests. You'll note that the rests tally up to measure rests in 4/4 despite the time signatures.

So... You can pretty much call this a precursor to 4' 33", only quite a bit more absurdist - Schulhoff was affiliated with the Dada movement.


I guess he might mean that you should mime hand movement of playing notes having duration exactly as occupied by rests, and as if these imagined notes have surprising quality where there is a exclamation mark, or inquiring quality where there is a question mark, and similar is for smiling faces and so on. (I would not know this piece were it not for you posting this! This should really be the original 4'33. Why do people remember Cage only?)

  • 2
    Why do people only remember Cage? Probably because Schulhoff died in Sobibor - that's the only reason I can see. He was one helluva composer. – user16935 Jan 25 '17 at 17:59
  • In fact, I am ashamed that I have never heard of Schulhoff....>< – Violapterin Jan 26 '17 at 6:27
  • 1
    Well worth checking. He understood jazz (played jazz piano for a living), but generally wrote with rather more advanced harmony than the jazz of the time, and made it work - you can see that in the other pieces of this collection. His more "serious" works lie somewhere between late Szymanowski and Bartõk... sort of. Lots of verve. – user16935 Jan 26 '17 at 12:08

Below are a couple of live performances from YouTube. In the first, the performer remains silent, but occasionally shifts his hand positions and mimics intense concentration. In the second, the performer taps out a rhythm and gives clear "reactions" according to the notations in the score. Were I to perform this, I would clown it up, using the markings as cues for exaggerated facial expressions and other body language.

"In futurum" performed by Gerard Bouwhuis

"In futurum" performed by "Mr. Barbaro"

Given the similarity in form to John Cage's 4'33", and the references to that piece in this thread, it's worth pointing out the philosophical differences between the pieces. Schulhoff, as has been discussed, was coming from the point of view of Dada, which aspired to be nonsensical. By contrast, Cage, in 4'33" was attempting to call attention to the sounds that occur at a concert (or in the world) aside from instrumental ones.

Also of interest to readers here might be Wikipedia's list of silent pieces.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.