Francesco Balilla Pratella, music composer and a musicologist, was born in Lugo in 1880 and died in Ravenna in 1955.
Francesco Balilla Pratella was born into a musical family. His father played guitar and also taught his son from a very young age.
In 1899 Francesco enrolled at the conservatoire of Pesaro where he attended courses held by Mascagni and Cicognani. In 1903 he gained the diploma in composition.
In Paris he met Luigi Russolo and became part of the Futurist movement. The Futurist music manifesto of 1911 (Manifesto tecnico della musica futurista) celebrated atonalism, enharmonic modulation, absolute polyphony and free rhythm.
Before meeting Marinetti and entering the Futurist movement, Balilla Pratella had shown a keen interest in popular songs of his own land; these will influence his five symphonic poems named “Romagna” which will later lead to the dialect opera “La Sina’d Vargöun” (Rosellina dei Vergoni). On August the 20th 1910 Pratella’s intermezzo of “La Sina’d Vargöun” was performed at Imola’s municipal theatre; here he met Marinetti. Following this, the same year Pratella wrote the “Manifesto dei musicisti futuristi” (October 11 1910), then he published the “Manifesto tecnico della musica futurista” (March 11 1911) and “Distruzione della quadratura” (July 18 1912). In 1912 the book “Musica Futurista”, published by the Bolognese Bongiovanni, heralded Pratella as the central artist of Futurist music. In 1913 Francesco started to compose his second great Futurist opera, “L’aviatore Dro”, which features an orchestra of traditional instruments and of Futurist “intonarumori”.
Balilla Pratella died in Ravenna in 1955.
Marinetti’s poetic expressive freedom was translated into music by Balilla Pratella through the use of noises into music; these were produced by the “intonarumori” devices designed by Luigi Russolo. Balilla Pratella was in favour of war and was a nationalist; he gradually distanced himself from the music of Debussy, Schoenberg, Mahler and Ravel. The second part of his career, after his return in Italy, developed in his native Romagna where he got in touch with Martuzzi, a musician from Forli; in this part of his career he pioneered systematic researches on local folklore of the music of Romagna, parallel to those of Bartòk and Kodaly. The results of his researches are the starting point for the harmonisation of Romagna’s ‘a cappella’ choirs.
Apart from composing, Pratella also promoted Futurist music with several articles on magazines, as well as with an educational book about Futurist music.
Pratella and Luigi Russolo were the fathers of Futurist music and key figures in the European music avant-garde; Pratella’s professional music background was very important in this and allowed him to create technical elements such as enharmonic modulation.