Listening to Art

01.01: Marcel Duchamp, In Advance of the Broken Arm

Download (MP3).

Listening to Art, by William Denton.

Volume one, number one: In Advance of the Broken Arm by Marcel Duchamp.

Hello, and welcome to Listening to Art. I’m William Denton.

For the first issue of Listening to Art there is no better choice than a work by Marcel Duchamp, the greatest artist of the twentieth century.

Duchamp was born in France in 1887. By 1910 his paintings were being exhibited in shows, but his approach to art quickly changed, he stopped painting, and he began to work in a way that we associate with Dada, though he was never a part of the original Dada movement in Europe. In 1915, after being deemed unfit to serve in the military because of a slight heart murmur, he moved to New York. There he made some of the pieces that are now his best known and most recognizable, such as In Advance of the Broken Arm, Fountain and L.H.O.O.Q. After the war he returned to France, then later he came back to New York, and he spent most of the rest of his life in one or the other of those two places. From the 1920s onward he seemed more a chess player than an artist, but his enormous influence on all forms of art continues to this day.

In Advance of the Broken Arm was first shown in 1915, but it was lost long ago. This one, at the National Gallery of Canada, is listed as the “fourth version,” dated 1964. There is another version, also dated 1964 and also described as the “fourth version,” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Issue number two will be devoted to listening to it.

This is a sculpture, made of wood and galvanized steel, fitting into a volume roughly 35 cm wide, 135 cm high and 12 cm deep.

Now let’s listen to In Advance of the Broken Arm by Marcel Duchamp, recorded at the National Gallery of Canada, in Ottawa, on 20 October 2016.

Waveform of the field recording.

That was In Advance of the Broken Arm by Marcel Duchamp. I hope you enjoyed listening to it as much as I did.

For more information and links to things I’ve mentioned, please visit

Listening to Art is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


All web sites accessed as of date of publication.

Museum of Modern Art. “Marcel Duchamp, In Advance of the Broken Arm, August 1964 (fourth version, after lost original of November 1915).” Museum of Modern Art.

National Gallery of Canada. “In Advance of the Broken Arm (1915, 4th version 1964).” National Gallery of Canada.

Tomkins, Calvin. Duchamp: A Biography. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2014.

Wikipedia, s.v. “Fountain (Duchamp),”

⸻, s.v. “L.H.O.O.Q.”

⸻, s.v. “Marcel Duchamp,”