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The Text by Luis BUñuel That Transforms an Orchestra Into People


An ingenious exercise by Luis Buñuel, who in his youth experimented with literature as a means of artistic expression.

For many, Luis Buñuel is a filmmaker, an obligatory reference when naming the most important and, above all, most audacious directors. To his adventurous use of the resources of cinema, Buñuel added his critical, iconoclastic and always uncomfortable outlook with regards to morals and values of the status quo.

However, movies were not his sole means of artistic expression. He also made a foray into literature, albeit brief, particularly in his youth, and while in his Madrid student residences he rubbed shoulders with Federico García Lorca, Juan Ramón Jiménez and José Moreno Villa, three great writers on the cusp who were no doubt stimulating company.

At that time the artistic ambience in Madrid debated between Ultraism, Noucentisme and French surrealism, three great currents in which Buñuel and other young artists navigated without having yet found their own flow. “Instrumentation” is a short text originally published within that context in Madrid in 1922.

In this ingenious text, Buñuel drew up an eccentric catalog in which each of the instruments of the orchestra becomes a character, an image or a normal yet at the same time extraordinary situation, two everyday elements that change their ordinary places to surprise us.



Corny women of the orchestra, unbearable and pedantic, saws of sound.


Violins that have reached the menopause. These single women still conserve their half-hearted voice.


Rumors of the sea and the jungle. Serenity. Deep eyes. They have the persuasion and grandeur of the sermons of Jesus in the desert.

Double bass

Diplodocus of instruments. The day they decide to utter their great howl they will scare away the terrified audience: now we see them oscillate and groan, satisfied with tickling double bass players’ bellies


The anthill of sound.


The flute is the most nostalgic instrument. She won in Pan’s hands was the emotional voice of the meadow and the forest, now in the hands of a fat and bald man!… But even so, it remains the Princess of instruments.


It is a flute in excess. Sometimes the poor thing sounds good.


A wooden bleating. Its waves profound lyrical mysteries. The oboe was Verlaine’s twin brother.

English horn

It is the oboe having reached maturity, with experience. It has traveled; its mood has become darker, more brilliant. If the oboe were 15 years old, the English horn would be 30.


It is the contrabassoon of tertiary terrain.


Golden balconies over which Sunday ladies lean their bosoms.


Children’s games. Water of wood. Princesses knitting moonbeams in the garden.

Muted trumpet

The clown of the orchestra. Contortion, pirouettes. Grimaces.


Climbing a hill. The sun coming out. Annunciation. Oh! The day that unrolls like a party horn.


A slightly German temperament. A prophetic voice. Cantors in an old cathedral with ivy and a moldy weather vane.


A legendary dragon. Its deep subterranean voice makes the other instruments tremble with fear, and which ask when the prince in shining armor will arrive and free them.


Light smashed to pieces.


A silver tram for the orchestra.


The sound of the scenery dropping. “Something” threatening.

Bass drum

Obstinacy. Rudeness. Bom. Bom. Bom.


Wineskins of resounding olives.

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