Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Futurists Return

I've long been fascinated by a little known early 20th century composer named Luigi Russolo. Russolo rejected everything about music of his time, especially the fact that it was created by traditional instruments and instead urged composers to write for the sounds that serenade us everyday without our conscious awareness. As he wrote, orchestras and pianos were inferior to “the crashing down of metal shop blinds, slamming doors, the hubbub and shuffling of crowds, the variety of din from stations, railways, iron foundries, spinning mills, printing works, electric power stations, and underground railways.” In other words, Russolo had a vision in which “every factory will be transformed into an intoxicating orchestra of noises.”

Those lines come from his 1913 Futurist manifesto "The Art of Noises." Not content to just write about this new sound world, Russolo began creating it. He began inventing instruments based on the hurdy gurdy principle where the sound-producing object is in a box and the turn of a crank operates it. He called these instruments called “intonarumori” (noise intoners) and first performed with them in early 1914.Fascinating ideas that influenced countless composers in the 20th century from Stravinsky to Cage and on down the line. The only problem is that all his intonarumori were destroyed along with most of his compositions so we've had, at best, ear witnesses to tell us about the works.

Not any longer.

I just discovered this video that comes as advertisement for a concert this week featuring the intonarumori:

(and yes, that is Mike Patton of Faith No More) Isn't that amazing? A piece of history restored that still seems ahead of its time.

1 comment:

david d. mcintire said...

So, it's "back to the Futurists" for us all....