Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Luigi Russolo

Luigi Russolo, a Futurist, was a man thoroughly bored with traditional music, be it orchestral or chamber. He was bored with the limited timbers, bored with the limited tones and bored with the romantic compositional style of the music during his youth in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

“Do you know of any sight more ridiculous than that of twenty men furiously bent on redoubling the mewing of a violin? . . .[concert halls are] hospitals for anemic sounds. There: the first bar brings the boredom of familiarity to your ear and anticipates the boredom of the bar to follow. Let us relish, from bar to bar, two or three varieties of genuine boredom, waiting all the while for the extraordinary sensation that never comes [as] modern music goes round in this small circle, struggling in vain to create new ranges of tones.”

He felt that the noises of the world around him were more interesting that those produced by standard musical means and though the great composers of the Classical and Romantic eras did wonderful things with the orchestra, his ear was satisfied with strict organization and looked for something more. His 1913 manifesto was the first that suggested composers look outside the normal realm of traditional music and instruments, the first to suggest the use of found sound, even though there was no way of reproducing it at the time.

Russolo organized audible sound into six categories separating sound into natural and animal, percussive and wind, and made noise makers that generate these noises. There were twenty-seven “intoners” that when combined made up the “ intonarumori,” a noise making orchestra that Russolo used for several concerts after the First World War. These instruments no longer exist, so not much is know of their construction or the actual sound they produced. What is known is that they were mostly percussion and not electrically driven. Electricity, a technology that in 1913 had not yet been developed for use in sound production is a feat that was not be developed by any inventor or engineer and until the invention of the amplifier and loudspeaker in 1925. The delicate sound and construction of the intoners is perhaps why in the dawn of the period and genre we now think of as 20 th century music, with contemporaries such as Stravinsky and Bartok also looking for new music, that his instruments remained buried and peaked interest only as a novelty to most composers.

Russolo’s influence can be seen in various recordings from the first surviving sound collage by Walter Ruttman (entitled “Weekend”) in 1929 to John Cages “Living Room Music” in 1940 and several artist since then. His concept of found sound, though uneasily realized by the technology available to him is one of the foundation concepts present day post “fluxus” sound artist work with.

1- Rumbles, Roars, Exposions, Crashes, Splashes, Booms

2 - Whistles, Hisses, Snorts

3 - Whispers, Murmurs, Grumbles, Mumbles Gurgles

4 - Screeches, Creaks, Buzzes, Crackles, Scrapes

5 - Noises obtained by bercussion on wood, stone Metal Terracotta etc.

6 - Voices of animals and Men Shouts, Screams, Groans, Shrieks, Howls, Laughs, Wheezes, Sobs

sound example - http://tiger.towson.edu/users/bmicke1/Sounds/russolo2.wav

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