“Amidst this dearth of noises, the first sounds that man drew from a pieced reed or stretched string were regarded with amazement as new and marvelous things. Primitive races attributed sound to the gods; it was considered sacred and reserved for priests, who used it to enrich the mystery of their rites.” Luigi Russolo – The Art of Noises
Today marks the birthday of Italian Futurist and author of the The Art of Noises, Luigi Russolo. Known to many as the grandfather of electronic music, Russolo courageously expanded the boundaries of music at a time when the art world was undergoing a drastic transformation spurred on by the industrial age. In his manifesto “The Art of Noises,” (1913) Russolo recognized that music had become predictable and boring. He pleaded with the youth of the time to open their ears and hear the new sounds that surrounded them. In an attempt to free his music from the confines of outdated traditional music instruments he invented the intonarumori, or “noise intoners,” that generated noises mechanically. His first performances were met with violent opposition from music audiences and critics. Although Russolo’s Futurist music is not held up as an example of great 20th century music, and lets face it – it is noise, he was laying the ground work for techniques and concepts of modern music (including rock music) and inspired such forward thinking music visionaries as John Cage, Frank Zappa, and Kraftwerk to name a few.
Until recently Russolo was widely thought to have left music and the Futurists to pursue his interests in the occult. However, author and San Francisco Conservatory music history professor, Luciano Chessa writes in his book Luigi Russolo, Futurist: Noise, Visual Arts, and the Occult , that the occult was a life long obsession for Russolo and is at the heart of his artistic endeavors. Particularly Russolo’s interest in synesthesia and his association with various Freemasons and Theosophists.