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The art of noises: Luigi Russolo' prediction on 20th century music

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The art of noises: Luigi Russolo' prediction on 20th century music
A young Italian painter once wrote a letter to composer Francesco Balilla Pratella after listening to one of his most iconic performances at the Costanzi Theatre in Rome.
 
The letter read as:
 
While I was listening to the orchestral performance of your overwhelming Futurist music, there came to my mind the idea of a new art, one that only you can create: the Art of Noises, a logical consequence of your marvelous innovations.
 
The name of the painter was Luigo Russolo, and it is his theories that set the standards of modern music that we make and listen today. He was one of the earliest Futurist to become the friend of Marinetti- the brain behind Futurist Manifesto that was published in February 20th, 1909. 
 
According to his thesis, Noise is a non-harmonious or a discordant group of sounds. But, for Russolo, this also meant 'found sound'. Although, not the first one to formulate the 'found sound' idea, he was the first one to articulate the idea of it. The first 'found sound' performance was an art experiment conceived by Jean Cocteau with design by Pablo Picasso and music by Erik Satie. 
 
It cannot be objected that noise is only loud and disagreeable to the ear. It seems to me useless to enumerate all the subtle and delicate noises that produce pleasing sensations. To be convinced of the surprising variety of noises, one need only think of the rumbling of thunder, the whistling of the wind, the roaring of a waterfall, the gurgling of a brook, the rustling of leaves, the trotting of a horse into the distance, the rattling jolt of a cart on the road, and of the full, solemn, and white breath of a city at night. Think of all the noises made by wild and domestic animals, and of all those that a man can make, without either speaking or singing. Let us cross a large modern capital with our ears more sensitive than our eyes. We will delight in distinguishing the eddying of water, of air or gas in metal pipes, the muttering of motors that breathe and pulse with an indisputable animality, the throbbing of valves, the bustle of pistons, the shrieks of mechanical saws, the starting of trams on the tracks, the cracking of whips, the flap-ping of awnings and flags. We will amuse ourselves by orchestrating together in our imagination the din of rolling shop shutters, the varied hubbub of train stations, iron works, thread mills, printing presses, electrical plants, and subways.
 
According to Russolo, noise carries two meanings: one is the discordant atonality of machines and the other, natural and non-traditional noise. From animals to jet engines to children crying- all fall within the category of sound. What supplied the necessary tools for Russolo’s innovation was the rise of mechanical industrialization — both its noises and the technological ability to harness those sounds via mechanical means.
 
Below is an excerpt from The Art of Noise:
 
Ancient life was all silence. In the nineteenth century, with the invention of the machine, Noise was born. Today, Noise triumphs and reigns supreme over the sensibility of men. For many centuries, life went by in silence, or at most in muted tones. The strongest noises which interrupted this silence were not intense or prolonged or varied. If we overlook such exceptional movements as earthquakes, hurricanes, storms, avalanches and waterfalls, nature is silent. 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. And so was born the concept of sound as a thing in itself, distinct and independent of life, and the result was music, a fantastic world superimposed on the real one, an inviolable and sacred world. It is easy to understand how such a concept of music resulted inevitable in the hindering of its progress by comparison with the other arts. The Greeks themselves, with their musical theories calculated mathematically by Pythagoras and according to which only a few consonant intervals could be used, limited the field of music considerably, rendering harmony, of which they were unaware, impossible.
 
The Middle Ages, with the development and modification of the Greek tetra chordal system, with the Gregorian chant and popular songs, enriched the art of music, but continued to consider sound in its development in time, a restricted notion, but one which lasted many centuries, and which still can be found in the Flemish contrapuntist's’ most complicated polyphony.
 
The chord did not exist, the development of the various parts was not subordinated to the chord that these parts put together could produce; the conception of the parts was horizontal, not vertical. The desire, search, and taste for a simultaneous union of different sounds, that is for the chord (complex sound), were gradually made manifest, passing from the consonant perfect chord with a few passing dissonances to the complicated and persistent dissonances that characterize contemporary music.
 
At first the art of music sought purity, limpidity and sweetness of sound. Then different sounds were amalgamated, care being taken, however, to caress the ear with gentle harmonies. Today music, as it becomes continually more complicated, strives to amalgamate the most dissonant, strange and harsh sounds. In this way, we come ever closer to noise-sound.
 
What made Russolo such a futuristic visionary is the fact that at a time when there was minimum technology, he came up with these innovations. Time was indeed not his enemy after all!