Talking to Luigi Russolo Eighty-Five Years Later (1998)
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Talking to Luigi Russolo Eighty-Five Years Later Well, what do you think now, Luigi Russolo? You seem to have won the day, you and your futurist friends. And on even more counts than you dreamed ofback in 1913. In your unabashedly declared ignorance (or was it insouciance? "1 am not a professional musician; I have, therefore, no acoustic prejudices and no works to defend.") you proclaimed a MUSIC OF NOISE to replace the "stale" works of the old master composers. Beethoven's day had passed; it was over. You announced yourself "more audacious than a professional musician could be." (Is studied ignorance a requisite for being audacious?) Though you were one of the "futurist" painters along with your friends at the time-Marinetti, Boccioni, Severini, Balla-andso bravely flaunted your "seemingincompetence" as a musician, your audaciousness, your lack of fear in the face of self-confessed unprofessionalism where music was concerned led you to want to renovate all things, especially to renovate music through an ART OF NOISES that you even took the trouble to catalog and categorize-especially for musicians who lacked your profound insight into noise and its potential uses for composition. In your uninhibited enthusiasm for the new century ahead, combined with a bold new aggression of mind and spirit, you proclaimed "that audacity makes all things lawful and all things possible ." You must have been fantastically clairvoyant. You couldn't possibly have reckoned on how far and how deep the reverberations of such a statement would reach in the brave new world just ahead. With that one statement about audacity making all things lawful and possible you laid the cornerstone of the politics, the art, and the social mores and behavior for the secularWest for the rest ofthe twentieth century. No mean achievement that. You can be proud of it. As you can of being prescient. Prescience is an art of foresight, and, in my book, not to be slighted. Let's talk politics first. You and your (mostly) young friends (how many of you were over thirty in 1913?) were exhibitionists, nihilists, protofascists. An unbeatable combination. You believed in war, power, discipline (except in art), and oppression. You helped foster-thinking they were healthy of course-spiritually sick ideas that led to conditions that gave Italy Mussolini, 11 Duce, a great leader, chin and all, Italians could be proud to follow and obey. He not only introduced castor oil into the diet of antifascist doubters and dissidents, he also made the trains run on time, something Italy needed desperately. His greatest ambition, no matter what the cost to 180 TALKING TO LUIGI RUSSOLO 181 Italians or the world, was that Italy should create a new Roman Empire-a wholly splendid idea. With your manifestos you trumpeted the fearful annunciation, the Tuba Mirum of a new age of war and terror, science and progress, technology and its poisoned fruits-yes, an altogether better life for the people. You were in love with the idea of power through the machine and industrialism. You were crazy about the automobile and the airplane, the train and the tank. The idea of speed and movement with the clatter and noise ofgreat factories and the constant racket and hubbub of the cities of men and women must have worked on you like an aphrodisiac. One of your favorite expletives, "Away!" Yes, in unison you joined with like-minded brother renovators all over Europe and sang the end of music and art as the world knew them up to the time of your arrival on the scene. Away with the worn-out culture of your ancestors! Make way for the new age. The only good thing about the nineteenth century was, you said, "the invention of machines ." With the invention of machines "Noise was born. Today Noise is triumphant and reigns supreme over the senses of men." Yes, that's how you put it. So, you and your friends helped set it up, the future I mean, for Italy-and the fascists took over. You helped set it up for Germany-and Hitler and the Nazis proclaimed racial purity and dominion for the Great Aryan Race. You helped set it up for Franco and his proud Falangists inSpain. Imagine, if not for Franco there would be no Guernica, that terrible antiwar document by that crazy, antifascist, Marxist painter who called himself Picasso. You even helped set it up in Russia so that the Bolsheviks could lead Holy Mother Russia to new...