restricted access 2. Occult Futurism
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43 Provincial Hipsters: The Counts Ginanni Corradini Celant maintains that both Balla and Bragaglia were pointed to the reading of occult texts by the brothers Arnaldo and Bruno Ginanni Corradini, counts of Ravenna. Given the brothers’ precocious interest in the occult sciences, their influence on the futurist movement in occult matters during the early years may have been decisive.1 Describing them as“the most esoteric futurists,” Celant cites a claim by Ginna that illustrates their formative readings: “We provided ourselves with spiritualist and occult books, my brother and I, through the publishers Dourville and Chacormac. We read the occultists Elifas Levi, Papus, theosophists like Blavatsky and Steiner, Besant, secretary of the Theosophical Society, Leadbeater, Edoard Shure [sic].”2 Ginna’s note is not dated, but it is reasonable to think that the brothers’ readings began around 1910. Their first pamphlet, Metodo of 1910, which both of them signed with the pseudonym A.B.C., clearly established the coordinates of their theoretical position and aesthetics. The signature refers to their initials (Arnaldo Bruno Corradini), but of course it also references the first three letters of the alphabet and the “abecedario,” the alphabet book. This is appropriate, given that the brief treatise had an educational purpose. The physical, intellectual , and spiritual education of the individual promised in its pages is obtained through gymnastics (or exercises), diet, the study of Eastern disciplines, meditation , and yoga.3 In time, Russolo, too, would pursue these interests. Chapter 2 Occult Futurism 44 . from the Formative Years to 1913 Metodo is accompanied by exercises—physical, mental, breathing, and autosuggestion—and it is pervaded by theosophical concepts. The following passage, for example, lays out the theosophical doctrine of vibrations: In Nature is present a force that is in everything. This force is in perpetual vibration ; this vibration or undulation of the atoms that constitute matter manifests itself to us in different forms, as for example, in light, heat, electricity, attraction, repulsion, harmony, dissonance, magnetism, thought, etc. If our thinking, our acting, is not in harmony with the laws by which everyone without exception must abide, it is clear that we will suffer from its evil effects.4 The treatise, written more than twenty-five years before Luigi Russolo’s Al di là della materia (1938),mentions suggestive therapy,yoga,hypnotism,and magnetism and cites the experiments of Mesmer, Puységur, and Baraduc. Metodo had considerable success and acquired numerous admirers and followers for the Corradinis.5 That same year the two Ravennese counts also published the pamphlet Arte dell’avvenire, in which they attempted the difficult marriage between art and science. The aesthetic vision that emerges from its pages substantially preserves a romantic system of thought, as revealed by the Wagnerian cast of its very title, and by the series of artists cited (Gluck, Mozart, Beethoven, Weber, Berlioz, Wagner, Verdi, Meyerbeer, etc.).6 But in their aesthetic vision, the model composer was not so much Wagner, a genius “hampered by the nightmare of the word,” who gave too much importance to the literary text in a musical composition, but Hector Berlioz. He, having learned better than Wagner, and much earlier, the lesson of Beethoven’s late symphonies , knew how to create true “dramas without words,” though according to the brothers these were unfortunately misunderstood. “Few realized that the way indicated and in part traveled by Berlioz was the true, the only one,” they solemnly conclude.7 Occasional deviations from this romantic system occur wherever traces of occultist readings surface: “It is necessary that we give our passion to the dead things of nature so they acquire in our eyes the vitality of the artwork.”8 The idea of the artist as someone who could animate “the dead things of nature” certainly has a mesmeric side; this is followed by an exposition of the theory of correspondences, here understood as a protocol that regulates the relations between physical world and spiritual world: Occult Futurism . 45 The artist is he who takes from nature its [. . .] fundamental elements and, conscious of the correspondences between them and his sentiments, composes them variously to represent the passions and games of force among them. Thus is defined the work of art: passions in such reciprocal relations as to form a system— a system identical to those that revolve in the Heavens or to those between the mole­ cules of matter: neither more nor less.9 A direct consequence of the systematic identity of art and the heavens is synesthesia . As the brothers explained...