3. Spotlight on Russolo
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

71 A New Reading At its core, the art of noises was for Luigi Russolo a process of conjuring the spirits, a process he divided into two parallel moments: one in which noise became spiritualized, the other in which spirits materialized. Russolo first painted this process in 1911, and he began to put it into practice a year later. Some scholars have mentioned the relationship between Russolo and the occult arts in his early years as a painter (either when analyzing key artworks, or in passing), and the occult is certainly part of all discussions of his late creative phase —for several years after 1930, the occult arts were his only interest . But the role the occult arts played between 1913 and 1930, during the years he focused on music as theoretician, composer, builder of musical instruments , conductor, and improviser, has so far been ignored. Given Russolo’s occult interests during both the early and late periods, this critical vacuum seems curious. It becomes even more curious if one looks at the cultural environment in which he took part during his formative and futurist years and the early post –World War I period. Surrounded by companions with similar occult interests, it seems strange that Russolo would not have participated (or would have stopped participating) in the debate that preoccupied those he associated with daily. It seems highly improbable that the Russolo who was a close friend of Romolo Romani, who assiduously frequented the society of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Paolo Buzzi, and Carlo Carrà, who was probably familiar Chapter 3 Spotlight on Russolo 72  .  from the Formative Years to 1913 with the early writings of Arnaldo Ginna and Bruno Corra, and who was fraternally attached to Umberto Boccioni, would have developed a musical aesthetics completely shielded from the occult interests of his futurist friends.1 And, in fact, the opposite was true: on many occasions Russolo promoted the occult arts within the futurist movement. Occultist theories circulated in the environment that Russolo frequented in his futurist and musical years, which constitutes some proof of his interest in the subject. I am convinced, however, that, proof of the connection must be found in his works. My aim, therefore, is to uncover points of contact between Russolo and the occult not merely in texts written by other futurists but also in Russolo’s own musical research and writings; this connection, once uncovered, could be a key to reinterpreting both Russolo’s work as a builder of musical instrument and his futurist aesthetics. Many of the usual sources for this kind of investigation —printed scores, manuscripts, drafts, and musical instruments —are no longer extant. Other materials therefore become all the more precious, including iconological sources (paintings, photographs, films), letters, newspaper articles and reviews , contemporary literary sources that cite Russolo (factual, fictionalized, and poetic), and written evidence from friends and relatives. Russolo’s activity during his association with futurism has been studied principally within musicology, a discipline that, when dealing with the twentieth century, is often spoiled by a great exuberance for sources. That may be why, in the case of Russolo, since the preferred primary sources are largely missing, musicologists have not yet reconstructed a complete picture of his activities. It seems as if Russolo scholars have been reluctant to adopt critical instruments used to comprehend and reconstruct musical repertoires more distant in time, as in the field of medieval studies. In Russolo research, information often comes from a detail of a painting, or a novel or poem; such information should be regarded with caution, but it should be considered. If one investigates Russolo’s artistic work from this angle, the occultist aspect can be observed in all of his works, beginning with his early artworks and continuing through his futurist phase and, as has been recognized, from the 1930s onward. Russolo was interested in the occult all of his life: this interest gives continuity, unity, and coherence to his figure. Thus, the occult is a fine thread unifying all of his works, starting in the years when he espoused symbolist aesthetics and quite likely continuing throughout his futurist years and beyond. Spotlight on Russolo  . 73 Throughout this book I have resisted the temptation to apply Russolo’s later formulations to interpretation of his early works, yet I have been surprised by the consistency of his ideas. Naturally, Russolo’s thought processes evolved, but differences in his beliefs are those not of kind but only of degree. Both Zanovello and Maffina have mentioned Russolo...


pdf