6. Russolo’s Metaphysics
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

122  Futurism is concerned with the essence of reality, because all that exists is essentially composed of vibrations of different intensities in the ether. Like Boccioni and Carrà, Russolo was convinced that an artist’s true objective was to penetrate bodies and discover this essence. Futurists believed that investigation , analysis, and comprehension of the real ought to be guided by an epistemology founded on a solid metaphysical basis that would allow them to look into the depths. To those who have recontextualized it in these terms, art can no longer be mere imitation of the surface of the real but instead becomes (re)creation ex novo of the spirit of reality, achieved by infusing matter with the spirituality of the artist —or, better yet, with the creative, spiritualistic forces the artist can evoke. In Russolo’s own words, the spirit of the artist has “the insatiable desire to raise matter up to its own level, to see it spiritualized in the work of art.” 1 Within that proposition lay the crux of the futurists’ polemic against the impressionists, for it defined the fundamental difference between impressionist art and their own. Although they believed that impressionist painting deserved praise for having anticipated avenues of investigation (such as the treatment of light) that were later pursued by divisionists and thereupon by some of their own, impressionism, in their opinion, was based on the reproduction of sensory illusoriness and concerned with superficial levels of reality . Therefore it lacked spirituality.2 Similarly, Russolo never understood his the art of noises as a simple imitation of superficial sensation. In his 1913 manifesto of the art of noises, RusChapter 6 Russolo’s Metaphysics Russolo’s Metaphysics  . 123 solo, to avoid misunderstanding, emphasized this point in boldface type: “Although the characteristic of noise is that of reminding us brutally of life, the Art of Noises should not limit itself to an imitative reproduction.” 3 In point 6 of his manifesto, Russolo writes that that art of noises cannot limit itself to a “succession of noises imitative of life” but must be based upon “a fantastic association of the different timbres.” 4 Russolo’s deviation from impressionist imitation is captured by a French press release of September 1913: “Les quatre réseaux des bruits ne sont pas de simples reproductions impressionists de la vie qui nous entoure mais d’émouvantes syntheses bruitistes. Par une savante variation de tons, les bruites perdent en effet leur caractère épisodique accidentel et imitatif, pour devenir des elements abstraits d’art.” 5 Later, in his L’arte dei rumori of 1916, Russolo repeated this concept, asserting that his art of noises does not have “a simple-minded imitative [or] impressionistic aim, reminiscent [merely] of the noises of life.” 6 Russolo confirmed the concept many years later, when he was defending his aesthetics from the charge of being no more than superficial reproduction of reality: “Mais le nome même, la superficialité de la critique et l’ignorance du public aidant, a crée un malentendu qui a fait croire que dans mes bruiteurs il y avaint une intention imitative et espressionniste des bruits de la nature et de la vie. Mon but a été différent. Dans une livre qui j’ai publié en 1916 j’ai dit très clairement que les timbre nouveaux des mes instruments sont seulement une matière abstraite devant servir au musicien.” 7 Pratella seemed to understand quite well the spiritual implications of Russolo ’s work and their distance from impressionism. He wrote: “As one very well sees, the intonarumori produce practically every sense of objective reality ; they move from an objective reality, immediately distancing themselves from it, and come to constitute a new abstract reality —an expressive, abstract element of a state of mind.” 8 Futurists criticized impressionism for favoring the empirical at the expense of the spiritual, and this rejection overlapped with their rejection of materialism. Russolo, like other futurists, was violently opposed to materialism as a philosophical hypothesis and modus vivendi, so much so that this critical position gradually became the center of his interests. His substantial book Al di là della materia: Alla ricerca del vero, Alla ricerca del bello, Alla ricerca del bene (Beyond matter: In search of Truth, in search of Beauty, in search of Good) of 1938, legible even in its title as a treatise on spiritual 124  .  from the Formative Years to 1913 education, includes a severe critique of materialism as the negative tendency, caused by a lack...


pdf