In 1913, Italian Futurist and Noise visionary, Luigi Russolo (1885-1947) laments that he is weary of ‘Eroica’, and so he dreams up a new concert music created by machines that echo the sounds of the Industrial Age.
But what did he think of ragtime, and its syncopated rhythms inspired by the intersection of African Culture, urbanization and the Industrial Revolution? And then afterward when it spawned a million new modern musical memes under the auspices of a then embryonic ‘jazz’ form?
Or did the author of The Art of Noises tune his ears only to the symphony hall and so was thereby disinclined to listen to the popular music of the day? Did he not hear in it some of the musical machinations he heard in his head, simply because the format did not suit his aesthetic?
Or if he heard it, did Russolo hear in American popular music only hysteria, or burgeoning vulgarity, as many critics at the time did, and none of what made this new music so utterly modern, compliments a sometimes bawling tonality and often propelled by the backfiring rhythms of an increasingly post agricultural society?
Even if he may not have paid much attention to the jazz of his day, I wonder what would Russolo would have made of John Zorn, who's Avant-garde project, Naked City, is one of my all time favorite albums and listening experience? Or German experimental industrial ensemble Einsturzende Neubauten? Or even electronic musician Dan Deacon, who is a master of circuit sourced chaos?
Would he think them kindred spirits? However alike or different in practice from his original vision, I think he would.
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Photo Collage by Terry O'Gara