I was very stoked weeks ago when I received news that Luciano Chessa was coming to Singapore with The Orchestra of Futurist Noise Intoners. After years of researching on Noise in music and Noise in the arts, the Futurists, represent to me, one of the key historical start points and opening node in a contested lineage in art and music historical discourses. Intonarumori, the sound or noise machines conceptualised and built originally by the Futurist, Luigi Russolo back in the 1910s were stuff of legend and infamy in its heyday. The orchestra toured across Europe after the First World War into the 1920s and they were received with ridicule, wild amazement and blank indifference in equal measures. The last known machines were damaged and lost by the 1930s. Luciano Chessa, the author of the only monographs on Russolo and his conceptions, Luigi Russolo: Futurist. Noise, Visual Arts, and the Occult came out in 2012. In the past, the Italian Futurists have been covered extensively in many books and articles but the foci have been either on the visual art side of things or in tandem with the other contemporary iconoclastic art movements like dada and Surrealism. Scantly a few pages or at best a chapter on the sound art/music aspect of it were published before Chessa's book.
One thing hit me when I was listening to the various original Futurist pieces, recently commissioned works for the intonarumori and Futurist sound poetry. Shocking it may be, especially to those who first heard the works 100 years ago, but wth modern ears, the original pieces feel largely formalist despite Marinetti and Russolo's proclamations about the revolutionary nature of their music. The more recent commissioned ones were redolent of recent contemporary compositions with glissandi amassing across their durations. It re-affirms the fact that the avant-garde of today will be the norm of tomorrow. But this begs the question: then is there an avantgarde of today for tomorrow? It may sound a tad too pessimistic but with the premises of Simon Reynolds's book, Retromania, seemingly more real than mere cynicism as we move on after years of its publication, it is an important point of concern and consideration for all of us.