Music the Dead Can Hear: Sound, Symbol, and the Occult in Luigi Russolo’s Art of Noises

Luigi Russolo (1885-1947), Self Portrait with Skulls, 1908, oil on canvas, 67 x 50 cm, Civico Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Milan.

A presentation by Professor Luciano Chessa
Date: Friday, November 8th
Time: 8pm


Admission: $10

Presented by Phantasmaphile
and ItalianFuturism.org

As the author of the first systematic aesthetics of Noise and the alleged creator of the first mechanical sound synthesizer, Luigi Russolo (1885-1947), Italian Futurist painter, composer, and builder of musical instruments is a crucial figure in the evolution of 20th century music and has influenced artists such as John Cage and David Byrne.  In this evening’s lecture, Luciano Chessa will unveil the occult plan of Luigi Russolo’s seminal Art of Noises (L’arte dei Rumori, 1913) which became one of the most important and influential texts in 20th century musical aesthetics.  Russolo’s ideas and their practical manifestation — the intonarumori — were for him and his associates elements of a multi-leveled experiment to reach higher states of spiritual consciousness.  Russolo’s theories reflected his interest in synesthesia, metaphysics, and alchemy and he readily identified Thought-Forms (1901), an influential Theosophical text by Annie Besant and C.W. Leadbeater, as a guiding source for his innovations.  We will explore Russolo’s belief that an artist-initiate can invoke spirits fluctuating in the astral plane, communicate with the dead, and harness their energy for the spiritualizing process.

Luciano Chessa is a composer, conductor, pianist, and musical saw/Vietnamese dan bau soloist who has been active in Europe, the U.S., Australia, and South America.  Chessa is the author of Luigi Russolo, Futurist: Noise, Visual Arts, and the Occult, the first monograph ever to be dedicated to the Futurist Russolo and his Art of Noise (University of California Press).  In 2014, Chessa will be participating in the Guggenheim’s retrospective exhibit on Italian Futurism.  Chessa holds a D.M.A. in Piano performance and a M.A. in Composition from the G.B. Martini Conservatory of Music in Bologna, Italy, a M.A. magna cum laude in History of Medieval Music from the University of Bologna, and a Ph.D. in Musicology and Music Criticism from the University of California at Davis.  Chessa taught, lectured, and talked at various institutions including St. John’s College of Oxford, UK, Columbia University, Harvard University, Sydney’s and Melbourne’s Conservatories and Universities, the Conservatory of Music in Bologna, UC Davis, UC Berkeley, Stanford University, and EMPAC in the campus of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.  Luciano Chessa teaches at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, serves in the Advisory Board of TACET, the international research publication dedicated to Experimental Music from the Université Paris 1 – Panthéon-Sorbonne, is a member of the Steering Committee of the SF Electronic Music Festival, and collaborates with SF’s Italian Cultural Institute.  His music is published by Edizioni Carrara and by RAI TRADE, the Italian National Broadcast Channels’ music publishing company.

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