Futurist Orchestra

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By God, what is that noise? Noise–no, not random computations of sound, but instead, this is the futurist orchestra. The instruments themselves, called the intonarumori, have a boxed shaped and create their music by the turning of handles and cranking of levels. Inside the chest of the intonarumori is a taut string and a curious wheel of varying shapes that rubs against it to produce the sounds. On the front of the intonarumori is a speaker for the purpose of amplification. Not so graceful as a cello or as majestic as a piano. Not even as sleek as a snare or remotely as supple as a flute.

Although the sounds generated by the intonarumori are a far cry from the harmonious strums and reverberations produced by classical instruments, the strange instruments do have a charm all their own. They do not sound unpleasant, minus the occasional screeching gyrations so like nails on a chalkboard. Luigi Russolo, the inventor and Futurist visionary responsible for the intonarumori, created his instruments to have “industrial sounds.” He anticipated a world where noise was not a negative connotation, but that the repertoire of sounds employed for performance. In many ways, his call was to broaden our standards of acceptability and become more versatile in the means by which art is created.

When I first heard the intonarumori designed by Zeke Leonard, I was forced to admit that, while unconventional, the sounds were not strictly unpleasant. They ground your nerves, but just enough to stimulate, rather than rake. Maybe it is because I DO like dubstep.

In creating my audio composition, “Futurist Orchestra,” I did not use many effects. Beyond changing the playback rate of one segment and altering volumes, I was inclined not to change the pure recorded sounds. The were already bizarre, impossible to place in a classic field of expectations. The “Futurist Orchestra” is also intended to showcase the intonarumori. Changing pitch or reverb would be cheating the instruments.

My composition gives due to Zeke and his students. After the first clip, a sound literally of the students trying to tune the string inside the box casing, the voice of Zeke comes on. This is from one of the first recordings I made. It is a part of his original introduction to the attendees of his Saturday workshop. He proposes they, “create a rhythm.” Then the orchestral din begins. I am not sure one cohesive rift or rhythm was ever found during the workshop itself. Instead an evolution of audio expression took place. What sounds could they coax from the organs? Using varying wheels and drums, even synthesizing the tone, the range expanded. So too does my piece gain a momentum and raucous crescendo as the climax nears.

“Futurist Orchestra” ends not unlike it started. These instruments are still in the stages of development. Man still must test and ply his trade to fully explore the sounds of the intonarumori. It is a progressive step in the acceptance of the unusual to be usable.

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Original recordings can be found at: http://www.freesound.org/people/KFerentchak/

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Saggini, Valerio. "Theremin Vox - Intonarumori." Theremin Vox - Intonarumori. Theremin Vox, 21 Feb. 2004. Web. 24 Feb. 2014.

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