Noise of Art Electric Nights – Previewed

What does the noise of art sound like? Head to the BFI this week and you might just find out…

Where and when did electronic music first find its way into popular culture? More to the point, what does the noise of art sound like? Is it Kraftwerk, or maybe Bowie and/or Numan? All are artists leaning in the right direction, and they make for solid guesses, but all would be wrong.

You have to go back further than the late 20th century for the proper elucidation. 100 years, in fact. It’s a century since the Italian futurist painter, Luigi Russolo, wrote his call to arms for electronic music, with manifesto The Art of Noises (L’arte dei Rumori) the result; in it he was suggesting a new approach to sound and music. A year later he created a proto-synthesiser, and after WWI began to soundtrack early film in cinemas in Paris.  

This week, the BFI commemorate Russolo’s vision and achievements with Noise of Art Electric Nights: Celebrating 100 years of Electronic Music and Silent Cinema, describing it in the blurb as “an event bringing electronic music back to its earliest home – not the nightclub or conservatoire, but the cinema”, and it is astonishing to think of it in those terms, and proves hardly imaginable. This was a man whose movement (if we can call it that), it goes without saying when you think of it now, was way ahead of its time.

“The BFI have obliged with an evening which will connect “a century of film and electronic music””

In the manifesto, he spoke about having to combine noises “according to our artistic fantasy,” and the BFI have obliged that desire with an evening which will connect “a century of film and electronic music”. In practice this means an evening of screenings of films from the Russolo era, all accompanied by live soundtracks by a variety of modern-day electronic music pioneers. How is that going to work? You may well ask. Read on…

It is being pitched very much music-first. The centrepiece of the evening being a UK debut performance of a new live score for the 1926 Soviet film, Mother, directed by Vsevolod Pudovkin.

Interesting enough in and of itself; that the new score combines three artists playing live – Russian electronic musician Slow, the Norwegian “cosmic disco” of Mental Overdrive (whose albums, fittingly, include a soundtrack for Man With a Movie Camera and another called The Phuture That Never Happened) and electronic act Aggie Frost – should prove a noteworthy spectacle.

Also in the mix, serving to compliment the main feature very nicely, is Coldcut, whose specialism of using cut up samples from hip hop, breaks, jazz and spoken word (amongst others), should make for an interesting and astute marriage to a host of silent films on the night.

And, last but not least, we can expect contributions from the Noise of Art – a cross-disciplinary arts platform celebrating “the convergence of musical and visual disciplines brought about by the digital age” – collective’s Ben Osborne, coming in the form of recordings of Russolo’s own sounds – it’s a pleasing, and when you consider the evening without it, crucial addition.

Rounded off – how else – with a party and performance by all-female alternative choir, Gaggle, it promises to be a fascinating mash-up of the old and new, all brought together by and for the vision of one man.

Noise of Art Electric Nights: Celebrating 100 years of Electronic Music and Silent Cinema 9pm @ the BFI Southbank Thursday 12th July £15, concs £11.50 (Members pay £1.50 less)

Posted on 09/07/2013 by thedoublenegative