It is interesting that from our 21st century cultural standpoint, the word ‘noise’ has become associated with so many negative connotations (disturbing, offensive, ugly, undesirable; noise pollution). Russolo presents a visionary perspective of the artistic expression and exploration of ‘musical noise’, with an unbiased openness. What a surprise to see that it was written by a visual artist in 1913!
This article refers to ‘noise’ in the sense of another potential sound/timbral language that can be conceived/perceived musically. I wonder if this was a founding aesthetic impulse of musique concrète (compositions using recorded sounds)?
It is curious that the trend of recent developments in sound and timbral resources via sampling and sound design are consistent with a historical tendency in which new technology is applied first to the expansion of timbral aspects of musical sound and only much later applied to the pitch language itself. This reminds me of the medieval organs from the 14th century which incorporated a newly designed chromatic keyboard, as well as radical enhancements in multitimbral capability (facilitating an incredible flexibility in altering the timbral ‘color’ and ‘shape’ of the pitch). Since then, with each new technological advance (mechanical innovations, tube and transistor electronics, analog/digital systems, computer hardware/software), the multitimbral capabilities of the organ and mechanical/electronic keyboard instruments evolved while the chromatic keyboard layout remained unchanged for over 600 years.
From my perspective, it seems inevitable that sound-color (timbre, sound/noise qualities) and pitch-color will become recognized as complementary and will merge, adding more dimensions of complexity to the sound arts of the future. I think of ‘pitch-color’ as increasing resolutions (micro tuning) of the fundamental frequency of a sound (more notes, in an alphabet sense), and ‘tone-color’ as the spectral gestalt (composite harmonics – overtones/polyphonic sonority) of a sound.
In terms of learning to hear new timbral and micro-pitch distinctions in music, I am focused on using my compositions as a ‘bridge’ between our chromatic system, toward new polychromatic conceptions of pitch. There has been criticism that this is not ‘new’ because it is derived from a 12 pitch chromatic language, but I look at this as an efficient and common point of departure for musicians and listeners – to more easily focus on an exponentially expanded pitch-color language within familiar musical (tonal) contexts.
As pitch-color discrimination becomes increasingly refined, a perceptual/conceptual foundation will be set for new and diverse non-chromatic sound palettes, and these new sonic languages will be more intuitively understood by musicians/listeners. I think of lower pitch-resolution ‘chromatic’ languages as foundational meta-languages, upon which an additional dimension of ‘polychromatic’ pitch-color (high resolution pitch-gradations) can be applied. ‘Chromatic’ here is being broadly defined as a conventional notation system and a conceptual framework where intervals are defined numerically (i.e. third, fourth, ninth).
With regard to polychromatic pitch-color as a music notation system, I think of this analogy: just like rhythmic notation which uses a single system of note value names, whose duration value (in seconds) varies relative to tempo, polychromatic pitch-color notation, as a relatively-defined pitch notation system, can be used with any conceivable pitch division system.
As a multi instrumentalist, the analogy that comes to mind is trying to begin learning the piano by practicing a serial composition by Schoenberg — this expresses a sense of the extreme difficulty encountered when replacing the conventional chromatic pitch alphabet [symbol system] and extending beyond established tonal languages [semantic, syntactic framework] at the same time – an immensely complex abstraction of an abstraction, or ‘second derivative’. My polychromatic compositions are intended to assist in the development of an intuitive foundation for pitch-color discrimination, and to demonstrate, through early compositional explorations, a sense of the vast musical possibilities lying ahead on the horizon.