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Why We Need “La Piazza di Luigi Russolo”

Luigi Russolo, born in 1885 in Portogruaro, Italy, was a Futurist painter and musical innovator known for his integration of industrial noises as music. He is considered to be one of the first noise musicians ever and his work has influenced artists many years since his passing. Russolo’s daring creativity should be a source of pride for those of Italian heritage and source of admiration for all. Yet, he has few monuments dedicated to him. Therefore, I propose that the city of Baltimore seize this opportunity to honor Luigi Russolo in its repurposing of the Columbus Piazza. This would lead to greater awareness and understanding of the life and artistic contributions of Russolo, generate inspiration from knowledge of Russolo’s courageous work and celebrate Russolo’s Italian identity.

With Russolo being a lesser-known historical figure, it would be good to educate both tourists and Baltimore-area natives on his life by having a square and statue in his name. In learning about Russolo, people could also learn about the histories of Futurist painting and noise music, both originating in Italy. This makes Russolo Piazza, more than just an arbitrary monument to an obscure historical figure, but also a spotlight on Italian art and cultural movements, displayed through the life of an artist. A square celebrating the life of Luigi Russolo and his contributions to Futurism and noise music would add to the richness of Italian history and culture present in Little Italy and complements Baltimore’s avant-garde art and music scene.

When Luigi Russolo wrote L’arte dei Rumori (“The Art of Noise”), his 1913 manifesto calling for and defending the further cultivation of noise music, and built his Intonarumori[1] noise instruments, he exemplified the virtue of courage through creativity. His musical compositions and ideas were not always popular or well-received as they heavily contrasted with longstanding conventions of Western music and likely seemed abrasive to many people. Still, Russolo continued to pursue his artistic vision, further redefining the meaning and form of music. Luigi Russolo’s choice to stand apart in his creativity is something to be admired and learned from by anyone in any situation in life. Therefore, a square dedicated to his life and creative work can have the positive impact of inspiring those living today to pursue their own unique interests even in the midst of prejudice and discouragement.

For Italian Americans in particular, Russolo’s accomplishments should be a source of pride and to be celebrated and remembered. Though he is far from a “textbook” name when discussing Italian history and culture, he is still an important member of Italian history, music and art history, as well as a model of courage and genuine creativity. If we truly desire to honor and be proud of our Italian heritage, we must be active in learning about and honoring even the lesser-known icons of our history. Luigi Russolo should not remain in obscurity, rather, his name should decorate the new Piazza to be a source of knowledge, inspiration and pride.

[1] Translates to “noise-intoners/machines”. Variety of musical noise instruments invented by Luigi Russolo. Each instrument simulated a different urban/industrial noise.