These questions fascinated the artist pair Nicolas Bernier and Martin Messier, pushing them to explore this unique relationship with La Chambre des Machines (The Mechanical Room), an exhibition of machines made from traditional machinery that they say “stems from a desire to return to the physical world in an environment of digital creation.”
The investigation is inspired by the futurist painter and composer Luigi Russolo. The Italian is known as the first noise artist following his 1912 manifesto ‘L’Arte dei Rumori.’ Literally translated as ‘The Art of Noises,‘ the paper attested that the industrial revolution had given modern men a greater capacity to appreciate more complex sounds, rather than the traditional classical melodies of his day.
La Chambre des Machines stems from a desire to return to the physical world in an environment of digital creation
Russolo classifies ‘noise-sound’ into six individual groups (see box-out), and went on to design a machine called the ‘Intonarumori’, built from mechanical parts designed to mimic the industrial sounds of the day. The first concert of the groundbreaking machine caused a riot in April 1914 but they were eventually destroyed during bombings in World War II.
The Art of Noises
Luigi Russolo in his ‘Art of Noises’ classified “noise-sound” into six groups.
1.Roars, Thunderings, Explosions, Hissing roars, Bangs, Booms
2.Whistling, Hissing, Puffing
3.Whispers, Murmurs, Mumbling, Muttering, Gurgling
4.Screeching, Creaking, Rustling, Buzzing, Crackling, Scraping
5. Noises obtained by beating on metals, woods, skins, stones, pottery, etc.
6. Voices of animals and people, Shouts, Screams, Shrieks, Wails, Hoots, Howls, Death rattles, Sobs
Nowadays the creation of digital sounds are masked by the clean and attractive exterior of a computer but Bernier and Messier are eager to unravel the mystery under the laptop lid. Much like a computer La Chambre des Machines contains a mix of mysterious mechanisms that are powered by computer software. The sounds are amplified through electro connectors that join circuits together called microcontacts that are then processed through computer programs, the result is certainly worth a listen.
“Machines made of gears and cranks are manipulated to produce a sound construction at the crossroads of acoustics and electronics,” the pair explain. “Submerged in surround sound, the audience discovers the interaction between mechanical and synthetic sound.
“With specifically tailored programming, digital processing are enlarging the sound palette of the machines. La Chambre des Machines stems from a desire to return to the physical world in an environment of digital creation. The project also refers back to the ‘Intonarumoris’, sound machines built by Italian futurists at the beginning of the 20th century. These machines contained mysterious mechanisms, just as computers do today.”