Exhibiting Historical Art: Out of the Vault: Stories of People and Things

Pieces of Sound; Vincenzo Agnetti

Pieces of Sound
Vincenzo Agnetti
     1926 - 1981

"The latter part of Vincenzo Agnetti's remarkable career was clearly unconventional by most current avant-garde standards.  At a time when reactionary image-making re-asserted its presence in contemporary Italian painting, Agnetti chose to 'liquidate' images in favor of clarifying the structural support of art.
In Pieces of Sound, unites of erratic rhythm play off vocalized and percussive textures.  The sense of rhythm is not linear, but evolves through a series of variable and cyclical parameters.  Included in this fundamentally systemic sound process are elements derived from two primary sources: 1) the spoken series of numbers, and 2) the manipulation of a prepared drum set.  The transformation of the percussion instruments included a snare drum placed upon a tom-tom which Agnetti would hit with his hands.  Two other alterations involved a clap cymbal on a stand which the artist set into a bucket of water and a hubcap which he played on top of another drum  Further sound effects were produced by scratching a cymbal in a steady rotating motion, by striking a wooden block with his bare knuckles, and by hitting his hand with steel brushes - all accomplished at sporadically timed intervals.  In counting the numbers aloud in his native tongue, Agnetti's voice also functioned as a musical instrument.
The deliberately crude assortment of sound fragments, adhered together in Pieces of Sound, remark upon a strange physicality and thereby suggest some sort of mystical or quasi-mystical intention.  The artist's forceful performance gives the impression of a thoroughly westernized shaman who takes the whole sound seriously - a contemporary Pythagoras whose obsession with numerology may indeed beget untold mysteries for healing a fragmented globe.
1981, Robert C. Morgan "

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