Lora-Totino performing with a
ROTORMEGAFONO at the 11th International Sound
Poetry Festival, Toronto, 1978.
Photos by Larry Wendt.
Arrigo Lora-Totino has been active in visual poetry since the sixties, and his research in that area eventually led him to sound. He considered both areas as two sides of the same literary impulse. He has published an extensive number of articles about the aesthetic and history of experimental poetry, as well as performed his work on radio, television and in many places in the world.
Between 1960 and 1966, he founded and edited four issues of antipiugiù, an experimental literature magazine with an emphasis on concrete poetry. Lora-Totino also published the magazine Modulo, of which the first issue (March 1966) was an international anthology of concrete poetry. With Carlo Belloli, he founded the Museum of Contemporary Poetry in Turin in the sixties.
Lora-Totino's poetry is concerned with the word as a visual or sonic entity that amplifies the semantic concepts which it has come to represent. In the sonic dimension he has experimented with all levels of language from manipulating diction, to syntactical structure, to phonemic construction: that point of contact between the ambiguous differences existing between the minimal vocal vibrations which are not yet interpretable and the articulation which are already significant. For the production of his vocal work, he has made extensive use of both acoustic and electronic methods of manipulation, and worked in an early electronic music studio in Turin, Studio di Informazione Estetica.
His performances were often wildly hilarious: part mime, part Italian Futurist sintesi, part Commedia del 'Arte -- he played the role of mischief maker. Many of these works include very short phonetic pieces composed of Italian puns which require no translation to communicate their joke, particularly since Lora-Totino, a rather tall, distinguished looking Italian man with a neatly trimmed beard, often acts out his poeisa ginnica (Athletic Poetry) while dressed in black tights. In one recent piece in particular, he would strike a series of poses (vogue) which would increase in complexity with a sound poem being played from a recording. He also made use of his audience, 'training' small groups of them to perform a particular work, such as handing out a collection of peculiar bird whistles to an all-woman chorus and acting like their love-sick conductor.
Lora-Totino also constructed a series of acoustical horn-like devices for the performance of sound poetry, which are suggestive in appearance to Luigi Russolo's intonorumori. One of these horns is known as the ROTORMEGAFONO: it can project the voice in a rotating 360° circle above the player's head. Another one is the IDROMEGAFONO which can filter vocal sounds through water or oil. Another horn had a large glass jar in its base in which he could place water for a reverberation effect or dry ice for an 'extremely tense sound.'