Saturday, February 15, 2014

Homage to Mid-Century Italian Modern

I lived in Rome, Italy from 1961-62 with my parents. We were arty American expats for a year and the influence and memory of Italy (including later stays) remains with me. We watched Italian TV and learned the Italian language. This design comes from Italian TV, known as "RAI", an acronym for "Radiotelevisione Italiana." It's not a direct copy, but it's inspired by the original mid-20th century design. The helical geometric form, against a background of fluffy clouds (all in black and white), appeared as an animation at the beginning and end of the day's transmissions. (In the earlier days of TV and radio, stations would sign off at around midnight and return in the morning.) Nowadays this design would be done in minutes by a computer program but in the mid-20th century it would have been drawn, and animated, by hand.

The sign-off sequence, which only lasted about 40 seconds, was accompanied by a lovely, almost haunting piece of music which I remembered ever since I saw it in Rome. I thought I would never find it again until I remembered that everything is reachable on the universe-spanning Internet by almighty Google and YouTube. Within 5 minutes (helped by my knowledge of the Italian language) I had located the sign off  sequence on YouTube. Not only did I find the video, I also learned that the music was composed by Roberto Lupi, an Italian composer once active in Florence. The sequence was finally retired from RAI TV in the 1980s.

Here's the "Fine delle Trasmissioni" ("End of Transmissions") sequence, preserved digitally. I now use it as a signal to myself to sign off from the Internet.

Ink and markers on sketchbook page,  2 1/3" x 4 2/3", February 15, 2014.

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