Arthur Vincent Lourié was born into a Jewish family in Propoysk (now Slawharad, Belarus) in 1892, or possibly 1891, and was originally called Naum Israilevich Luria. He changed his first name to Arthur in homage to Arthur Schopenhauer, and he also jettisoned his patronymic, replacing it with Vincent in order to reflect his admiration for Vincent van Gogh.
Although Lourié studied at the St Petersburg Conservatoire, where his composition teachers included Alexander Glazunov, his main musical influence in his youth was Alexander Scriabin, whose late piano works fascinated him. He was also greatly inspired by the Futurists, and he made musical settings of verses by poets such as Anna Akhmatova (with whom he conducted a passionate affair). Vladimir Mayakovsky and Alexander Blok affected him profoundly through the eloquence of their writing and the allure of their political views, which appealed to Lourié’s own radical disposition. He fully espoused the idea of transforming human consciousness through the kind of spiritual revolution that was the hallmark of the Russian Symbolists.