Luigi Russolo

Luigi Russolo

Luigi Russolo ca. 1916
Background information
Birth name Luigi Russolo
Born (1883-04-30)30 April 1883
Portogruaro, Italy
Died 4 February 1947(1947-02-04) (aged 63)
Cerro, Bottanuco, Italy
Genres Experimental, avant-garde, noise
Occupation(s) Composer, painter, Custom instrument builder
Years active 1901-1947

Luigi Russolo (30 April 1885 – 6 February 1947) was an Italian Futurist painter, composer, builder of experimental musical instruments, and the author of the manifesto The Art of Noises (1913).[1] He is often regarded as one of the first noise music experimental composers with his performances of noise music concerts in 1913–14 and then again after World War I, notably in Paris in 1921.[2] He designed and constructed a number of noise-generating devices called Intonarumori.


Luigi Russolo, 1912, Sintesi plastica dei movimenti di una donna (Synthèse plastique des mouvements d'une femme), oil on canvas, 86 x 65 cm, Musée de Grenoble
Russolo, Piatti and the Intonarumori, 1917

Luigi Russolo was perhaps the first noise artist.[3][4] His 1913 manifesto, L'Arte dei Rumori, translated as The Art of Noises, stated that the industrial revolution had given modern men a greater capacity to appreciate more complex sounds. Russolo found traditional melodic music confining, and he envisioned noise music as its future replacement.

Russolo designed and constructed a number of noise-generating devices called Intonarumori, and assembled a noise orchestra to perform with them. A performance of his Gran Concerto Futuristico (1917) was met with strong disapproval and violence from the audience, as Russolo himself had predicted. None of his intoning devices have survived, though recently some have been reconstructed and used in performances. Although Russolo's works bear little resemblance to modern noise music, his pioneering creations cannot be overlooked as an essential stage in the evolution of the several genres in this category.[5][6] Many artists are now familiar with Russolo's manifesto.

At first the art of music sought purity, limpidity and sweetness of sound. Then different sounds were amalgamated, care being taken, however, to caress the ear with gentle harmonies. Today music, as it becomes continually more complicated, strives to amalgamate the most dissonant, strange and harsh sounds. In this way we come ever closer to noise-sound.[7]

Antonio Russolo, another Italian Futurist composer and Luigi's brother, produced a recording of two works featuring the original Intonarumori. The phonograph recording, made in 1921, included works entitled Corale and Serenata, which combined conventional orchestral music set against the sound of the noise machines. It is the only surviving contemporaneous sound recording of Luigi Russolo's noise music.[8]

Russolo and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti gave the first concert of Futurist music, complete with intonarumori, in April 1914, causing a riot.[9] The program comprised four "networks of noises" with the following titles:

Some of Russolo's instruments were destroyed in World War II; others have been lost.[10] Replicas of the instruments have since been built.

Art of Noises classification of noise types

The 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. Noises obtained by beating on metals, woods, skins, stones, pottery, etc.
  5. Voices of animals and people, Shouts, Screams, Shrieks, Wails, Hoots, Howls, Death rattles, Sobs
  6. Screeching, Creaking, Rustling, Buzzing,[11] Crackling, Scraping [11]

See also


  1. Ian Chilvers & John Glaves-Smith, A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art. Oxford University Press, p.619
  2. Ian Chilvers & John Glaves-Smith, A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art. Oxford University Press, p. 620
  3. In Futurism and Musical Notes, Daniele Lombardi discusses the French composer Carol-Bérard; a pupil of Isaac Albéniz. Carol-Bérard is said to have composed a Symphony of Mechanical Forces in 1910 - but little evidence as emerged thus far to establish this assertion.
  4. Luigi Russolo, "The Art of Noises".
  5. Paul Hegarty, Noise/Music: A History (London: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2007), pp. 13-14.
  6. László Moholy-Nagy in 1923 recognized the unprecedented efforts of the Italian Futurists to broaden our perception of sound using noise. In an article in Der Sturm #7, he outlined the fundamentals of his own experimentation: "I have suggested to change the gramophone from a reproductive instrument to a productive one, so that on a record without prior acoustic information, the acoustic information, the acoustic phenomenon itself originates by engraving the necessary Ritzschriftreihen (etched grooves)." He presents detailed descriptions for manipulating discs, creating "real sound forms" to train people to be "true music receivers and creators" (Rice 1994,).
  7. Russolo, Luigi from The Art of Noises, March 1913.
  8. Albright, Daniel (ed.) Modernism and Music: An Anthology of Source. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 2004. p. 174
  9. Benjamin Thorn, "Luigi Russolo (1885–1947)", in Music of the Twentieth-Century Avant-Garde: A Biocritical Sourcebook, edited by Larry Sitsky, foreword by Jonathan Kramer, 415–19 (Westport and London: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002). ISBN 0-313-29689-8. Citation on page 415.
  10. Barclay Brown, "The Noise Instruments of Luigi Russolo", Perspectives of New Music 20, nos. 1 & 2 (Fall-Winter 1981, Spring-Summer 1982): 31–48; citation on 36
  11. 1 2 The original Italian ronzii and crepitii are most easily translated with humming and rubbing respectively, but the connotations these words have in the English language do not fit well with the other sounds in this group; for this reason, alternative translations give more fitting buzzing and scraping. For example:


Further reading

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