Luigi Russolo

born on 30/4/1885 in Portogruaro, Veneto, Italy

died on 4/2/1947 in Cerro di Lavenio, Italy

Luigi Russolo

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Luigi Russolo

Luigi Russolo (30 April 1883 4 February 1947) was an Italian Futurist painter and composer, 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 191314 and then again after World War I, notably in Paris in 1921.[2]


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 envisioned noise music as its future replacement.

He 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] and many artists are now familiar with his 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 1921 made phonograph with works entitled Corale and Serenata, combined conventional orchestral music set against the famous noise machines and is the only surviving sound recording.[8]

Russolo and 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:

  • Awakening of a City
  • Meeting of cars and aeroplanes
  • Dining on the terrace of the Casino and
  • Skirmish in the oasis.

Some of his instruments were destroyed in World War II; others have simply disappeared.[10]

Intonarumori reconstruction

As part of its celebration of the 100th anniversary of Italian Futurism, the Performa 09 biennial, in collaboration with the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, invited Luciano Chessa (author of the book Luigi Russolo, Futurist. Noise, Visual Arts, and the Occult) to direct a reconstruction project to produce accurate replicas of Russolos legendary Intonarumori instruments. This project offered the set of 16 original intonarumori (8 noise families of 1-3 instruments each, in various registers) that Russolo built in Milan in the summer of 1913. These intonarumori were physically built by luthier Keith Cary in Winters, California, under Chessas direction and scientific supervision. The concert premiered at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art on October 16, 2009, before traveling to New York City for its Performa 09 presentation at The Town Hall on November 12, 2009.[11] In September 2010 Chessa presented the intonarumori in the first Italian appearance: a concert at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Trento and Rovereto in Rovereto, Italy, as part of the Festival Transart, which featured performances by Nicholas Isherwood.[12]

Also copies have been made in Italy and in the Netherlands. The Dutch replicas were showed and played at the Tuned City festivals in several cities.

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,[13] Crackling, Scraping [13]

See also

  • Musica Futurista
  • Experimental music
  • Custom-made instruments
  • List of custom-made instrument builders
  • Noise music
  • Futurism
  • List of noise musicians

Further reading

  • Luciano Chessa: Luigi Russolo, Futurist. Noise, Visual Arts, and the Occult. University of California Press, 2012


  • [2] mp3 audio files of the music of Luigi Russolo on UbuWeb
  • Three audio clips by Luigi Russolo: Serenata, Corale and Risveglio di una città. (
  • Modern recordings of noise intoners and a fragment of Luigi Russolo's key Futurist


Ian Chilvers & John Glaves-Smith, A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art. Oxford University Press

External links

  • Intonarumori: history, working and photographs of Russolo's Intonarumori (noise makers) at
  • Media Art Net | Russolo, Luigi: Intonarumori (at
  • Archive Russolo recordings at LTM
  • Peggy Guggenheim Collection: Luigi Russolo
  • "Art of Noise" at
  • Bob Osborn's Futurism: Luigi Russolo
  • Prof. Russolo & His Noise Intoners
  • [3] mp3 audio files of the noise music of Luigi Russolo on UbuWeb
  • Russolo's Intonarumori
  • Music for 16 Futurist Noise Intoners


  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. [1] 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,[page needed]).
  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, 41519 (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-Winer 1981, Spring-Summer 1982): 3148; citation on 36
  11. "Music for 16 Futurist Noise Intoners"
  12. Intonarumori Das Orchester der Futuristischen Geräuscherzeuger
  13. 13.0 13.1 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:
    • Luigi Russolo (1916). The Art of Noises (English translation). Niuean Pop Cultural Archive. Archived from the original on 2010-11-27. Retrieved on 2010-11-27.
This page was last modified 05.04.2014 07:14:19

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