Luigi Russolo (30 April 1885 – 4 February 1947) was an Italian Futurist painter and composer, and the author of the manifesto The Art of Noises (1913). He is often regarded as one of the first noise music experimental composers with his performances of “noise concerts” in 1913-14 and then again after World War I, notably in Paris in 1921. He is also one of the first theorists of electronic music. John Cage and many other artists to follow were deeply effected by the ideas and works of Luigi Russolo.
Luigi Russolo was perhaps the first noise artist. 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.
The Art of Noises classified “noise-sound” into six groups:
Roars, Thunderings, Explosions, Hissing roars, Bangs, Booms
Whistling, Hissing, Puffing
Whispers, Murmurs, Mumbling, Muttering, Gurgling
Screeching, Creaking, Rustling, Humming, Crackling, Rubbing
Noises obtained by beating on metals, woods, skins, stones, pottery, etc.
Voices of animals and people, Shouts, Screams, Shrieks, Wails, Hoots, Howls, Death rattles, Sobs
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 this genre, 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.
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.
Russolo and Marinetti gave the first concert of Futurist music, complete with intonarumori, in April 1914 (causing a riot). The program comprised four “networks of noises” with the following titles:
Awakening of Capital.
Meeting of cars and aeroplanes
Dining on the terrace of the Casino and
Skirmish in the oasis.
All of his instruments were destroyed in World War II during the bombings on Paris. In 2009 replica’s are being made for the Performa Festival in New York City, where his musical pieces were played.