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). 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.
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.
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, 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 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.
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 Russolo’s 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 Chessa’s 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. In September 2010 Chessa presented the recreated intonarumori in its' first Italian appearance, a concert event 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.
With 2013 being the 100th anniversary of both The Art of Noises and John Cage’s birth, the curators of Carnegie Mellon University’s Wats:ON? Festival,Golan Levin and Spike Wolff felt the time was ripe for a presentation of noise, and decided to re-construct the forgotten Intonarumori instruments for the festival.Carl Bajandas, a sculptor, an instrument builder, took the lead and built 10 Intonarumori instruments. Meanwhile, experimental composer, music technologist John Ozbay, has been asked to compose for the Intonarumori instruments. The performance took place in Carnegie Mellon University's Kresge Theatre on April 4th 2013. Followed by performances of electronic/experimental music artists, Jeremy Boyle, Michael Johnsen, Eric Singer and Lesley Flanigan.
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:
- Roars, Thunderings, Explosions, Hissing roars, Bangs, Booms
- Whistling, Hissing, Puffing
- Whispers, Murmurs, Mumbling, Muttering, Gurgling
- 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
- Screeching, Creaking, Rustling, Buzzing, Crackling, Scraping
- Musica Futurista
- Experimental music
- Custom-made instruments
- List of custom-made instrument builders
- Noise music
- List of noise musicians
- Chilvers, Ian, & John Glaves-Smith. A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
- Luciano Chessa: Luigi Russolo, Futurist. Noise, Visual Arts, and the Occult. University of California Press, 2012
- mp3 audio files of the noise music of Luigi Russolo on UbuWeb
- on YouTube
- mp3 audio files of the music of Luigi Russolo on UbuWeb