The Art of Noise
by Luigi Russolo February 22, 2004

Luigi Russolo (1885 – 1947), Italian futurist painter and musician and inventor of the “intonarumori” expounded his musical theories in 1913 in this manifesto entitled “L’arte dei rumori” (The Art of Noises) in which he presented his ideas about the use of noises in music.

Dear Balilla Pratella, great Futurist composer,

In Rome, in the Costanzi Theatre, packed to capacity, while I was listening to the orchestral performance of your overwhelming FUTURIST MUSIC, with my Futurist friends, Marinetti, Boccioni, Carrà, Balla, Soffici, Papini and Cavacchioli, a new art came into my mind which only you can create, the Art of Noises, the logical consequence of your marvelous innovations.

Ancient life was all silence. In the nineteenth century, with the invention of the machine, Noise was born. Today, Noise triumphs and reigns supreme over the sensibility of men. For many centuries life went by in silence, or at most in muted tones. The strongest noises which interrupted this silence were not intense or prolonged or varied. If we overlook such exceptional movements as earthquakes, hurricanes, storms, avalanches and waterfalls, nature is silent.

Amidst this dearth of noises, the first sounds that man drew from a pieced reed or streched string were regarded with amazement as new and marvelous things. Primitive races attributed sound to the gods; it was considered sacred and reserved for priests, who used it to enrich the mystery of their rites. And so was born the concept of sound as a thing in itself, distinct and independent of life, and the result was music, a fantastic world superimposed on the real one, an inviolatable and sacred world. It is easy to understand how such a concept of music resulted inevitable in the hindering of its progress by comparison with the other arts. The Greeks themselves, with their musical theories calculated mathematically by Pythagoras and according to which only a few consonant intervals could be used, limited the field of music considerably, rendering harmony, of which they were unaware, impossible.
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3 thoughts on “LUIGI RUSSOLO

  1. These devices reminded me of some stellar work Paul Nehring has done. He is a part time art instructor at WMU and an active artist. His “Pandemonium Devices” are not only visually pleasing, but they are interactive and create distinct sounds when operated. You can see his work here:

    Nehring is undoubtably inspired by Russolo’s work, however he has been able to successfully incorporate a pleasing aesthetic value to his work in addition to the functionality.

  2. Paul was working on some other instruments during his time at Western as well I think, including guitars made out of gourds. The Pandemonium Devices were are really interesting concept and it was interesting learning about Russolo’s work as well.

    Unfortunately, after listening to some examples..many of mechanical noises they were making are very similar to things we would hear more often today. I think that ruins some of the mystic of it, but the idea is very awesome, and I do really like Paul Nehring’s take on it.

  3. Ahh…the noises we make. This may very well be the first documented example of music wars. There is still evidence of this study going on today in the various bedrooms/living quarters of my family home with the four young adults that inhabit these rooms. And from time to time my husband can still be found joining in.

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