Luigi Russolo

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Luigi Russolo

Luigi Russolo (April 30, 1885February 4, 1947) was an Italian Futurist painter and composer, and the author of the manifestoes The Art of Noises (1913) and Musica Futurista.

See also:
Manifesto of Futurist Painters (1910)


  • Beethoven and Wagner for many years wrung our hearts. But now we are sated with them and derive much greater pleasure from ideally combining the noise of streetcars, internal-combustion engines, automobiles, and bust crowds than from rehearsing, for example, the 'Eroica' or the 'Pastorale'...away! les ust be gone, since we shall not much longer succeed in restraining a desire to create a new musical realism by a generous distribution of sonorous blows and slaps, leaping numbly over violins, pianofortes, contrabasses, and groaning organs, Away!
    • Russolo (1954). p. 27. English trans. in Taruskin-Weiss 1984: 444.
  • Sound is defined as the result of a succession of regular and periodic vibrations. Noise is instead caused by motions that are irregular, as much in time as in intensity. 'A musical sensation,' says Helmholtz 'appears to the ear as a perfectly stable, uniform, and invariable sound.' But the quality of continuity that sound has with respect to noise, which seems instead fragmentary and irregular, is not an element sufficient to make a sharp distinction betweens sound and noise. We know that the production of sound requires not only that a body vibrate regularly but also thta these vibrations persist in the auditory nerve until the following vibration has arrived, so that the periodic vibrations blend to form a continous musical sound. At least sixteen vibrations per second are needed for this. Now, if I succeed in producing a noise with this speed. I will get a sound made up of the totality of so many noises--or better, noise whose successive repetitions will be sufficiently rapid to give a sensation of continuity like that of sound.
    • Russolo. English trans. Barclay Brown (1986: 37).

The Art of Noises, (1913)[edit]

Russolo, The Art of Noises (1913)

Instruments built by Russolo, photo published in his 1913 book The Art of Noises,
  • At the crowded Costanzi Theater in Rome, while I was listening to the orchestral performance of your overwhelming Futurist music,1 together with my Futurist friends Marinetti, Boccioni, Carrà, Balla, Soffici, Papini, and Cavacchioli, there came to my mind the idea of a new art, one that only you can create: the Art of Noises, a logical consequence of your marvelous innovations.
    • Lead paragraph
  • In older times life was completely silent. In the nineteenth century, with the invention of machines, Noise was born. Today, Noise is triumphant and reigns supreme over the sensibility of men.
  • This evolution of music is parallel to the multiplication of machines, which everywhere are collaborating with man. Not only amid the clamor of the metropolis, but also in the countryside, which until yesterday was normally silent, in our time the machine has created such a variety and such combinations of noises that pure sound, in its slightness and monotony, no longer arouses any feeling.
  • Musical sound, on the other hand, is too limited in its qualitative variety of timbres.
  • Every manifestation of life is accompanied by noise. Noise is therefore familiar to our ears and has the power of immediately reminding us of life itself.
  • The variety of noises is infinite. If today, when we have perhaps a thousand different machines, we can distinguish a thousand different noises, tomorrow, as new machines multiply, we will be able to distinguish ten, twenty, or thirty thousand different noises, not merely in a simply imitative way, but to combine them according to our imagination.

Quotes about Luigi Russolo[edit]

  • Boccioni, Russolo and I all met in the Porta Vittoria café (in Milan, Italy, ed.), close to where we all lived, and we enthusiastically outlined a draft of our appeal (the Manifesto of Futurist Painters, late February, 1910, ed.). The final version was somewhat laborious; we worked on it all day, all three of us and finished it that evening with Marinetti and the help of Decio Cinti, the group’s secretary.
    • Quote of Carlo Carrà in: Éclat de choses ordinaries Carrà, (1913), as quoted in Futurism, Didier Ottinger (ed.), 2008, p. 27
    • the painters Bonzagni and Romani signed this famous Manifesto version too, but withdraw soon; they were replaced by Giacomo Balla and Gino Severini
  • Musicas-machinery-noise and urban-sound-as-music received their first notable currency among the Italian Futurists in the immediate prewar years. Balilla Pratella and his “ideologist” Luigi Russolo yearned for a music that not only celebrated the city in some programmatic way but that reproduced it.
    • Richard Stites (1988) Revolutionary Dreams: : Utopian Vision and Experimental Life in the Russian Revolution. p. 178
  • Luigi Russolo (1885–1947)—painter, composer, builder of musical instruments, and first-hour member of the Italian Futurist movement—was a crucial figure in the evolution of twentieth-century aesthetics. As creator of the first systematic poetics of noise and inventor of what has been considered the first mechanical sound synthesizer, Russolo looms large in the development of twentieth-century music.
    • Chessa, Luciano. Luigi Russolo, Futurist: Noise, Visual Arts, and the Occult. Univ of California Press, 2012.

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