by Scholes, Robert
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Luigi Russolo (1885 - 1947)
It was Russolo's belief that noise was the sound of music for the new century. In his manifesto Art of Noises (1913), he wrote, "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 sensibilities of men." He further believed that rhythm and pitch selection had been determined at an early point in man's history and the complex components such as polyphony were man's ways of adding progress to music. It was because music had reached such a great complexity, he concluded that the incorporation of noise as part of the musical language was the next logical step. He further wrote,
we must break out of this narrow circle of pure musical sounds, and conquer the infinite variety of noise sounds...Let us wander through a great modern city with our ears more alert than our eyes, and enjoy distinguishing between the sounds of water, air, or gas in metal pipes, the purring of motors ) which breathe and pulsate with indisputable animalism), the throbbing of valves, the pounding of pistons, the screeching of gears, the clatter of streetcars on their rails, the cracking of whips, the flapping of awnings and flags. We shall enjoy fabricating the mental orchestrations of the banging of store shutters, the slamming of doors, the hustle and bustle of crowds, the din of railroad stations, foundries, spinning mills, printing presses, electric power stations, and underground railways.
The instruments and music created by Russollo, although not electronic, played a revolutionary role in the incorporation of noise and environmental sound into modern music and were a primary source of inspiration for many composers including Edgard Varèse, John Cage and Pierre Schaefer amongst others. Russolo's attempts to put the Futurists theories on music and art into practice brought about some of the most extraordinary musical experiments in pre-war Europe: the noise intoners or "intonorumori."
In The New Age(NA ), Huntly Carter described one of Russolo's paintings (spelling his name incorrectly):
No one can misunderstand the meaning of Russala's "La Révolte." Its burning red mass of revolutionaries, its vital greens and blues and yellows, its wide-spreading shattering lines, and the small spot in advance of the crowd like a bomb thrown, all this speaks for itself.