Russolo, Luigi (1885–1947) By Curtin, Adrian
Luigi Russolo (b. Portogruaro, 1885–1947) was a painter, inventor, and musician. He was an Italian Futurist who responded to Filippo Marinetti’s call to revolutionize art and embrace the dynamism and affective power of modernity. Russolo, following Francesco Pratella, developed futurist music by working to transform worldly noise and make it musically meaningful. In his 1913 manifesto L’arte dei rumori (The Art of Noises), Russolo argued that the sounds offered by a symphony orchestra were a poor match for the acoustic force and timbral complexities of a modern city. He proposed to transform noise using newly invented instruments, aestheticizing and spiritualizing it in the process. Russolo devised a system of enharmonic notation, and, with the help of the painter Ugo Piatti, constructed the intonarumori (noise intoners) that were to constitute the new futurist orchestra.
Russolo intended audiences to recognize the aesthetic value of noise when specially composed and presented in a performance context. Alas, audiences, on the whole, seem to have been more nonplussed than impressed with Russolo’s music; they frequently made competing noise of their own.