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Hugh Davies: The Sound World, Instruments and Music of Luigi Russolo. 1994

Texts on improvised and experimental music from Resonance magazine

Hugh Davies: The Sound WEorld, Instruments and Music of Luigi Russolo. The Expanding Medium.
Lmc, Volume 2 Number 2 1994

It is from my perspective as a composer and inventor of new instruments that I began in the late 1970s to study in greater detail the limited information that has survived about Luigi Russolo's musical work. During these researches I also participated in the preparation of a radio programme for the BBC on the subject of the 12 performances given by Russolo at the Coliseum in London in June 1914; we discovered several new items of information, including magazine photographs that had up to then never been reproduced in any research on the Futurists, even by Italian specialists, one of which illustrated one of the four short articles I wrote on Russolo's noise instruments in The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments (1984).

In this text I do not intend to talk about either Russolo's ideology or his psychological motivations. Neither can one say very much about his own music, because so little of it still exists. Instead I will try to extract various new perspectives based on accurate information, mainly from texts written by Russolo himself, and to assess his musical contribution in the context of the large number of instruments invented in this century, from the electric guitar to the latest digital synthesizer, from Harry Partch and John Cage's prepared piano to the Structures sonores of the Baschet brothers and the sound sculptures of Jean Tinguely and Takis. From the musical point of view there is quite a large gap between the basic instrumental principle used in Russolo's noise instruments ('intonarumori') and the general usage of noise by the Futurists, such as the noise costume of Depero and even the noise modification of aeroplane engines undertaken by Russolo for the Futurist Aerial Theatre of Fedele Azari. And I stress the use of the word "instrument", which Russolo himself always used, because the intonarumori were no more "machines" (an inaccurate description that some people still continue to use) than is the piano.

Interest in Russolo's musical contribution has considerably increased since the beginning of the 1950s, mostly among people who have done no research, have not heard his music or read his writings. Many writers have claimed that the development of electronic music and musique concrète in the second half of the 20th century has been the natural successor of Russolo's work. Pierre Schaeffer's musique concrète came into being in 1948 with his Concert de Bruits, influenced by a personal interpretation of how Russolo's noise music might have sounded. But the first French translation (by Maurice Lemaître) of Russolo's manifesto The Art of Noises only appeared in 1954, and it was not until 1957 that the only surviving sounds of Russolo's instruments - in the form of an old pre-electric gramophone recording (from around 1921) of two works combining intonarumori and traditional instruments by Russolo's brother Antonio - came into the hands of interested musicians. Only in Pierre Henry's Futuristie (1974) did the composer start from a knowledgeable basis: in this he recreated elements of a theatrical Futurist soirée, but the boxes on stage that resembled those of Russolo's intonarumori only contained loudspeakers for the replay of tape music. Similar inspirations from lack of knowledge can be found in recent rock music, where, apart from 'industrial' music there is a group called The Art of Noise, noise music has been created in homage to Russolo (including by the group Nurse with Wound) and - in the same vein - a record label is called ZTT (named after Marinetti's poem "Zang Tumb Tumb"). Only one person today seems to have constructed and played on new instruments that are similar to the intonarumori, the American painter Bob Bates, who does not mention Russolo and is perhaps unaware of the connection with him. I myself in complete ignorance reinvented his enharmonic bow around 1970. It is thus increasingly important to be able to establish the reality of Russolo's musical activities.

The situation of Russolo as a musician is very different from that of Russolo as a painter and of the other principal Futurists: very little of his work has survived, because the original sound of his instruments, the only thing that is truly important, no longer exists. Yet his reputation has survived longer than that of the musicians who were members of such artistic groups in the first three decades of this century. Although the composer Francesco Balilla Pratella was a trained musician, not even in the period when he was a Futurist did he make a contribution to the renewal of the contemporary musical language that was comparable to that of Russolo or of the other pioneering composers around the time of the First World War - Stravinsky (in the Rite of Spring), Schoenberg, Bartók, Ives, Varèse or, in Italy, Alfredo Casella. Apart from Pratella little of lasting value was contributed by the handful of other Futurist musicians who were active in the 1920s, such as Franco Casavola, Nuccio Fiorda, Aldo Giuntini and Luigi Grandi; only Silvio Mix showed greater promise before he died at the age of 22. The only other Futurist musical events that still attract our interest today are the series of city-wide environmental performances, using actual noise sources such as factory sirens, steam whistles, ships' foghorns and artillery, that were organised by Russian Futurists between 1918 and 1924 with titles such as "Hooter Symphony" (Symfonia gudkov, 1922, by Arseny Avraamov). As far as other artistic groups in this period are concerned, the very names of the small group of musicians who were Dadaists (such as Hans Heusser in Zürich) and Surrealists are almost entirely forgotten; they primarily wrote short piano pieces. Even the Dada performances in Berlin from 1919 by the composer and painter Jef Golyscheff using everyday objects such as kitchen implements remain as mere footnotes. Paradoxically the few musical works that truly express Dadaist and Futurist ideas were produced by painters: Duchamp, Schwitters and Russolo. It was only in the l960s, with artistic movements such as Fluxus and (in Spain) Zaj, that music again achieved a major role; the musicians and other members of these groups created musical actions (with, about and against music and musical instruments), and Joe Jones (of Fluxus), like Russolo, returned to basic elements by constructing a whole series of new instruments.

How did Russolo turn from being an interesting painter to a musical innovator? He came from a musical family; his father was a clockmaker and the local church organist, and his two elder brothers became professional musicians. Luigi himself learnt to play the piano and violin, but at the age of sixteen decided to devote himself to painting. The flash of inspiration that led him into music came in 1913, apparently during the performance of an orchestral composition by Pratella titled no less than Musica futurista. Perhaps, just as some musicians (including myself) have some of their best ideas in the concert hall when listening to music that bores them, Russolo felt that if this was typical Futurist music, he could do better. In spite of statements in his manifestos about the importance of atonality, polyrhythms and microtones ("enharmonic relationships are magnificent victories of Futurism"), Pratella did not explore them in his music, which sounds to us today little different from that of his Italian contemporaries, while Russolo's creative concerns related much more closely to the noise and bustle of contemporary life that was a central focus in the work of the Futurist writers and painters.

It is clear that in his role of inventor Russolo became concerned with very practical constructional features, the laws of acoustics and the specific qualities of the materials he was working with. The proof can be found in his writings: he normally has the Futurist tendency (albeit reduced) to exaggerate his successes, but as soon as he is describing his instruments he is always very precise. In addition, virtually alone among his most prominent Futurist colleagues, Russolo needed to have his work interpreted by non-Futurists, in other words by musicians with a traditional training. In practice he was virtually forced to escape from Futurist ideology in order to create a truly Futurist music!

In order to assess Russolo's contribution as an instrument inventor, we must imagine ourselves at the beginning of this century. How would it have been it possible then to invent an instrument that was really new? All the basic principles of instruments were discovered in prehistoric times - thus no completely new principle could have been invented so late in human experience. Except one: electricity. In 1913, when Russolo constructed his first intonarumori, electrical technology was not sufficiently advanced to have enabled an expert to build even one reliably functioning electronic instrument either as quickly or with as substantial a range of musical expression. Indeed during this period several engineers worked for ten years before they obtained musically satisfactory results, which (with the exception of the theremin) they did not achieve until after 1925, when the combination of electrical amplifier and loudspeaker was perfected. Following this, up to the end of that decade the electronic instruments invented in France alone (primarily in Paris, where Russolo was then living) included the Ondes Martenot and at least eight other monophonic instruments and electronic organs.

Thus this direction would not have been open to Russolo in 1913. He was forced to remain in the field of acoustic instruments, and found a method that others have done subsequently, one that ensures that the result will be radically different from orchestral instruments - that of adapting the principle of what is primarily a folk instrument and has not been subjected to the type of technical improvements that have been made to our orchestral instruments during the last couple of hundred years. The instruments that have been most commonly used as such a basis in recent years, whether consciously or unconsciously, are the bagpipes, the "nail violin" and the hurdy-gurdy. Russolo selected this latter principle, which continues to be popular in French folk music under the name "vielle", and also occurs in older, almost forgotten instruments, such as the "organistrum", the "lira organizzata" and (from Leonardo da Vinci) the "viola organista". Among the available possibilities it was the most appropriate principle for his aims, because it was susceptible of producing several families of intonarumori, each with a reasonably wide range of pitches.

The traditional hurdy-gurdy somewhat resembles the violin, with the bow replaced by a wheel that is turned by means of a crank handle; the wheel's rosined rim rubs the strings as if it was a bow. For pitch variations the player does not alter the position of the fingers of the left hand on the strings, but uses a small keyboard to achieve the same result of varying the vibrating length of the string. In Russolo's intonarumori, concealed inside boxes painted in bright colours such as yellow, green and red, the mechanism for altering pitch was operated by a lever on top (or on one side) of the box, reducing or increasing the tension of a single horizontally-mounted string as well as its vibrating length by sliding a bridge along it, thus allowing the use of glissandi and of intervals smaller than a semitone. One end of the string was fixed to the middle of a diaphragm (which for simplicity I will call the "drumskin") stretched inside a cylindrical frame that closely resembles - and may actually have been - a medium-sized drum, on the other side of which a diffusion horn, clearly visible in photos, was mounted. Russolo and his assistant Ugo Piatti researched all the aspects that could be varied in order to obtain different timbres, sonorities and scales; for example. the string was either steel or gut, the wheel either metal or wood, with its rim either covered in rosin or (for pizzicato) notched with small teeth, and the skins were soaked in a variety of special chemical preparations. Furthermore, the pressure of the wheel against the string, stronger than is necessary with a violin bow, created a louder and noisier sound quality.

Several other variants were more radical. In the Crackler (Crepitatore) and Scraper or Rubber (Stroppiciatore) a second string was attached to the main one, at a rightangle to it, so that the string that was bowed was a different one from that fixed to the drumskin. More radical was the Hummer (Ronzatore), which was in effect more a percussion than a string instrument. A photograph shows a suspended weighted rod resembling a percussion stick which struck the string, as well as a fitting mounted close to or against the drumskin that could be applied to it in order to vary its tension. Both of these were activated by an electrical control rather than by a crank handle; the former may have been due to the need for a speed that was too rapid to have been achieved manually, and/or to the fact that the precise (and in this case unwanted) regularity of the electrical operation would probably have been interrupted and modified as a result of the complexity of its movements in hitting the string; this irregularity is a feature of many recent sound sculptures that involve regularly functioning electrical devices (especially motors), as in the work of Jean Tinguely, Takis, Max Eastley and others. One mechanism that was not explained by Russolo (apart from the fact that the horizontal string was present) is a supplementary lever for adding another timbre, which was used in the Burster (Scoppiatore), Whistler (Sibilatore) and the Gurgler (Gorgogliatore); in the latter at least it probably brought into play an object that resonated against either the string or (as with side drum snares) the drumskin in a manner similar to that of the percussion sticks in the Rumbler (but passively), producing what Russolo called a "curious rhythm".

Because far more of Russolo's writings survive than of any of his creative musical activities, it is appropriate to provide a brief survey of what is, comparatively speaking (due to small, specialist publishers), the most easily available current documentation. Russolo's 1916 book L'arte dei rumori (incorporating his 1913 manifesto with the same title) has been published in the last 20 years in the original Italian (in G. Franco Maffina's biography Luigi Russolo e l'arte dei rumori, 1978) and in translations into French (with an introduction by Giovanni Lista, as Luigi Russolo: L'art des bruits, 1975) and English (with an introduction by Barclay Brown, as Luigi Russolo: The Art of Noises, 1986). Both Maffina and Lista include other texts by Russolo (between them including virtually everything that he wrote of relevance to his instruments, including letters and several previously unpublished documents), including respectively French texts translated into Italian and Italian texts translated into French; Brown's introduction is a substantially revised version of an article published in Perspectives of New Music in 1981. Maffina is the founder and director of the Fondazione Russolo-Pratella in Varese, Italy (which among other things has commissioned reconstructions of several of the intonarumori, and holds an annual competition for composers of electroacoustic music under 35 years of age), while Lista is an Italian specialist on Futurism who lives in Paris. Brown, an American musicologist, has reconstructed four of the intonarumori.

Because of his experience and musical background, it is worth studying Brown's detailed introduction carefully. Unfortunately he makes several claims or guesses that either cannot be substantiated or result from a misunderstanding of texts in Italian or French. Perhaps the most serious of these is his claim that bellows were used in the Whistler. This is based on two documents: firstly the statement in an anonymous report in the Pall Mall Gazette (thus probably not from its regular critic Edwin Evans, a friend of Stravinsky) of November 18th 1913, that the intonarumori contained "drum skins, wooden discs, brass plates or bagpipes" [my italics; how can brass plates be an alternative to bagpipes (presumably meaning bellows)?]. The second document is Russolo's patent for telescopic organ-like pipes (this dates from 1921 and not 1920, and was taken out not only in France and Germany but also in Italy, where an important supplement was applied for only five weeks later - both reprinted in Maffina's book). In both the patent and the supplement it is clear that these pipes were not sounded by pumping air through them but were resonators for other sound sources, thus having no need for any bellows (significantly none are mentioned in either patent). A diagram in the supplement shows how the tuning lever of the intonarumori could also serve to extend or contract two concentric cylinders mounted (instead of the diffusion horn) in front of the drumskin in such a manner that for any pitch the length of this tube would resonate at the same frequency. If bellows had been involved, one would have expected to find a mention of the pumping or pedalling effort needed for this in Russolo's letters or writings or other contemporaneous reports; indeed bellows are one of two or three possible methods of operating the four models of the Rumorarmonio that he built in the 1920s, since with a single performer at a keyboard it was clearly essential to replace the crank handles by harmonium-like pedals.

Other inaccuracies in Brown's introduction include: in the winter of 1922-23 the management of the National Theatre in Prague commissioned Piatti to build more intonarumori after he had already built a dozen of them in the theatre's workshop (since Russolo's own instruments were unavailable) for use in Pratella's music for a play by Marinetti; in Thiene in the early 1920s Russolo was involved not in constructing a funicular railway but in dismantling one (thus probably supplying him with some materials for his second rumorarmonio); he did not have to rebuild the rumorarmonio that he played in Paris in May 1927 so much as repair it (the customs had cut some of the internal connecting strings!); neither Russolo nor any of his colleagues say anywhere that a couple of the intonarumori, such as the Hummer, included an electric motor (he could equally well have used a solenoid or, more likely, an induction coil - which was so common and easy to use that it could be bought in toy shops as early as the 1880s - for producing a rapid alternating movement back and forth rather than a motor's circular one); the "spring-like wires" that vibrate against the drumskin in the Gurgler seem to be very similar to side-drum snares; in the letter sent to Brown by Jean (not Henri) Painlevé at the beginning of 1975, which almost certainly contained or consisted of the text printed in Lista's book published in the same year, a particular noise timbre was not "produced by 'cardboard cylinders'" but was resonated by them, and - unlike the third model - the fourth rumorarmonio was not played by levers but on a normal keyboard ("touches comme avec un piano"; in French touches refers to piano or organ keys); all the texts and most of the letters that Brown quotes in his footnotes as unpublished were included in Maffina's book.

In my own researches I have attempted to establish the exact number and chronology of instruments that Russolo constructed in each of the ten families of his intonarumori; the detailed results of this work will be published at a later date. During the first presentation of a Burster in Modena Russolo announced that three other intonarumori (a Crackler, a Hummer and a Scraper were nearly finished; only two months later at Marinetti's home the first versions of four compositions by Russolo were performed by an ensemble of intonarumori which then consisted of fifteen or sixteen instruments in eight families. Up to the appearance in Lacerba in March 1914 of an extract from the score of one of these works - the only seven bars of his music that have survived - he only added two or three further instruments without introducing any new families. In most of these families he constructed up to three instruments, each with a different pitch range: high, middle and low. Other families were abandoned, especially that of a Thunderer (Tuonatore), which seems to have been included in the original performance of his noise ensemble. With this ensemble Russolo gave presentations between April and June 1914 in Milan, Genoa and London, just before the outbreak of the First World War, which prevented him from continuing a tour planned for other cities in Britain and Ireland, followed by Vienna, Moscow, Petrograd, Berlin and Paris.

After the interruption of the war, in which Russolo was seriously wounded, he created two further families, of which one, the Croaker (Gracidatore) was for a while considered by Maurice Ravel for inclusion in his opera L'enfant et les sortilèges [this is the first opportunity I have had to point out in print that an editorial revision of my original text of the present article, which I did not see before publication, gives the false impression that Ravel did include this instrument]. During the 1920s Russolo constructed a series of four versions of the Noise Harmonium (Rumorarmonio, occasionally also called Psofarmonio or Russolofono), each of which was a keyboard instrument (resembling a harmonium) that contained different combinations of the families of intonarumori. Towards the end of the decade he moved to Paris, where in addition to incidental music for theatrical productions he produced soundtracks for several (mostly silent) films between 1928 and 1931. In this period the interest of the composers Varèse and Honegger, just as with Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Ravel a few years before, did not lead to the inclusion of any of Russolo's intonarumori in their works (at the beginning of the 1930s the three French (and Swiss) composers did use new electronic instruments, especially the Ondes Martenot, in their music, although Ravel, already very ill, could only sanction this in arrangements of earlier compositions).

In 1923 and in 1931 Russolo invented two further instruments, the enharmonic bow (arco enarmonico) and the enharmonic piano (piano enarmonico). The enharmonic bow, used with traditional instruments like the violin and cello, developed the principle of the string rubbed by a notched or toothed wheel that he had introduced in the Crackler and the Roarer (Rombatore) by tightly winding a thin steel wire spirally around a wooden rod; the cross-section of parallel grooves created a similar exaggeration of the normal friction effect that the rosined hairs of a bow have on a string. This principle was reversed in the enharmonic piano, in which stretched (spiral) springs were rubbed by a type of continuous bow that resembled an endless moving drive-belt; a small seven-note demonstration model of this is the only one of Russolo's instruments that has survived. However, a number of reconstructions have been made of Russolo's intonarumori, based on his writings, patents, reports by colleagues and a handful of surviving photographs. Given the lack of precise details of such things as the gauge of the strings, the chemicals with which the drumskins were treated and the depth, shape and spacing of the protrusions on the toothed wheels, and in some cases of the precise mechanism involved, these can only be partly accurate. Altogether around twenty-one reconstructions have been built in the last twenty years, in Italy, Germany, the United States and - a single instrument - France, by coincidence including all the ten families of intonarumori (perhaps one day a complete ensemble could be assembled, although when the six German reconstructions were requested for a concert during the conference for which this article was originally written, they had been mislaid!).

Any newly invented instrument is less flexible than one that has been improved by the contributions (often only for one small part of it) of many different people - instrument builders, performers and even, as a result of their musical demands, composers - over the last one or more centuries. The person who understands its potential best is its inventor, who is often not a trained musician. Just as many excellent musicians in jazz, rock and folk music, and a few composers of electronic music, are similarly untrained, it has become increasingly possible for an instrument inventor to become a performer on his or her instruments or a composer for them. Russolo realised that the qualities of his invented instruments were inappropriate for solo performance in a mixed chamber ensemble and were better suited to larger ensembles; because he was also less able to impose on them the preconceived ideas of a trained composer, he took the first steps towards creating a music that let his instruments "speak for themselves".

The most difficult aspect of the invention of new musical instruments is that of their acceptability in a wider musical field. The performance technique of such a new instrument must be easy for trained musicians to adapt to, and the instrument must in some way fulfil a need in current music. In the late 1930s the Hammond organ very quickly became successful on two fronts: not only was it an improvement on the harmonium for churches that could not afford a pipe organ, but it was also ideally suited to the new staccato style of jazz keyboard players. Another element (at least in previous centuries) which is surprisingly less significant, is that of an instrument's repertoire; not even the many trios and other works by Haydn that included the 'baryton', nor a composition by Mozart featuring the 'glass harmonica' helped them to become established, nor did a sonata by Schubert do any better for the 'arpeggione', while the inclusion of the ophicleide in 19th century orchestral works by Berlioz, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Verdi and Wagner or the Wagner tuba in works by himself, Bartók, Bruckner, Schoenberg, Strauss and Stravinsky did not convert them into regular members of the symphony orchestra; these instruments are sufficiently similar in range, timbre and performance technique to have been replaceable when necessary by more familiar ones. To ensure the survival of a new instrument it seems to take a major work of the stature of Olivier Messiaen's Turangalîla-Symphony, which prominently features the Ondes Martenot and gains an important and irreplaceable element from that instrument's unique timbre.

In the case of Russolo's instruments, sufficient works were composed by himself, his brother Antonio (who was not a Futurist) and in the 1920s by Franco Casavola, plus two each by Pratella (including the opera L'aviatore Dro, 1913-14, which included the Hummer and the Burster) and Fiorda, to enable him to present complete concerts in the 1920s either featuring an ensemble of intonarumori or with the rumorarmonio and/or the enharmonic bow together with a violin, cello and piano. Although information is fragmentary, and only a couple of the scores of these works survive, Luigi Russolo composed nearly twenty works (mostly incidental music for theatre and for early films that have not survived), Antonio Russolo about a dozen concert works and Casavola around eight works (half of them music for ballets and theatre productions, usually including the Croaker and the Howler, with half of the strings designated as a separate "enharmonic" group that played glissandi in imitation of the intonarumori). A follow-up to the interest shown by non-Futurist composers, especially Ravel, Stravinsky and Varèse, by incorporating some of the intonarumori in a new composition would have considerably widened their exposure to the musical world and the general public. Yet perhaps Russolo's substantial influence on music in the second half of our century is partly due to the fact that so little has survived either of his own work or of the music composed for his instruments by his brother and his Futurist colleagues!

To conclude I will briefly discuss the dozen performances given at the Coliseum in London by Russolo in June 1914. For this I must thank my colleagues on the BBC Radio 3 programme on the subject, broadcast in February 1984, Andy Mackay (writer, better known as a member of Roxy Music and for his book on electronic music) and Peter Fozzard (producer). for their own researches and discoveries. Marinetti, an enthusiast for a music hall which in reality did not exist, must have been very disappointed by the reactions of the British public to the Futurist contributions in a typical variety programme. The first performance of two works by Russolo was preceded by a spoken introduction (in English) by Marinetti, which was almost unintelligible and very soon also inaudible. Subsequently the performance was limited to a single work, while the public was invited to express themselves (if necessary) only by smiling. Given the expectations aroused by the names of the instruments and the enthusiasm of the Futurists for industrial noise, the relative quietness of the intonarumori in a large space was equally surprising. Here is a witness from 1914, who when interviewed in 1982 was 90 years old: "I don't think it was all that loud, but there were these funny burps and things coming in here and there, like battleships pooping off....".

Stravinsky, however, who went to hear the intonarumori one or two days after his arrival in London for the season of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, and Prokofiev (who came to London just after his 23rd birthday and completing his studies in order to meet Diaghilev, and probably also visited the Coliseum) were sufficiently impressed that both of them were present at an evening of Futurist noise music at Marinetti's house in the spring of 1915. But neither of them went on to include the intonarumori in any composition.

Just as with several other pioneers of new instruments in our century, the technical means that might have ensured the success of their inventions were not yet available. In 1925 it was too late for Russolo to have begun to master the new electrical techniques, and only after 1930 (the time when he abandoned his instruments, partly because of what he saw as their failure and partly through his increasing interest in mystical philosophy) would he have had the choice of two types of special microphone - magnetic and piezoelectric - that could have allowed him to make use of electrical amplification for his instruments and have offered a more refined sonorous sophistication than he had been able to achieve. Some of the intonarumori produced a rather gentle sound which was insufficient for the larger theatres in which they were often performed; Francesco Cangiullo very poetically evokes the sound of the Rustler on the occasion of the 1915 presentation for Diaghilev, Stravinsky, Prokofiev and others (although, writing some 15 years later, he described in the Rustler a family that probably did not yet exist in 1915, since it is not mentioned by Russolo in his 1916 book, nonetheless he cannot have been mistaken in his impression of its sound quality): "A 'Crackler' [Crepitatore] crackles with a thousand sparks, like a fiery torrent ... a 'Rustler' [Frusciatore] rustles like gowns of winter silk, like new leaves in April, like the sea rent by summer...", while in a letter written to Pratella in 1921 Russolo described the Howler (Ululatore) as the most musical of the intonarumori, "soft, velvety and delicate".

The musical style of Russolo was basically no more advanced than that of Pratella and other contemporary Italian composers. Throughout this century many other musicians have in several of their works made use of noise as an important basic element, or even the only one, from Carol-Bérard (Symphonie des forces mécaniques, already in 1908), Erik Satie (Parade, 1917), George Antheil (Ballet mécanique, 1923) and the film-maker Walter Ruttmann (Weekend, 1929; the first surviving recorded collage of everyday sounds - recently rediscovered and now issued on a French CD) to the Imaginary Landscapes (starting in 1939) and Living Room Music (1940) of John Cage, Mikrophonie I (l964) by Karlheinz Stockhausen and in the work of Vivenza and many other musicians more recently. Nevertheless, Russolo's utilisation of noise is more integrated than that of Satie or Antheil a few years later, while the first subsequent concert work scored entirely for unconventional instruments or sound sources did not appear for another fifteen years (Weekend), followed by another gap of ten years before the first such works by Cage.

Rather surprisingly, in view of the almost complete disappearance of his creative musical work, a good idea of what Russolo had begun to achieve in his very first musical efforts can still be obtained from the two different realisations that have been made of the seven surviving bars of his Risveglio di una città; the first was multitracked by Daniele Lombardi from recordings of reconstructed intonarumori (on the Cramps double LP album Musica futurista of 1980, which has not yet been reissued on CD), the second was produced in a comparable manner - using the same recordings of the reconstructions - for the BBC's 1984 programme by the Radiophonic Workshop on a Fairlight II digital synthesizer. These two versions are very contrasted, in tempo, quality of the instrumental sound and in overall balance; I feel that the real, lost sound of Luigi Russolo, much more interesting than the works by his brother Antonio and by Pratella that included several intonarumori, lies somewhere in between these two realisations of this important musical fragment.

This text, published in Resonance Volume 2 Number 2, is a revised and expanded translation of a paper given at a conference in Holland in 1985 and printed under the title "L'univers sonore, les instruments et la musique de Luigi Russolo" in Vitalité et Contradictions de l'Avant-garde: Italie-France 1909-1924 (ed. Sandro Briosi & Henk Hillenaar), José Corti, Paris, 1988.


Francesco Balilla Pratella: L'aviatore Dro [excs.; incl. reconstructed intonarumori]. Musik um den Futurismus, Stasch ST05 [Berlin; LP].

Antonio Russolo: Corale & Serenata. Voce del Padrone 6919 [78 rpm]; reissued on Marinetti e il Futurismo, EMI Italiana 3C 065-17982/A [LP]; Musica futurista, Cramps 5204 002 [also 5206 308-309; 2 LPs]; Dada for Now, ARK Dove 4 [Liverpool; LP]; Futurism & Dada Reviewed, Sub Rosa SUB 33014-19 [Brussels; LP] / SUBCD 012-19 [CD]; Improvised Music & Sound Works, Audio Arts Vol. 4 No. 2 [cassette].

Antonio Russolo: La pioggia [incl. reconstructed intonarumori]. Musik um den Futurismus, Stasch ST05 [Berlin; LP].

Luigi Russolo: Risveglio di una città [exc. multitracked from recordings of reconstructed intonarumori; with demonstrations of 6 reconstructions]. Musica futurista, Cramps 5204 002 [also 5206 308-309; 2 LPs]; Dada for Now, ARK Dove 4 [Liverpool; LP].


Francesco Balilla Pratella: [manifestos]. Michael Kirby: Futurist Performance. E. P. Dutton, New York, 1971; 160-65 / Music since 1900 (ed. Nicolas Slonimsky). Scribner's, New York, 1971 (4th edition); 1294-98 / Futurist Manifestos. (ed. Umbro Apollonio). New York / Thames & Hudson, London, 1973; 31-34, 37-38.

Luigi Russolo: L'arte dei rumori. Milan, 1913 [manifesto; incorporated in 1916 book with the same title]. English translations in The Art of Noise. Something Else, New York, 1967 [booklet] / Michael Kirby: Futurist Performance. E. P. Dutton, New York, 1971; 166-74 / Music since 1900 (ed. Nicolas Slonimsky). Scribner's, New York, 1971 (4th edition); 1298-1302 / Futurist Manifestos. (ed. Umbro Apollonio). Thames & Hudson, London, 1973; 74-76, 85-88 [excs.] / Futurism and Futurisms (ed. Pontus Hulten). Thames & Hudson, London, 1987; 560-62.

Luigi Russolo: L'arte dei rumori. Poesia, Milan, 1916 [book]; reprinted in G. F. Maffina [1978, q.v.]; French translation ed. Giovanni Lista [1975, q.v.]; English translation ed. Barclay Brown [1986, q.v.].

Rosa Trillo Clough: Futurism: the Story of a Modern Art Movement, a New Appraisal. Greenwood Press, New York, 1961; 123-34, 260-67.

John C. G. Waterhouse: 'A Futurist Mystery'. Music and Musicians 15/8 (April 1967); 26-30.

Michael Kirby: Futurist Performance. E. P. Dutton, New York, 1971; 33-40, 160-78, 187-95 [incl. English translation of manifestos and texts].

John C. G. Waterhouse: 'Futurist Music in Historical Perspective'. Futurismo 1909-1919: Exhibition of Italian Futurism, Northern Arts, Newcastle upon Tyne/Scottish Arts Council, Edinburgh, 1972; 93-104 [exhibition catalogue].

Giovanni Lista: Futurisme [also Futuristie]: manifestes, documents, proclamations. L'Age d'Homme, Lausanne, 1973; 305-24, 425-27 [French translation or reprints of manifestos, texts and reviews].

Luigi Russolo: L'art des bruits. L'Age d'Homme, Lausanne, 1975 [French translation of L'arte dei rumori (1916) and other texts, with introduction by Giovanni Lista: 'Russolo, peinture et bruitisme'].

Rodney J. Payton: 'The Music of Futurism: Concerts and Polemics'. Musical Quarterly, 62/1 (Jan. 1976); 25-45.

Caroline Tisdall & Angelo Bozzolla: Futurism. Thames & Hudson, London, 1977 / New York, 1978; 14, 55-57, 104-05, 111-19.

G. F. Maffina: Luigi Russolo e l'arte dei rumori. Martano, Turin, 1978 [incl. reprint of L'arte dei rumori (1916) and other texts].

Daniele Lombardi & Luigi Rognoni: [sleeve notes for gramophone record (in Italian and English)]. Musica Futurista (Cramps Records 5204 002 [2 LPs]), 1980.

Susan Wilson: Futurism and Futurists in London [unpublished dissertation, University of Edinburgh, 1980].

Barclay Brown: 'The Noise Instruments of Luigi Russolo'. Perspectives of New Music 20/1-2 (Fall-Winter 1981); 31-48.

Stanley Sadie (ed.): The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Macmillan, London, 1980:

John C.G. Waterhouse: 'Franco Casavola'; vol.3, 850-51.

John C.G. Waterhouse: 'Futurism'; vol.7, 41-43.

John C.G. Waterhouse: 'Francesco Balilla Pratella'; vol.15, 202.

John C.G. Waterhouse: 'Luigi Russolo'; vol. 16, 347-48 [rev. in The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments (1984)].

Daniele Lombardi: 'Futurism and Musical Notes'. Artforum (Jan. 1981); 43-49.

Stanley Sadie (ed.): The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments. Macmillan, London, 1984:

Hugh Davies: 'Arco enarmonico'; vol.1, 71.

Hugh Davies: 'Intonarumori'; vol.2, 312-13.

Hugh Davies: 'Piano enarmonico'; vol.3, 71.

Hugh Davies: 'Rumorarmonio'; vol.3, 277.

John C. G. Waterhouse: 'Luigi Russolo'; vol.3, 278-79.

Andrew Mackay: The Noisemaker: Luigi Russolo and his Grand Futurist Concert of Noises. BBC, London (unpublished script broadcast on 22 February 1984, Radio 3).

Luigi Russolo: The Art of Noises. Pendragon Press, New York, 1986 [English translation of L'arte dei rumori (1916) with introduction by Barclay Brown].

Pontus Hulten (ed.): Futurism and Futurisms. Thames & Hudson, London, 1987; translation of Futurismo [exhibition catalogue]. Fabbri, Milan, 1986:

Ester Coen: 'Nuccio Giuseppe Fiorda', 477.

Franco Maffina: 'Franco Casavola', 444.

Franco Maffina: 'Enharmonic Bow', 471.

Franco Maffina: 'Enharmonic Notation', 471.

Franco Maffina: 'Enharmonic Piano', 472.

Franco Maffina: 'Intonarumori', 492-93.

Franco Maffina: 'Music', 525-27.

Franco Maffina: 'Ugo Piatti', 539.

Franco Maffina: 'Francesco Balilla Pratella', 544-45.

Franco Maffina: 'Luigi Russolo', 558-62.

Mark A. Radice: 'Futurismo: Its Origins, Context, Repertory, and Influence'. Musical Quarterly, 73/1 (Jan. 1989); 1-17.