The Art of Noise

(futurist manifesto, 1913)
by Luigi Russolo translated by Robert Filliou

1967 A Great Bear Pamphlet

ubuclassics
2004

THE ART OF NOISE LUIGI RUSSOLO ubuclassics 2004 .

ubuclassics www.ubu.com 3 .com Series Editor: Michael Tencer ubu.ubuclassics The Art of Noise Luigi Russolo Originally published in 1967 as a Great Bear Pamphlet by Something Else Press.

life went on silently. Today noise reigns supreme over human sensibility. nature is normally silent. sequence of your marvelous innovations. avalanches. This is why man was thoroughly . or mutedly. hurricanes. For several centuries. In fact. during our bloody victory over four thousand passé-ists great futurist musician. when suddenly my intuitive mind conceived a new art that only your genius can create: the Art of Noises. The loudest noises were neither intense. In antiquity. except for storms. we were fist-and-cane-fighting in defense of your On March 9.The Art of Noise (translated from L’arte dei Rumori) My dear Balilla Pratella in the Costanzi Theater of Rome. with the advent of machinery. nor prolonged nor varied. casamazed by the first sounds he obtained out of a hole in reeds or a stretched string. logical conNoise was really not born before the 19th century. 4 4 cades and some exceptional telluric movements. Futurist Music. life was nothing but silence. 1913. performed by a powerful orchestra.

and reserved for the priests. plex polyphony and a greater variety of instrumental tones and coloring. paralleled by the increasing proliferation of machinery sharing in human tryside. now fails to arouse any emotion. strangest and most dissonant amalgams of sound. a fantastic world was bound to slow down the progress of music. The need for and the search for the simultaneous union of different sounds (that is to say of its complex. came gradually: the assonant comup with the persistent and complicated dissonances of contemporary music. It became surrounded with a new mystery. The Greeks. It has tried To excite our sensibility. musical art looked for the soft and limpid purity of sound. intent upon caressing the ear with suave harmonies. Thus was developed the conception of sound as something apart. music has developed into a search for a more com- ubu. the chord). an inviolable and sacred world. to end it amalgamated different sounds. have only in its unfolding through time. a narrow conception so persistent that we still find exist. thus preparing the ground 5 5 .the art of noise luigi russolo ubuclassics with religious respect. In the Middle Ages music did progress through the development and modifications of the Greek tetracord system. the development of the different parts was not subordinated to the chord that it in the very complex polyphonies of the Flemish composers. with their musical theory mathematically determined by limited the domain of music until now and made almost impossible the harmony they were unaware of. The result of this was music. machines create today such a large number of varied noises that pure sound. This revolution of music is First of all. according to which only some consonant intervals were admitted. but merely horizontal. mon chord was followed by chords enriched with some random dissonances. so the other arts forged ahead and superimposed upon reality. In the pounding atmosphere of great cities as well as in the formerly silent counwith its littleness and its monotony. Then labor. the conception of these parts was not vertical. Thus we are approaching noise-sound. But people kept considering sound Pythagoras. This hieratic atmosphere bypassed it. who thereby enriched their rites Primitive people attributed to sound a divine origin. The chord did not yet these parts could produce together. different from and independent of life.com to obtain the most complex succession of dissonant chords. Nowadays musical art aims at the shrilliest.

the first bar is dripping with boredom stemming from familiarity. wooden wind instruments. ubuclassics predisposing the auditor to boredom. in spite of all the efforts of innovating com- Each sound carries with it a nucleus of foreknown and foregone sensations posers. We must break at all cost from this restrictive circle of pure instruments. The most complicated orchestra can be reduced to four or five categories of sensations. See. But our ears far from being satisfied. This is why we get infinitely more pleasure imagining combinations of the sounds of trolleys. This evolution toward noise-sound is only possible today. than listening once more. and we sip from bar to bar two or three sorts of boredom and keep waiting for the extraorgives you a foretaste of the boredom that will drip from the next bar. rich in all sorts of noises. pinched string instruments. autos and other vehicles. In this fashion ubu. musical sound is too restricted in the variety and the quality of instruments with different sound tones: rubbed string instruments. thing more ridiculous in the world than twenty men slaving to increase the we visit one of them together? Let’s go inside one of these hospitals for anemic sounds. and loud symphonies. However. metallic wind instruments. to the heroic or pastoral modern orchestra represents without concluding that the acoustic results are pitiful. Shall plaintive meeowing of violins? This plain talk will make all music maniacs jump in 6 6 . crowds. and percussion ety of tones.com their seats. Is It is hardly possible to consider the enormous mobilization of energy that a there any. All of us have liked and enjoyed the harmonies of the great masters. keep asking for bigger acoustic its tones. for instance. Now we are fed up with them. For years. Beethoven and Wagner have deliciously shaken our hearts. on the other hand our ears rejoice in it.the art of noise luigi russolo for Musical Noise. The ear of an eighteenth century man never could have withstood the discordant intensity of some of the chords produced by our orchestras (whose performers are three times as numerous). which will stir up a bit the somnolent atmosphere of concert halls. for they are attuned to modern life. Music marks time in this small circle and vainly tries to create a new varisounds and conquer the infinite variety of noise-sounds.

POUAH! musical reality finally by distributing big loud slaps right and left. And we must not forget the very new noises of Modern Warfare. I will mention thunder. To convince you of the surprising variety of noises.the art of noise luigi russolo dinary sensation that will never materialize. for I can’t repress much longer the intense desire to create a true ing over violins and pianos. echoes. stepping and push- is futile. and we will vary the pleasures of our sensibilities by distinguishing Let’s walk together through a great modern capital. bassoons and moaning organs! Let’s go out! time. Meanwhile we witness the brewing of a ubuclassics heartrending mixture composed of the monotony of the sensations and the stupid and religious swooning of the audience. The objection pleasant sensations. with the ear more atten- among the gurglings of water. to enumerate all the delicate noises that give Some will object that noise is necessarily unpleasant to the ear. The poet 1 2 3 4 5 seconds the siege canons gut the silence by a chord- Tamtoumb! Immediately echoes. all the noises made by feline and domestic animals and all those man’s mouth can tive than the eye. make without talking or singing. printing houses. the hubbub of the crowds. wind. the tlings of engines breathing with obvious animal spirits. in a letter from the Bulgarian trenches of Ariadnople described to me as follows. streams. iron foundries. drunk on experiencing for the thousandth Let’s get out quickly.com . textile mills. in his new futurist style. the stridency of mechanical saws. the rumblings and rattons. the orchestra of a great battle: tion of department stores’ sliding doors. the rising and falling of pis- snapping of whips. with almost Bhuddist patience. the starts and jumps of a carriage on the pavement. the different roars subways. We will have fun imagining our orchestra- of railroad stations. cascades. with elegant and fashionable ecstasy. the whipping of flags. all echoes-quick! take-it-crumble it-spread it-infinite distance to hell. a horse trotting away. In the center. and I don’t intend to refute it. air and gas inside metallic pipes. center of these flattened TAMTOUMBS-width 50 square kilometers-leap 2 3 6 8 splinters-fisticuffs-headrammings-rapid fire 7 7 ubu. leaves. rivers. echoes. power plants and Marinetti. the loud jumping of trolleys on their rails. the white solemn breathing of a city at night.

regularity. pendulum game. ferocity.com tiny noises revomit them precise them out of their echoing rows loggias groundfloor boxes 2.000 shrapnels gesticulation 8 8 .the art of noise luigi russolo this grave bass apparent slowness-scan the strange madmen Fury anguish breathless ears My ears open nasals! beware! such joy is yours o my people to sense see ear scent drink batteries Violence. fatality- ubuclassics very young-very mad mad mad-very agitated altos of the battle everything everything everything taratatatatata the machinecudgellings whippings pic pac POUMTOUMB juggling guns shouting twisting under a thousand bites slaps traaktraak clowns’ jump in full sky height 200 meters it’s the gunshoot- ing Downwards guffaws of swamps laughter buffalos chariots stings prancing of horses ammunition-wagons flue flac zang chaak chaak rearings pirouettes patatraak bespatterings manesneighings i i i i i i i medley tinklings three bulgarian batallions o Karvavena officers’ shouts copper plates knocking against here there there farther all around very high look-out godon the move crook.craak (double bar slowly) Choumi Maritza each other pam ici (vite) pac over there BOUM-pam-pam-pam damnit on the head chaak marvelous! flames flames flames flames flames flames flames crawl from forts over there Choukri Pacha telephone orders to 27 forts roles blowing-echoes odor-hay-mud-manure I can’t feel my in turkish German hello Ibrahim! Rudolf hello! hello! actors frozen feet stale odor rotting gongs flutes clarinets pipes everycip ip-zzip herds pastures dong-dong-dong-ding-bééé Orchestra playing playing playing Great fracas far from erasing drink Madmen keep hitting orchestra professors they bent beaten where up down birds twitter beatitude shade greenness cip- mouth wide open diameter 1 kilometer Debris of echos in this nized in the audience Maritza Tungia Rodopes 1st and 2d theater of laying rivers sitting villages standing mounts recogubu.

the art of noise luigi russolo explosion zang-toumb white handkerchiefs full of gold toumbquick such enthusiasm pulling hair very black hairs ZANG- ubuclassics toumb clouds-gallery 2.com . that is to say to give to a noise a certain variety of pitches without losing the timbre that characterizes and over the whole of these irregular vibrations. has come to strike our ears no more than an overly familiar face does our eye. We want to score and regulate harmonically and rhythmically nant pitch offers us the technical means of scoring these noises. Certain noises obtained through a rotating movement can give us a the movement. sound. the ubu. Not that we want to destroy the movements and irregular vibrations (of tempo and intensity) of these noises! We wish simply to fix the degree or pitch of the predominant vibration. always a musical. Noise. complete ascending or descending scale through the speeding up or slowing down of Noise has the power to bring us back to life. Noise is familiar to us. an occasional element. The Although the characteristic of noise is to brutally bring us back to life. The existence of this predomi- Each noise possesses a pitch. these most varied noises. gushing confusely and irregularly out of life. foreign to life. prises for our benefit. We feel certain that in selecting and coordinating all noises we art of noises will extract its main emotive power from the special acoustic pleasure that 9 9 art of noises must not be limited to a mere imitative reproduction. is never totally revealed to us and it keeps in store innumerable surwill enrich men with a voluptuousness they did not suspect. as noise differs from other sound in its irregular and confuse vibrations (in terms of tempo and intensity).000 grenades thundering applause Quick TOUMB-TOUMB war noises orchestra blown beneath a note of silence hanging in full sky captive golden balloon controlling the fire. Noise accompanies every manifestation of our life. at times even a chord dominating distinguishes it. On the other hand. outside thing.

wood. percussive noises using animal and human voices: laughter. moans. rattlings. metal. but as well a predomubu. sobs shouts. Here are the six categories of noises for the futurist orchestra that we intend soon to realize mechanically: ubuclassics roars claps noises of falling water driving noises bellows 3 1 whistles snorts snores 2 whispers rustlings grunts mutterings grumbles gurgles 5 shrill sounds buzzings jingles shuffles cracks 4 stone. screams.the art of noise luigi russolo the inspired artist will obtain in combining noises. etc. 10 10 . The rhythmic movements of a inant rhythm around which more secondary rhythms are equally perceptible. skin. baked earth. There exists not only a predominant pitch.com others are hardly more than combinations of them. 6 We have included in these 6 categories the most characteristic fundamental noises: the noise are infinite.

We must replace the limited variety of timbres of orchestral instruments by the in the domain of noises the means of development and renewal. an easy task. ubu. 4 .The musician’s sensibility. genius tend to stress the most complex dissonances. are not grave.the art of noise luigi russolo ubuclassics Conclusions: Our sensibility requires it. increase its range. traditional rhythms. 3 . since each noise offers us the union of the most diverse rhythms as well as its dominant one. larger or smaller resonator or other exten11 11 6 . they nearly reach noise-sound. once he is rid of facile.We must enlarge and enrich more and more the domain of musical sounds.Each noise possesses among its irregular vibrations a predominant basic pitch. 2 . rather. every instrument must make possi- . a very wide variety of pitches. For this reason.The technical difficulties presented by the construction of these instruments not through a succession of imitative noises reproducing life. When not dealing with a rotating instrument we will increase or decrease the size or the tension of the sound-making parts. infinite variety of timbres of noises obtained through special mechanisms. half-pitches and quarter-pitches. we will speed it up or slow it 5 . This need and this tendency can be totally realized only through the joining and substituting of noises to and for musical sounds. will find This will make it easy to obtain.com tic association of these varied sounds. Moving away from pure sound. As soon as we will have found the mechanical principle which produces a certain noise. For down. if the instrument employs a rotating movement. we will be able to graduate its pitch according to the laws of acoustics. instance. This variety of pitches will not deprive each noise of its characteristic timbre but. but rather through a fantasble the changing of pitches through a built-in. while building instruments meant to produce this sound. In fact it can be noticed that all contemporary composers of 1 .This new orchestra will produce the most complex and newest sonic emotions.

61. I have conceived the renovation of music through the Art of Noise. the engines of our industrial cities noises. knowing that audacity ubu. I am not a musician. will not have to imitate these noises but rather to combine them accord- es so as to understand their different composing rhythms. and ears as it already has futurist eyes. This is why. among whose thousand different noises we can distinguish. Painter My dear Pratella.The variety of noises is infinite. I submit to your futurist genius these new ideas. bolder than the bolder professional musigives all prerogatives and all possibilities. 8 . 7 . 1913. Luigi Russolo Milano. We certainly possess nowadays over a ubuclassics thousand different machines. so that I have no acoustic preferart his will to renew everything. March 11. one day we will be able to distinguish among ten. totally unpreoccupied with my apparent incompetence. Comparing these noise sounds to other sounds they will realize how the latter are more varied than the former. their main and their secondary pitches. Milano. twenty or thirty thousand different noises.We invite all the truly gifted and bold young musicians to analyze all nois- the passion for noises will be developed. the taste. and I invite ences. I am a futurist painter who projects on a profoundly loved cian. nor works to defend. We ing to our artistic fantasy. Direction of the futurist movement: Corso Venezia.the art of noise luigi russolo sion. Our expanded sensibility will gain futurist will be skillfully tuned so that every factory is turned into an intoxicating orchestra of you to discuss them with me. Thus the comprehension.com 12 . With the endless multiplication of machinery. In a few years.

ubu.com 13 .the art of noise luigi russolo ubuclassics Luigi Russolo in 1913 with his mechanical orchestra.

the futurist painter Russolo went back to work. the futurist painter Russolo. Inside the large hall. creator instruments that he had just invented and built in collaboration with the painter Ugo The futurist composer Pratella and the poet Marinetti then undertook the defense of these amazing inventions in a violent contradictory debate. 1913. but rather moving noise syntheses. explained and demonstrated for the first time the different noise Piatti before over 2000 persons filling up the Storchi Theatre. In spite of some lack of experience on the part of the performers. in Modena. the orchestra was almost always perfect. on the evening of August 11. the leaders of the futurist group and several important Italian journalists were massed around this strange orchestra: they greeted with enthusiastic applause and hurrays the four different noise networks whose titles follow: Awakening of a Capital Meeting of Automobiles and Airplanes Dining Time at the Casino Terrasse Skirmish at the Oasis ments: Russolo himself was conducting the orchestra. and the to all the auditors. the noises lose their imitative and accidental episodic quality. due to the truly startling performance obtained by Russolo revealed a new sonic voluptuousness The four noise networks are not mere impressionistic reproductions of life around us. composed of 15 noise instru3 buzzers 2 gurglers 2 bursters 1 thunderer 3 whistlers 2 rustlers 1 shriller 1 shatterer 1 snorter small number of hasty rehearsals.com 14 .the art of noise luigi russolo First Concert of Futurist Noise Instruments ubuclassics of the Art of Noise. On the 2nd of June. in the face of uncouth abuse and insults on the part of the “passé-ists. Through a clever variation of pitches.” Right after this memorable evening. perfecting his noise instruments and creating his first four Noise Networks that were finally performed during a first noise concert at Milano’s Red House. and become abstract ele- ubu.

the whistlers. ubuclassics and the gurglers. locomotives or running waters.the art of noise luigi russolo ments of art.com 15 . one rather experienced an intense emotion of futurist art. Listening to the harmonized combined pitches of the bursters. absolutely unforeseen and like nothing but itself. ubu. no one remembered autos.

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