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 .

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

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

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

than listening once more. However. For years. But our ears far from being satisfied. The most complicated orchestra can be reduced to four or five categories of sensations. musical sound is too restricted in the variety and the quality of instruments with different sound tones: rubbed string instruments. 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. Music marks time in this small circle and vainly tries to create a new varisounds and conquer the infinite variety of noise-sounds. for they are attuned to modern life. rich in all sorts of noises. pinched string instruments. for instance. to the heroic or pastoral modern orchestra represents without concluding that the acoustic results are pitiful. keep asking for bigger acoustic its tones. autos and other vehicles. on the other hand our ears rejoice in it. Now we are fed up with them. the first bar is dripping with boredom stemming from familiarity. Shall plaintive meeowing of violins? This plain talk will make all music maniacs jump in 6 6 . which will stir up a bit the somnolent atmosphere of concert halls. ubuclassics predisposing the auditor to boredom.com their seats. 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). All of us have liked and enjoyed the harmonies of the great masters. 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. crowds.the art of noise luigi russolo for Musical Noise. wooden wind instruments. metallic wind instruments. In this fashion ubu. and loud symphonies. This is why we get infinitely more pleasure imagining combinations of the sounds of trolleys. and percussion ety of tones. This evolution toward noise-sound is only possible today. We must break at all cost from this restrictive circle of pure instruments. in spite of all the efforts of innovating com- Each sound carries with it a nucleus of foreknown and foregone sensations posers. Is It is hardly possible to consider the enormous mobilization of energy that a there any. Beethoven and Wagner have deliciously shaken our hearts. See.

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

regularity.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.com tiny noises revomit them precise them out of their echoing rows loggias groundfloor boxes 2. ferocity.000 shrapnels gesticulation 8 8 . 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. pendulum game.

The existence of this predomi- Each noise possesses a pitch. prises for our benefit. outside thing. foreign to life. Noise is familiar to us. an occasional element. Noise. Certain noises obtained through a rotating movement can give us a the movement. We want to score and regulate harmonically and rhythmically nant pitch offers us the technical means of scoring these noises. always a musical. at times even a chord dominating distinguishes it. has come to strike our ears no more than an overly familiar face does our eye. as noise differs from other sound in its irregular and confuse vibrations (in terms of tempo and intensity). gushing confusely and irregularly out of life. complete ascending or descending scale through the speeding up or slowing down of Noise has the power to bring us back to life.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. 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. On the other hand.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. is never totally revealed to us and it keeps in store innumerable surwill enrich men with a voluptuousness they did not suspect. The Although the characteristic of noise is to brutally bring us back to life. these most varied noises.com . Noise accompanies every manifestation of our life. 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. sound. 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.

wood. sobs shouts. The rhythmic movements of a inant rhythm around which more secondary rhythms are equally perceptible. moans. 10 10 . skin. but as well a predomubu. 6 We have included in these 6 categories the most characteristic fundamental noises: the noise are infinite. There exists not only a predominant pitch.com others are hardly more than combinations of them. rattlings. screams. percussive noises using animal and human voices: laughter.the art of noise luigi russolo the inspired artist will obtain in combining noises. metal. 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. etc. baked earth.

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

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

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

in Modena. explained and demonstrated for the first time the different noise Piatti before over 2000 persons filling up the Storchi Theatre. 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.” Right after this memorable evening. 1913.com 14 . Inside the large hall. on the evening of August 11. in the face of uncouth abuse and insults on the part of the “passé-ists. 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. the futurist painter Russolo.the art of noise luigi russolo First Concert of Futurist Noise Instruments ubuclassics of the Art of Noise. 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. and the to all the auditors. the orchestra was almost always perfect. 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. the futurist painter Russolo went back to work. and become abstract ele- ubu. 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. but rather moving noise syntheses. On the 2nd of June. Through a clever variation of pitches. In spite of some lack of experience on the part of the performers. the noises lose their imitative and accidental episodic quality.

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

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