A response to Luigi Russolo’s “The Art of Noise: Futurist Manifesto”

Luigi Russolo’s Manifesto explores the possibility of sound beyond the musical paradigms established by the Greeks. Russolo’s fascination with sound begins with the advent of machinery in the 19th century. He claims, “For several centuries, life went on silently, or mutedly. The loudest noises were neither intense, nor prolonged nor varied…This is why man was thoroughly amazed by the first sounds he obtained out of a hole in reeds or a stretched string.” Noise, however, is more than just what it appears to be on the surface level. Russolo describes that “musical art aims at the shrilliest, strangest and most dissonant amalgams of sound” and music has “tried to obtain the most complex succession of dissonant chords.” In his view, noise-sound is the expected progression of music as an art form. The strangest sounds have been achieved within the current realm of music theory; music will only push the boundaries through noises found outside of traditional instruments.


Accepting every day sounds as compositional material, in many ways, allows us to push how we experience and express ourselves through musical composition. Music today is often perceived as something to provide pleasure, perhaps this has always been the case for all art for the common person who is not interested in interrogating it on an intellectual level. But there are pieces of music, much like art, that aren’t necessarily intended to provide pleasure. Sometimes the existence of certain types of music and art exist for us to experience a wide array of emotions beyond joy, such as discomfort, shock, or to put us in different states of mind—curious, reflective, or contemplative. He even said himself that he has no intention of refuting the objection of noise as necessarily unpleasant. Russolo’s “Risveglio di una Citta” demonstrates this by exhibiting a variety of noise textures, which can be described as bubbly, rough, and course. While I do not “enjoy” the piece itself, I find myself in a constant state of curiosity while listening to it, constantly questioning just how he managed to produce these noises. That curiosity alone is enough for me to find “Risveglio di una Citta” as intriguing and satisfying.