- The Art of Noises
Luigi Russolo's "L'arte dei rumori," published in book form in 1916.]
"The Art of Noises (L'arte dei Rumori)" is a Futurist manifesto, written by
Luigi Russoloin a 1913 letter to friend and Futurist composer Francesco Balilla Pratella. In it, Russolo argues that the human ear has become accustomed to the speed, energy, and noiseof the urban industrial soundscape; furthermore, this new sonic palette requires a new approach to musical instrumentation and composition. He proposes a number of conclusions about how electronicsand other technology will allow futurist musicians to "substitute for the limited variety of timbres that the orchestra possesses today the infinite variety of timbres in noises, reproduced with appropriate mechanisms". [cite book | last = Warner | first = Daniel | authorlink = | coauthors = Christoph Cox | title = Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music | publisher = Continiuum International Publishing Group LTD | date = 2004 | location = London | pages = 10-14 | url = | doi = | id = | isbn = 0-8264-1615-2 ]
"The Art of Noises" is considered to be one of the most important and influential texts in 20th century musical aesthetics. [ (Warner & Cox 2004:10) ]
The evolution of sound
essayexplores the origins of man made sounds.
"Ancient life was all silence"
Russolo states that "
noise" first came into existence as the result of 19th century machines. Before this time the world was a quiet, if not silent, place. With the exception of storms, waterfalls, and tectonicactivity, the noise that did punctuate this silence were not loud, prolonged, or varied.
He notes that the earliest "
music" was very simplistic and was created with very simple instruments, and that many early civilizations considered the secrets of music too sacred and reserved for rites and rituals. The Greek musical theory was based on the tetrachordmathematics of Pythagoras, which did not allow for any harmonies. Developments and modifications to the Greek musical system were made during the Middle Ages, which lead to music like Gregorian chant. Russolo notes that during this time sounds were still narrowly seen as "unfolding in time." [ (Warner & Cox 2004:11) ] The chord did not yet exist.
"The complete sound"
Russolo refers to the
chordas the "complete sound," [ (Warner & Cox 2004:11) ] the conception of various parts that make and are subordinate to the whole. He notes that chords developed gradually, first moving from the "consonant triad to the consistent and complicated dissonances that characterize contemporary music." [ (Warner & Cox 2004:11) ] He notes that while early music tried to create sweet and pure sounds, it progressively grew more and more complex, with musicians seeking to create new and more dissonant chords. This, he says, comes ever closer to the "noise-sound." [ (Warner & Cox 2004:11) ]
Russolo compares the evolution of music to the multiplication of machinery, pointing out that our once desolate sound environment has become increasingly filled with the
noiseof machines, encouraging musicians to create a more "complicated polyphony" [ (Warner & Cox 2004:11) ] in order to provoke emotion and stir our sensibilities. He notes that music has been developing towards a more complicated polyphony by seeking greater variety in timbres and tone colors.
Russolo explains how "musical sound is too limited in its variety of timbres." [ (Warner & Cox 2004:11) ] He breaks the timbres of an
orchestradown into four basic categories: bowed instruments, metal winds, wood winds, and percussion. He says that we must "break out of this limited circle of sound and conquer the infinite variety of noise-sounds," [ (Warner & Cox 2004:11) ] and that technologywould allow us to manipulate noises in ways that could not have been done with earlier instruments.
Russolo claims that music has reached a point that no longer has the power to excite or inspire. Even when it is new, he argues, it still sounds old and familiar, leaving the audience "waiting for the extraordinary sensation that never comes." [ (Warner & Cox 2004:12) ] He urges musicians to explore the city with "ears more sensitive than eyes," [ (Warner & Cox 2004:12) ] listening to the wide array of noises that are often taken for granted, yet (potentially) musical in nature. He feels these noises can be given pitched and "regulated harmonically," while still preserving their irregularity and character, even if it requires assigning multiple pitches to certain noises.
ix Families of Noises for the Futurist Orchestra
Russolo sees the futurist orchestra drawing its sounds from "six families of noise" [ (Warner & Cox 2004:13) ] :
# Roars, Thunderings, Explosions, Hissing roars, Bangs, Booms
# Whistling, Hissing, Puffing
# Whispers, Murmurs, Mumbling, Muttering, Gurgling
# Screeching, Creaking, Rustling, Humming, Crackling, Rubbing
# Noises obtained by beating on metals, woods, skins, stones, pottery, etc.
# Voices of animals and people, Shouts, Screams, Shrieks, Wails, Hoots, Howls, Death rattles, Sobs Russolo asserts that these are the most basic and fundamental noises, and that all other noises are only associations and combinations of these.
Russolo includes a list of conclusions:
#Futurist composers should use their creativity and innovation to "enlarge and enrich the field of sound" [ (Warner & Cox 2004:13) ] by approaching the "noise-sound."
#Futurist musicians should strive to replicate the infinite timbres in noises.
#Futurist musicians should free themselves from the traditional and seek to explore the diverse rhythms of noise.
#The complex tonalities of noise can be achieved by creating instruments that replicate that complexity.
#The creation of instruments that replicate noise should not be a difficult task, since the manipulation of pitch will be simple once the mechanical principles that that create the noise have been recreated. Pitch can be manipulated through simples changes in speed or tension.
#The new orchestra will not evoke new and novel emotions by imitating the noises of life, but by finding new and unique combinations of timbres and rhythms in noise.
#The variety of noise is infinite, and as man creates new machines the number of noises he can differentiate between continues to grow.
#Therefore, he invites all talented musicians to pay attention to noises and their complexity, and once they discover the broadness of noise's palette of timbres, they will develop a passion for noise. He predicts that our "multiplied sensibility, having been conquered by futurist eyes, will finally have some futurist ears, and . . . every workshop will become an intoxicating orchestra of noise." [ (Warner & Cox 2004:14) ]
Musicians/Artists influenced by "The Art of Noises"
Pierre Schaeffer[ (Warner & Cox 2004:10) ]
Pierre Henry[ (Warner & Cox 2004:10) ]
Art of Noise[cite news | first=Paul | last=Morley | coauthors= | title=Techno: the early years | date= 2002-07-26| publisher= | url =http://www.guardian.co.uk/friday_review/story/0,,762893,00.html | work =The Guardian | pages = | accessdate = 2008-01-13 | language = ]
Adam Ant[ cite web|url=http://www.cartrouble.nl/antmusic/antinfluences.html |title=Ant Influences |accessdate=2008-01-13 |work=Car Trouble ]
Einsturzende Neubauten[ (Warner & Cox 2004:10) ]
Test Dept[ (Warner & Cox 2004:10) ]
DJ Spooky[ (Warner & Cox 2004:10) ]
Francisco Lopez[ (Warner & Cox 2004:10) ]
* [http://www.intonarumori.com/ Intonarumori] [ cite web|url=http://www.intonarumori.com/ |title=Intonarumori |accessdate=2008-01-14 ]
*Material [ cite web|url=http://www.discogs.com/release/174897 |title=Intonarumori by Material |accessdate=2008-01-15 ]
*Jean-Luc Hervé Berthelot [http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Luc_Hervé_Berthelot]
* [http://www.obsolete.com/120_years/machines/futurist/art_of_noise.html The Art of Noises]
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