At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Luigi Russolo – painter and composer

Futurist artist who invented 'noise music'


Luigi Russolo, pictured at the time he published his manifesto, in 1916
Luigi Russolo, pictured at the time he
published his manifesto, in 1916
Luigi Russolo, who is regarded as the first ‘noise music’ composer, was born on this day in 1885 in Portogruaro in the Veneto.

Russolo originally chose to become a painter and went to live in Milan where he met and was influenced by other artists in the Futurist movement.

Along with other leading figures in the movement, such as Carlo Carrà, he signed both the Manifesto of Futurist Painters and the Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painting as the artists set out how they saw Futurism being represented on canvas, and afterwards participated in Futurist art exhibitions.

Russolo issued his own manifesto, L’arte dei rumori, - The Art of Noises - in 1913, which he expanded into book form in 1916.

He stated that the industrial revolution had given modern man a greater capacity to appreciate more complex sounds. He found traditional, melodic music confining and envisioned noise music replacing it in the future.

Russolo invented intonarumori - noise-emitting machines - and conducted concerts using these machines. The audiences reacted with either enthusiasm or hostility to the style of music he produced.

Luigi Russolo (left), his fellow Futurist Ugo Piatti, and a  collection of the intonarumori machines he used for his music
Luigi Russolo (left), his fellow Futurist Ugo Piatti, and a
collection of the intonarumori machines he used for his music
None of these machines survived although they have since been reconstructed for use in performances.

The Art of Noises classified noise-sound into six groups, which included roars and thunderings, whistling and hissing, whispers and murmurs, beating different surfaces to make noises, voices of animals and people, and screeching, creaking, rustling, buzzing, crackling and scraping.

When Italy entered the First World War, Russolo volunteered to fight but was seriously wounded in 1917 and had to spend 18 months in hospital.

After he recovered, Russolo held three Futurist concerts in Paris during 1921 that were acclaimed by Stravinsky, Diaghilev and Ravel.

Russolo invented a series of musical instruments, rumorarmoni, which appeared in Futurist films for which he composed the music. These films have since been lost.

Russolo (left) with other Futursts in Paris in 1912
Russolo (left) with other Futursts in Paris in 1912
He held his last concert in 1929 at the opening of a Futurist show in Paris and then went to live in Spain for a while and studied occult philosophy.

When Russolo returned to Italy in 1933, he settled in Cerro on Lake Maggiore and took up painting again in a realist style that he called classic-modern. He died at Cerro in 1947.

Antonio Russolo, Luigi’s brother and another Futurist composer, produced a recording of two works featuring the original intonarumori. The phonograph recording made in 1921 included works entitled Corale and Serenata, which combined conventional orchestral music set against the sound produced by the noise machines. It is the only surviving contemporaneous recording of Luigi Russolo’s noise music.

The church of the Abbey of Summaga at Portogruaro
The church of the Abbey of Summaga at Portogruaro
Travel tip:

Portogruaro, where Russolo was born, was officially founded in 1140 when the local Archbishop gave a group of fishermen the right to settle there and build a river port. It was the medieval successor to the Roman town of Concordia Saggitaria and many Roman remains found there are now displayed in the Museo Concordiese. In 1420 Portogruaro’s citizens requested membership of the Republic of Venice. Portogruaro was then under Austrian control from 1815 until 1866 when it became part of the newly-unified Kingdom of Italy. It is now in the Veneto region on the main road linking Venice with Trieste. Among the many historic sights is the 11th century Abbey of Summaga, which has 11th and 12th century frescoes.
The harbour of Leveno-Mombello, of which Cerro is a hamlet
The harbour of Leveno-Mombello, of which Cerro is a hamlet
Travel tip:

Cerro, where Luigi Russolo died, is a hamlet of Laveno-Mombello on Lake Maggiore in the province of Varese. Laveno-Mombello is a port town that connects Verbania and the Borromean Islands with Varese and has beautiful views of the lake and islands.

Lake Maggiore hotels from Expedia

More reading:


How Futurist painter Carlo Carrà captured violence at the funeral of an anarchist

Canaletto's images of Venice were sought after by wealthy travellers 

The strange sounds of avant-garde composer Luigi Nono


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