Musica futurista – Luigi Russolo (1885-1947)


Luigi Russolo was born in Portogruaro (Venice) in 1885. His father was the ‘organist of the local cathedral and director of the Schola Cantorum of Latisana. While his two older brothers graduated from the conservatory in Milan, Russolo, after reuniting his family in Milan in 1901, chose to study painting.

In 1909 he exhibited a group of etchings at the Famiglia Artistica in Milan , where he met Boccioni and Carrà. His works from the Divisionist period were influenced by Previati and especially Boccioni in style and subject matter. The following year, after meeting Marinetti, Russolo signed both the Manifesto of Futurist Painters and the Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painting. Thereafter, he participated in all Futurist evenings and exhibitions.

On March 11, 1913 Russolo published his manifesto L’ Arte dei Rumori, dedicated to fellow Futurist composer Francesco Balilla Pratella. Released in book form in 1916, he theorized the inclusion of incidental noise in musical composition. With Ugo Piatti , he then invented the Intonarumori , machines that produced noises that allowed the modification of tone and pitch. In 1913-14, Russolo conducted his first Futurist concerts with numerous intonarumori. Audiences in Milan, Genoa, and London reacted with enthusiasm or open hostility. Russolo began to collaborate with the magazine Lacerba in which he published in 1914 his Grafia enarmonica per gli intonarumori ( enharmonic notation for Futurist intonarumori ) introducing a new and influential form of musical notation.

With the outbreak of war, Russolo left as a volunteer, like many of his Futurist friends , in the Lombardo Volontari Ciclisti Battaglione. After being seriously wounded in December 1917, he spent months in various hospitals. In 1921 Russolo gave three concerts in Paris with an orchestra of twenty-seven intonarumori. His performances were greatly acclaimed by Stravinsky, Diaghilev ( who had already applauded him in Milan in 1915), Ravel, and Mondrian, who devoted a long article to the intonarumori in De Stijl.

Because of his opposition to fascism, Russolo spent most of his time between 1927 and 1932 in Paris. Beginning in 1922, he invented a series of noisemakers , a kind of harmonium that allowed for the broadening of tone and pitch from simply shifting a register. In 1925 he patented the ” enharmonic bow ” and then the ” enharmonic piano. Russolo appeared in three Futurist films ( now lost), for which he also composed music. He gave his last concert in 1929 , presented by Edgard Varese, at the opening of a Futurist exhibition in Paris, at Galerie 23.

In 1931 he moved to Tarragona, Spain, where he studied occult philosophy and then in 1933 returned to Italy, settling in Cerro di Laveno on Lake Maggiore. He died in Cerro di Lavenio in 1947.

12 Sounds