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Russolo, Piatti and the intonarumori

Intonarumori are a group of experimental musical instruments built and invented by the Italian futurist Luigi Russolo between roughly 1910 and 1930. There were 27 varieties of intonarumori in total with different names.


Russolo built this instruments to perform the music outlined in his Art of Noises manifesto. The instruments are completely acoustic, not electronic. The boxes have different types on constructions inside to create different types of noise. Often wheel that are touching a string attached to a drum. The wheels rattle of bow the strings, the drum functions as an acoustic resonator. Many of the instruments feature a handle on top of the boxes. This handy varies the string tension. By pulling the tone becomes higher. The horns attached to the boxes amplify the sound. Intonorumori ('noise makers' in Italian) make noise, but not on a very loud level, since they all were acoustic.

Intonarumori reconstruction[edit]

Most of Russolos instruments were destroyed in Paris during WOII by a bombing on the city. Others have simply disappeared.[1] However original sketches still exist and a few sound recordings of the original instruments. Based on these sources three collections exist of reconstructions.

As part of its celebration of the 100th anniversary of Italian Futurism, the Performa 09 biennial, in collaboration with the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, invited Luciano Chessa (author of the book Luigi Russolo, Futurist. Noise, Visual Arts, and the Occult) to direct a reconstruction project to produce accurate replicas of Russolo’s legendary Intonarumori instruments. This project offered the set of 16 original intonarumori (8 noise families of 1-3 instruments each, in various registers) that Russolo built in Milan in the summer of 1913. These intonarumori were physically built by luthier Keith Cary in Winters, California, under Chessa’s direction and scientific supervision. The concert premiered at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art on October 16, 2009, before traveling to New York City for its Performa 09 presentation at The Town Hall on November 12, 2009.[2] In September 2010 Chessa presented the recreated intonarumori in its' first Italian appearance, a concert event at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Trento and Rovereto in Rovereto, Italy, as part of the Festival Transart, which featured performances by Nicholas Isherwood.[3]

With 2013 being the 100th anniversary of both The Art of Noises and John Cage’s birth, the curators of Carnegie Mellon University’s Wats:ON? Festival,[4] Golan Levin and Spike Wolff felt the time was ripe for a presentation of noise, and decided to re-construct the forgotten Intonarumori instruments for the festival.[5] Carl Bajandas, a sculptor, an instrument builder, took the lead and built 10 Intonarumori instruments. Meanwhile, experimental composer, music technologist John Ozbay, has been asked to compose for the Intonarumori instruments.[6][7] The performance took place in Carnegie Mellon University's Kresge Theatre on April 4, 2013. Followed by performances of electronic/experimental music artists, Jeremy Boyle, Michael Johnsen, Eric Singer and Lesley Flanigan.[4][6][8]

There is a collection in Italy with horns made from cartboard, and the Dutch sound artist Wessel Westerveld made a series of replicas. Westervelds replicas are the most professional versions with steel horns instead of softer cones like the Italian and NYC ones. He has also made a few open variants with the sound system visible from the outside.[9] Not many performances are done with the Intonarumori. Westerveld performs regularly with his Intonarumori in collaboration with Dutch sound artist Yuri Landman. The Dutch replicas were showed and played by Westerveld at the Tuned City festivals in several cities, and a few times at the Gogbot Festival in Enschede. Lee Ranaldo wrote a score for the instruments at the Performa Festival.

Original sketch of one of the intonarumori. 1914
Interior of a ronzatore


External links[edit]