P eople often complain that new music is a racket, but for Luigi Russolo that was the whole point. Composer, artist, and builder of experimental instruments, Russolo was a member of the Futurists, an avant-garde movement founded in 1909 by the poet Filippo Marinetti. The Futurists lived for speed, technology, youth and violence. They worshipped the car, the airplane and industrialisation, and dismissed the past, and especially art critics, as entirely “useless”.

Luigi Russolo

The only composer in the group, Russolo designed and built a collection of noise-generating devices called Intonarumori(noise intoners) and in 1913 published his musical manifesto The Art of Noises. His theories were based on the premise that “noise” was a result of the industrial revolution – a jolly good thing to his way of thinking – and before that, bar the odd thunderstorm, all was pastoral peace and quiet. Now that mankind was able to appreciate more complex sounds, traditional melody and harmony must give way to “noise music”. Condemning the traditional orchestra as predictable, Russolo insisted that mankind needed to listen to the din of the city and embrace the...

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