The Art of Noises was a radical document that challenged the conventional notions of music and sound. Russolo argued that the industrial revolution had created a new sonic environment that was rich and complex, and that traditional musical instruments were inadequate to express it. He proposed a new kind of music that would use noises as its raw material, such as the roar of engines, the clatter of machinery, the hiss of steam, the explosion of bombs, and the cries of animals and humans. He also designed and built a series of noise machines, called intonarumori, that could produce various types of noises by manipulating levers, cranks, and buttons.
Russolo’s vision was influenced by the futurist movement, which celebrated speed, violence, technology, and modernity. The futurists rejected the past and embraced the future, seeking to create new forms of art that would reflect the dynamism and chaos of the contemporary world. They also advocated for a radical social and political transformation, supporting war as a means of cleansing and renewing society. Russolo’s noise music was intended to shock and provoke the audience, to awaken them from their complacency and make them aware of the new realities of life.
Russolo’s noise music was met with mixed reactions. Some listeners were fascinated and intrigued by his experiments, while others were outraged and disgusted by his noise machines. Russolo performed several concerts with his intonarumori in Italy and France, often causing riots and scandals. He also collaborated with other futurist composers, such as Francesco Balilla Pratella and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, to create orchestral works that incorporated noises. Russolo’s noise music influenced later generations of composers and musicians, such as Edgard Varèse, John Cage, Pierre Schaeffer, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Throbbing Gristle, Merzbow, and many others. He is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of electronic music and sound art.