Listening…: The Art of Noise

BEK 14.10.2009 14.0014.10.2009 16.00


Luigi Russolo (1885-1947) was a prominent painter in the Italian Futurist movement. Yet he is best known for The Art of Noises, among the most important and influential texts in 20th century music aesthetics. Written in 1913 as a letter to his friend, the Futurist composer Franscesco Balilla Pratella, this manifesto sketches Russolo’s radical alternative to the classical musical tradition. Drawing inspiration from the urban and industrial soundscape, Russolo argues that traditional orchestra instruments and composition are no longer able to capture the spirit of modern life, wih its energy, speed and noise. A year after composing this letter, Russolo introduced his _intonarumori_ (“noise instruments”) in a series of concerts held in London.

None of Russolo’s music remains; and the intonarumori were destroyed in a fire during World War II. Yet, since the War, Russolo’s manifesto has become increasingly important, inspiring a host of musicians and composers, among them musique concrète pioneers Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henri, 1980s dance-pop outfit The Art of Noise, “industrial” bands such as Einstürzende Neubauten and Test Dept., turntablist DJ Spooky, and sound artits Francisco López.

Recommended reading and listening:

  • An extract of the manifesto can be found in chapter 2 of the same book.


About Listening to Donald Judd

Sound is becoming an integrated part of contemporary artistic practices. Artists working with sound are relating to and crossing the boundaries between contemporary fine arts, sound art, sound in the arts, contemporary music, popular music, experimental music, electronic music and more, all with their particular and interweaving histories and discourses.

This course will encourage an increased awareness and appreciation of the different perspectives, when listening to sound and music as well as through the development of a language for discussing sound and music.

We will meet for 1-2 hours at regular intervals (approx. every 2-3 weeks) to listen to, discuss and analyze a selection of works spanning the history of sound art as well as contemporary and popular music, combined with collective readings of selected relevant texts.

This course is done in collaboration with BEK and will take place at BEK, at the top floor of C. Sundtsgt. 55, where we will have access to better speakers and a dryer acoustic environment for listening.