King's College London

Research portal

A Voice of the Crowd: Futurism and the Politics of Noise

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-129
Journal19th-Century Music
Issue number2
Published1 Nov 2013


  • Voice of the Crowd_WILLIAMS_Published2013_VoR

    ncm.2013.37.2.113.pdf, 2.56 MB, application/pdf

    Uploaded date:24 May 2018

    Version:Final published version

    Authorization to copy this content beyond fair use (as specified in Sections 107 and 108 of the U. S. Copyright Law) for internal or personal use, or the internal or personal use of specific clients, is granted by [the Regents of the University of California/on behalf of the Sponsoring Society] for libraries and other users, provided that they are registered with and pay the specified fee via Rightslink® or directly with the Copyright Clearance Center.

King's Authors


In his 1913 manifesto “L'arte dei rumori” (The Art of Noises), Futurist painter Luigi Russolo exhorted readers to “walk across a great modern metropolis with ears more attentive than eyes.” For Russolo, attentive listening to the urban environment enacted a visionary aurality: the city was a mine for “new” noises, such as rumbling motors and jolting trams. However, Russolo's embrace of noise—much like that of Futurist painter Umberto Boccioni and Futurist poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti—was undeniably a product of its time and place. This article excavates the sounds of 1913 Milan as a crucial location for the noises of early Italian Futurism. Not only was this city the Futurists' base, but it also inflected their representations of noise both through its symbolic architectural sites (above all the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele) and the buzz of its human multitudes. In this latter respect, late-nineteenth-century positivist crowd psychology can provide an illuminating context because it shares with Futurism the notion of modern, urban crowd united by a collective unconscious—one that could, moreover, be heard by the attentive listener on a city's streets. This article tracks this historical mode of listening from Russolo's manifesto until the reception of his first concert for an entire orchestra of newly wrought noise intoners—his “Gran concerto per intonarumori,” held at Milan's Teatro Dal Verme in 1914—and explores what was, in this case, a slippery (but critical) distinction between “audience” and “crowd.” Russolo's clamorously received premiere forced its listeners and performers to attend to off- (rather than on-) stage noises, thus raising still-vital questions about where to locate Futurism's noise, influence, and politics.

Download statistics

No data available

View graph of relations

© 2020 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454