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Rumorarmonio [rumorarmonium, russolofono, psofarmonio]locked

  • Hugh Davies

Series of four keyboard instruments, based on the principle of the hurdy-gurdy, developed by Luigi Russolo in Thiene and Milan from about 1921 and continued in Paris in 1928–9. They incorporated many of the basic principles and sound qualities of his intonarumori (and probably some of their mechanisms), combining the equivalent of several separate instruments in a single console. The consoles resembled harmoniums; the fourth (and possibly the third) was somewhat larger, about the size of a small chamber organ. The first two were constructed in parallel between about 1921 and 1924 in Thiene, the third, about which no detailed information is available, in 1925–6, and the fourth in 1927–9. Between 1928 or 1929 and 1931 the final rumorarmonio was installed at Studio 28 in Paris, where it was used for accompanying silent films and at other events. A plan to manufacture this version of the instrument commercially came to nothing, and the only surviving rumorarmonio disappeared without trace in Paris during World War II.

The first rumorarmonio, which had three two-octave manuals (each c to c″) placed side by side, was constructed partly with materials from a dismantled military funicular railway; the sounds were described as resembling those of flying insects, violin pizzicato, and metallic crackles (they were based on individual intonarumori—the ronzatore, crepitatore, and rombatore). The sounds were heard via three drumlike diaphragms mounted above the manuals. The second instrument had a single three-octave keyboard (c to c′″ ) with five register stops, covering individual ranges of one to three octaves, which produced timbres like those of electric motors, water and rain, frogs, wind, and locusts (ronzatore, gorgogliatore, gracidatore, sibilatore, and stropicciare). Both instruments were operated by means of two harmonium-like pedals, which presumably activated a sound-producing system similar to that of the intonarumori, based on a wheel rotating against a string; the second instrument required an electrical supply of 4–6 volts. The third rumorarmonio was played by means of levers (like the intonarumori) instead of from a keyboard. In the fourth a dozen timbres were available, with individual pitch ranges of at least one octave and a total compass of seven octaves; these included equivalents of the ululatore, rombatore, ronzatore, scoppiatore, gorgogliatore, gracidatore, and sibilatore. Russolo’s patent, applied for in 1921, describes among other possibilities three resonance tubes of variable length like telescopic organ pipes, controlled in synchronization by a single handle, but it is not known whether these were incorporated in any other models; it is possible that they were used inside the console to function like the horns that projected from the cabinets of the intonarumori.

Bibliography

  • L. Russolo: ‘Psofarmonio: New Musical Instruments’, The Little Review, vol.11/2 (1926), 51ff
  • L. Russolo: ‘Die Kunst der Geräusche als Fortentwicklung des modernen Orchesters’, Melos, vol.7/1 (1928), 12–14
  • G. Lista, ed.: L’Art des bruits (Lausanne, 1975), 113 [Fr. trans. of L. Russolo L’arte dei rumori (Milan, 1916), with introduction by Lista and extensive appxs]
  • G. Maffina: Luigi Russolo e l’arte dei rumori (Turin, 1978), 91, 180, 188, 197, 217