The Orchestra Of Futurist Intoners (Ofni)

The Orchestra of Futurist Noise Intoners
Luciano Chessa, Director

A Performa 09 Commission

These eccentric hurdy-gurdy instruments first created in 1913 still sounded musically radical after all these years.
Roberta Smith for The New York Times

The Orchestra of Futurist Noise Intoners is the only complete replica of futurist composer/sound artist Luigi Russolo’s legendary intonarumori orchestra. The orchestra tours worldwide, presenting concerts that feature historical and new works commissioned from an all-star cast of experimental composers, some performing live alongside this orchestra of raucous mechanical synthesizers.

The orchestra’s composers include Sonic Youth’s founding guitarist Lee Ranaldo, seminal composer/vocalist Joan La Barbara, Einstürzende Neubauten frontman and Nick Cave collaborator Blixa Bargeld, avant-garde saxophonist John Butcher, Deep Listening pioneer Pauline Oliveros, Faith No More and Mr. Bungle vocalist Mike Patton, avant-garde musician Elliott Sharp, and composer/vocalist Jennifer Walshe collaborating with late composer and film/video artist Tony Conrad, among others.


As part of its celebration of the 100th anniversary of Italian Futurism, the Performa 09 biennial, in collaboration with the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), invited Luciano Chessa to reconstruct Russolo’s intonarumori. Supervising Bay Area craftsman Keith Carey, Chessa succeeded in recreating for the first time Russolo’s earliest intonarumori orchestra, originally unveiled in Milan in the Summer of 1913 (16 instruments—8 noise families of 1-3 instruments each, in various registers). As the first instruments capable of controlling noises through entirely mechanical interfaces, the intonarumori can be considered the forefather of today’s synthesizer. Leading curators, sound artists and electronic/noise musicians in the world have been interested in the orchestra for this very reason.

Chessa’s Orchestra of Futurist Noise Intoners debuted with Music For 16 Futurist Noise Intoners, an evening- length concert of original scores and newly commissioned compositions written specifically for this orchestra, curated by Chessa with Performa’s Producing Director Esa Nickle. Music For 16 Futurist Noise Intoners previewed in October 2009 at San Francisco’s YBCA’s Main Theater and premiered in NYC’s Town Hall the following November for Performa 09—both events were co-produced by Performa and SFMOMA, and featuring players from Minna Choi’s Magik*Magik Orchestra. This production presented an impressive array of world premieres scored by such composers and ensembles as Blixa Bargeld, John Butcher, Tony Conrad, James Fei, Ellen Fullman, Ghostdigital with Finboggi Petusson and Caspar Electronics, Nick Hallett, Carla Kihlstedt + Matthias Bossi, Ulrich Krieger, Joan La Barbara, Pauline Oliveros, Pablo Ortiz, Mike Patton, Anat Pick, Elliott Sharp, Jennifer Walshe, Theresa Wong, and Text of Light. The production, also featuring Chessa’s L’acoustique ivresse and the modern premiere of Russolo’s Risveglio di una città in a new edition by Chessa, was hailed as one of the best events of 2009 by Roberta Smith in The New York Times’ The Year in Arts.

In September 2010, Chessa presented OFNI’s first Italian concert at the world’s leading Futurist Museum MART, as part of the festival Transart. MART’s concert featured performances by Nicholas Isherwood and included Sylvano Bussotti’s VARIAZIONE RUSSOLO – Slancio d’angoli, and two new commissioned pieces by Margareth Kammerer and Teho Teardo. In March 2011 Chessa conducted the orchestra in a sold out concert for Berliner Festspiele Maerzmusik Festival, which included Gramophone Saraswati, a new piece by Amelia Cuni and Werner Durand. In December 2011, Chessa conducted with the New World Symphony in their new Frank Gehry-designed New World Center’s Concert Hall packed to capacity as part of the Performa-curated special event to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Art Basel | Miami Beach. The performance included Joan La Barbara’s Striations and the premiere of Lee Ranaldo’s It All Begins Now ( Whose Streets? Our Streets! ). Both pieces featured their respective composers performing alongside Chessa and the New World Symphony. A double LP dedicated to the Orchestra of Futurist Noise Intoners and documenting the first phase of this project has been released on the label Sub Rosa in November 2013. In December 2013, Chessa conducted the orchestra to a sold-out and energetic crowd at the RedCat in Los Angeles. Subsequent performances include standing ovation shows at the Berkeley Art Museum in 2013 and at the Cleveland Museum of Art, two sold out shows at the ArtScience Museum in Singapore in 2015 and most recently in performance at Lisbon’s Maria Matos Municipal Theater in 2017 and Cornell University in 2018

Touring informations

Performance Program
OFNI’s repertoire includes:

1. Compositions that do not require the presence of the composer or a specific performer, and only need a group of 16 musicians to be recruited by the presenter in loco:

Among these are three surviving historical pieces:

Luigi Russolo: Fragment from Risveglio di una città (1913).
Score performed in a diplomatic edition by Luciano Chessa (2009)
Paolo Buzzi: Pioggia nel pineto antidannunziana (1916).
Score realized by Luciano Chessa (2009)
Paolo Buzzi: Un attimo della mia giornata a palazzo Monforte (1916)
Score realized by Luciano Chessa (2009)

and the following newly-commissioned pieces:

Blixa Bargeld: The Mantovani Machine Part I: Motor (2009)
Christopher Auerbach-Brown: Money is the Devil (2016)
Christopher Burns: Three Standard Stoppages (2015)
Joshua Carro: Her Slow Gasp (2013)
Luciano Chessa: Recreation of Russolo’s 1913 “On dîne à la terrasse du Casino” AKA “Si pranza sulla terrazza del Kursaal” (2010)
Luciano Chessa: Vathek on the Edge of the Chasm (2013)
James Fei: New Acoustical Pleasures (A Furious Meow) (2009)
Ellen Fullman: Sunday Industrial (Post Futurist Reverie) (2009)
Raffaele Guadagnin: Anti-Academical Electric Pasquinade (2011)
Ulrich Krieger: Back to the Future, California (2009)
Gregory Moore: Eight Moments (2013)
Phill Niblock: Disseminate (1998).
Score realized by Luciano Chessa Tim O’Dwyer: Si o no! (2015)
Pauline Oliveros: Waking the Noise Intoners (2009)
Pablo Ortiz: Tango Futurista (2009)
Mike Patton: << KOSTNICE >> (2009)
Teho Teardo: Oh! (2010)

2. Additionally, any of the following newly-commissioned pieces can be performed by hiring a performer in loco:

Luciano Chessa: L’acoustique ivresse (Les bruits de la Paix) (2009) [requires a bass singer]
Luciano Chessa: Vathek’s Aria on the Edge of the Chasm (2013) [requires a tenor]
Daniele Lombardi: Caro Russolo (1983) [requires a pianist]
Nick Hallett: Falcon Heene, Ascending (2009) [requires a bass and baritone singer]
Elliott Sharp: Then Go (2009) [requires singer (a p’ansori singer, ideally)]

3. The following commissioned compositions can only be performed if the composer is present:

Blixa Bargeld: The Mantovani Machine Part II: Cucina (Gamberetti Eroica sul campo di battaglia) (2010) featuring Blixa Bargeld, voice
Blixa Bargeld: The Mantovani Machine Part III: Gas (2011), featuring Blixa Bargeld, voice
Joan La Barbara: Striations (2009) featuring Joan La Barbara, voice
Sylvano Bussotti: VARIAZIONE RUSSOLO – slancio d’angoli (2007), featuring Sylvano Bussotti, piano and Nicholas Isherwood, voice
Margareth Kammerer: Blues or Woman in the Mind at Night (2010), featuring Margareth Kammerer, voice
Carla Kihlstedt + Matthias Bossi: Dosso Casina (2009), featuring Carla Kihlstedt, Matthias Bossi and Moe Staiano
Annie Lewandowski: Do You Burn? (2013), featuring Annie Lewandowski, voice, santur
Anat Pick: Tongues and Levers (2009), featuring Anat Pick, voice
Lee Ranaldo: It all begins now (Whose Streets? Our Streets!) (2011), featuring Lee Ranaldo, electric guitar
Theresa Wong: Meet Me at the Future Garden (2009), featuring Theresa Wong, voice [requires a second vocalist]

4. Additional commissions:

Amelia Cuni and Werner Durand: Gramophone Saraswati, (2011) featuring Amelia Cuni, voice, and Werner Durand, woodwinds
Jennifer Walshe + Tony Conrad: Fancy Palaces (2009), featuring Jennifer Walshe and Tony Conrad

5. Improvised performances

Text of Light: Decoding Text of Future Light
SfSoundGroup: let us return to the old masters…
Ghostigital with Finboggi Petursson and Casper Electronics Óhljóðahljóðfæri (Mu Mu)

6. Other intonarumori performances

Text of Light (Lee Renaldo, Christian Marclay, Ulrich Kreiger and Alan Licht) live music for early 20th Century films. The quartet performed a live score for “Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (1927)”

7. Futurist Banquet

The Orchestra of Futurist Noise Intoners is also available as an evening of noise compositions + a futurist banquet, which can be produced either with NYC’s chef Matthew Weingarten, or with a local chef. In case this is of interest, additional information can be provided.

8. Additional Futurist performances

Francesco Cangiullo: Piedigrotta (1913): A futurist sound poem performed by Luciano Chessa
Also available is a staged version of Piedigrotta accompanied by five additional performers to be recruited in loco, and playing Neapolitan noisemakers built by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum under Chessa’s supervision. The staged version premiered at the Guggenheim’s Peter B. Lewis Theater in 2014.

9. Lectures/Demonstrations

Conductor/composer Luciano Chessa can give presentation lectures on the following topics: History and reconstruction of Russolo’s intonarumori orchestra, composing for the intonarumori, or his volume Luigi Russolo, Futurist. Noise, Visual Arts and the Occult (University of California Press. 2012)

Technical information


The 16 intonarumori are packed in 17 crates:

1. 37×19 1⁄2×14 1⁄2 –33pounds
2. 36 1⁄2×18 1⁄2×13–40pounds
3. 69x23x31 1⁄2–109pounds
4. 36 3⁄4×19 1⁄4×14 1⁄2–32pounds
5. 44×23 1/4×14 1/2–40pounds
6. 61 1⁄2x 31×20 1⁄2 –68pounds
7. 36 3⁄4×19 1/4×31 1⁄2–31pounds
8. 45 1/2x23x14 1/2- 47pounds

9. 36 3/4×19 1/4×14 1/2 -31pounds
10.39×23 1/2×14 1⁄2–43pounds
11. 40×23 1/2×14 1⁄2–45pounds
12. 56×33 1/2×21 1⁄2–93pounds
13. 52 3/4×34 1/2×28-97pounds
14. 52 1/2×34 1/2×28-97pounds
15. 52 3/4×34 1/2×28-97pounds
16. 56×37 1⁄2×33 1⁄2x-97pounds
17. 49 1/2x30x22 3/4-56pounds

Presenter will supply

Music stands with lights
Rehearsal coordinator (responsible for preparation of the scores, small instrument repairs) Stage manager
Stage hands
The orchestra can be presented as an acoustic or amplified concert.
In case of an amplified concert, the preferred microphones are the DPA 4099

Traveling Company

Luciano Chessa: Conductor
Company Manager
Ensemble Manager
Technical Manager