In 1913, Italian painter and composer Luigi Russolo created a new type of musical instruments he dubbed the “Intonarumori”, or “noise intoners”. The sounds produced by these devices were definitely unusual for his era and you’d be hard pressed to find anything similar to it today. An explanation of intonarumori construction via Wikipedia –
Although there were several varieties of intonarumori, they each were created with the same basic structure. Each instrument was constructed of a parallelepiped wooden sound box with a metal radiating horn on its front side. Inside the box was a wheel that, when turned by means of a crank or electric button, caused a catgut or metal string to vibrate. The wheel could be made of either metal or wood, and the shape and diameter of the wheel varied depending on the model. At one end of the string there was a drumhead that transmits the vibrations to the speaker. The pitch of the vibrating string was controlled by both the speed that the wheel was cranked and by the tension of the string, which was controlled by a lever on top of the box. The lever allowed the performer to play glissandos or specific notes, and also allowed the performer to change the pitch by small intervals. The intonarumori often had a range of more than an octave.
Sadly, none of Russolo’s intoners survived WWII, but new versions have been built using the original schematics. In fact, NYC’s Performa festival is featuring an evening of intonarumori music tonight. “Music For 16 Futurist Noise Intoners” sports an interesting roster of musicians including Mike Patton of Faith No More & Mr. Bungle, and our multi-talented comrade Mr. Peter Edwards of Casper Electronics. Interesting, indeed!