NMSAT :: Networked Music & SoundArt Timeline

1788 __ Color Organ — Synchronization of imagery and music
Karl von Eckartshausen (1752-1803)
Comment : Karl von Eckartshausen (1752-1803) described in 1788, an apparatus that improved on Castel's. It used cylindrical glasses filled with colored waters and concealed tin shutters. When one played the keys, the shutters opened and allowed candlelight to be seen through the glasses. The inventor writes that "the beauty of the colors is indescribable, far exceeding that of the most beautiful gemstones. And one cannot describe the sensation awakened in the eye by the different chords of colors.".The first device capable of synchronizing imagery with music was developed in 1725/1734 by Louis-Bertrand Castel, a priest, mathematician and philosopher, who created an instrument which provided coloured light in response to music (Peacock 1988). His instrument, a modified clavichord, contained coloured tapes illuminated from behind by candles. A few years later, Karl von Eckartshausen, author of “Disclosures of Magic from Tested Experiences of Occult Philosophic Sciences and Veiled Secrets of Nature”, wrote of a similar device which had been influenced by Castel's design. (Don Ritter)
Original excerpt : « I have long tried to determine the harmony of all sense impressions, to make it manifest and perceptible. To this end I improved the ocular music invented by Pere Castel. I constructed this machine in all its perfection, so that whole chords can be produced, just like tonal chords. Here is a description of the instrument. I had cylindrical glasses, about half an inch in diameter, made of equal size, and filled them with diluted chemical colors. I arranged these glasses like the keys of a clavichord, placing the shades of color like the notes. Behind these glasses I placed little lobes of brass, which covered the glasses so that no colour could be seen. These lobes were connected by wires with the keyboard of the clavichord, so that the lobe was lifted when a key was struck, rendering the color visible. Just as a note dies away when the finger is removed from a key, so the color disappears, since the metal lobe drops quickly because of its weight, covering the color. The clavichord is illuminated from behind by wax candles. The beauty of the colors is indescribable, surpassing the most splendid of jewels. Nor can one express the visual impression awakened by the various color chords. » (von Eckartshausen, 1791)
Source : Ritter, Don (1993), “Interactive Video as a way of life”, In MusicWorks, vol. 56, 1993, p. 48-54.
Source : Lucassen, Teun (2007), “Color Organs”.
Source : Eckartshausen, Karl von (1791), “Aufschlüsse zur Magie aus geprüften Erfahrungen über verborgene philosophische Wissenschaften und verdeckte Geheimnisse der Natur”, (Disclosures of Magic from Tested Experiences of Occult Philosophic Sciences and Veiled Secrets of Nature)., 4 vols., Munich.,1788-1792.
Source : Eisenstein, S.M. (1942), “The Film Sense”, ed. and trans. Jay Leyda , London: Faber and Faber, 1968, pp. 74-75.
Urls : http://aesthetic-machinery.com/articles-way-of-life.html (last visited ) http://hmi.ewi.utwente.nl/verslagen/capita-selecta/CS-Lucassen-Teun.pdf (last visited )

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