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1920 __ Clavilux — lumia
Thomas Wilfred (Richard Edgar Løvstrom) (1889-1968)
Comment : Thomas Wilfred (June 18, 1889 Denmark - June 10, 1968, Nyack, New York) born Richard Edgar Løvstrom, was a musician and inventor. He is best known for his visual music he named Lumia and his designs for color organs called Clavilux. Wilfred was not fond of the term "Color Organ", and coined the word "Clavilux" from Latin meaning "Light played by Key". In 1919, Wilfred constructed the Clavilux Model A in his Long Island Studio (located on the Brice Estate). The first public recital came in 1922 and featured performances on the Clavilux Model B for audiences at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York. The press was highly receptive. In the audience that first night was Leopold Stokowski. The Clavilux was a complex instrument which allowed a person to create and perform Lumia compositions. Later models B-H were touring and lecture models, the last one being built prior to WWII. (Compiled from various sources)In the 1920s, Danish-born Thomas Wilfred created the Clavilux, a color organ, ultimately patenting seven versions. By 1930, he had produced 16 "Home Clavilux" units. Glass disks bearing art were sold with these "Clavilux Juniors." Wilfred coined the word “lumia” to describe the art. Significantly, Wilfred's instruments were designed to project colored imagery, not just fields of colored light as with earlier instruments. [...] In Germany, from the late 1920s-early 1930s, several color organs were demonstrated at a series of Color Music Congresses. Hirshfeld-Mack performed his Farbenlichtspiel color organ at these Congresses and at several other festivals and events in Germany. He had developed this color organ at the Weimar Bauhaus school, with Kurt Schwerdtfeger. He established an Art Institute of Light in New York, and toured giving Lumia concerts in the United States and Europe (at the famous Art Deco exhibition in Paris). He also built "lumia boxes," self-contained units that looked rather like television sets, which could play for days or months without repeating the same imagery. (Compiled from various sources)A Wilfred Lumia work is a composition of light, color, and form which changes slowly with time. It exhibits a very wide range of light intensity and a broad spectrum of delicate colors and shapes. These are extremely difficult to record and impossible to "play back" with fidelity, even using a high quality monitor. Thus you cannot experience the full, almost visceral, impact of his work unless you see it in person. Unfortunately, there are only approximately 35 of his works in existence and these are rarely displayed publicly. (Eugene Epstein)
Original excerpt : « Light is the artist's sole medium of expression. He must mold it by optical means, almost as a sculptor models clay. He must add colour, and finally motion to his creation. Motion, the time dimension, demands that he must be a choreographer in space.[...] Here we have the first clear conception of a potential aesthetic language of form, color and motion in their purest manifestation.apart from earthly phenomena and the human body.and precisely the foundation upon which lumia rests. But, some two hundred years later, Aristotle unwittingly launched the unfortunate changeling “Color Music” with the following passage in “De Sensu”: “Colors may mutually relate like musical concords for their pleasantest arrangement; like those concords mutually proportionate.” This is merely an analogy to illustrate a point, but the advocates of “Color Music” have construed it to mean that Aristotle believed a definite physical relation existed between the vibrations of light and sound; that each note in the musical scale had a definite color. Science has long since disproved still pops out at least once a year as a brand-new idea. [...] Goethe has stated the case as clearly as anyone. “In Zur Farbenlehre”, 1810, he writes: “Color and Sound do not admit of being compared together in any way. They are like two rivers which spring from the same mountain, but from there on run their courses under totally different conditions, in two totally different regions, so that along the entire course of both no two points can be compared.” Goethe concludes with the statement that color and sound act “in wholly different provinces, in different modes, on different elements, for different senses.” [...] Let us reverse the situation for a moment. If each note has a definite color, then each color must have a definite note. We build a “sound organ” by hooking a photo-electric cell to an amplifier with attached loudspeaker and we “tune” the contraption according to the supposed analogy, so that each color scanned by the cell will produce a note of a certain pitch from the loudspeaker. Even if we succeed in getting deep, basso-profundo rumblings from a Rembrandt and high, plaintive howls from a Picasso, we shall have proved nothing, except that we might have used our time and energy to better advantage. [...] [O]n January 10th, 1922, I played my first public performance at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City; a tense and wonderful evening. But is was with fear and trembling I went out to buy the morning papers the next day. Years on the concert platform had taught me to take nothing for granted. It was quite possible I would have to spend many more years as a wandering troubadour with a crazy idea. The reviews were far better than I had dared to hope. In general the critics accepted lumia as a new art and made allowances for its youth and my inexperience at the keyboard. Kenneth MacGowan wrote in The World: 'This is an art for itself, an art of pure color; it holds its audience in the rarest moments of silence that I have known in a playhouse.' [...] Like its seven older sisters, lumia is an aesthetic concept, expressed through a physical basis of methods, materials and tools. In a complete definition the two aspects must be stated separately before a composite can yield a clear picture. The aesthetic definition must clarify the artist's conception and intent, the physical one the means he employs in achieving his object. a) Aesthetic concept: The use of light as an independent art-medium through the silent visual treatment of form, color and motion in dark space with the object of conveying an aesthetic experience to a spectator. b) Physical basis: The composition, recording and performance of a silent visual sequence in form, color and motion, projected on a flat white screen by means of a light-generating instrument controlled from a keyboard. The spectator is a necessary factor in the concept: a materialized vision, beheld by a beholder. The spectator may be only the artist himself. We may now fuse imagination and reality. The aesthetic concept is one of form, color and motion evolving in dark space, the physical reality is form, color and motion projected on a flat white screen. The lumia artist conceives hi idea as a three-dimensional drama unfolding in infinite space. [...] » (Thomas Wilfred, “Light and the Artist”, THE JOURNAL OF AESTHETICS & ART CRITICISM, VOL.V, NO. 4, JUNE, 1947, pp. 247-255)
Source : Betancourt, Michael (2006), “Thomas Wilfred's Clavilux”, Lightning Source Inc., Borgo Press.
Urls : http://www.lumia-wilfred.org/ (last visited ) http://www.lumia-wilfred.org/content/imagepages/earlyclav.html (last visited ) http://www.gis.net/~scatt/clavilux/clavilux.html (last visited ) http://rhythmiclight.com/articles/LightAndTheArtist.pdf (last visited ) http://www.awn.com/mag/issue2.1/articles/moritz2.1.html (last visited ) http://www.umatic.nl/tonewheels_historical.html (last visited ) http://homepage.tinet.ie/~musima/visualmusic/visualmusic.htm (last visited )

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