Alexander Scriabin: Multimedia in 1910

  • A Sunday Morning Ramble...

    So, an Isadora user wrote with a question, because he is helping to realize the visual elements within a performance of Alexander Scriabin's _[Prometheus: The Poem of Fire]( What I learned is that this musical performance includes a part for the "Chromola," a [color organ]( invented by Preston Millar. I was fascinated to learn more about this piece which, given that it was premiered in 1910, would certainly have to be considered a very early multimedia performance.
    As I dug a bit deeper into Scriabian, I found that he had developed a rather sophisticated color system based on Newton's "Optiks," which you can read about [here](
    He had an even more ambitious work that was never performed called [Mysterium]( Here's a quote from Scriaban on this work:
    _"There will not be a single spectator. All will be participants. The work requires special people, special artists and a completely new culture. The cast of performers includes an orchestra, a large mixed choir, an instrument with visual effects, dancers, a procession, incense, and rhythmic textural articulation. The cathedral in which it will take place will not be of one single type of stone but will continually change with the atmosphere and motion of the Mysterium. This will be done with the aid of mists and lights, which will modify the architectural contours."_
    I exclaimed out loud as I read "There will not be a single spectator. All will be participants."because the new work I am envisioning will have the audience not as spectators as performers. But also, his idea that the building itself would "continually change with the atmosphere and motion of the Mysterium" echoes current ideas of projection mapping. In recent times, perhaps only Stockhausen would have the _chutzpah_ to propose that, at the end of the show would be followed by the end of the world, with the human race replaced by "nobler beings". Awesome.
    I've often referred to the work of [Loie Fuller](http:// as "the original multimedia dance performer", with her combination of flowing costumes and slide projections from the turn of the century. And of course, Wagner had this sort of all-encompassing idea in mind with his operas.
    So, as I sit here drinking my coffee, I'm inspired to take a deeper look at these pioneering souls, and to consider how we might learn from their example – how we as a community of artists might take a fresh look at the media we have at our fingertips, and consider its transformative artistic power.
    Maybe you all have further inspiring examples of early multimedia work. If so please add to the discussion and post some links here.
  • Izzy Guru

    I heard about the color organ whilst researching my first dissertation. I've always related music to color. In my DJ software I change clips to represent mood/style of music and in Logic/Ableton I do the same... but I won't go into all that.

    There was one piece I remember watching that was quite early and it showed what I consider multimedia; but I have had to ask a friend the name... I will report back when I find it.

  • Recently, new discoveries were made at a theatre museum in Moscow. This article talks about early uses of projected film in theatre: (Google translate is your friend)..


  • Thanks for bringing up this topic... I have been researching this area for the past year or so in preparation for a project just recently completed.

    It's fascinating to think that the first music/visual device, the Ocular Harpsichord (sometimes called the [color organ)]( was created in 1725!  The best single site that I found in this area of research is the []( site created by Fred Callopy. You will find the resources and timeline spectacular.
    I just premiered a four-movment work for orchestra, choir, two MIDI/Acoustic Pianos and _Chromalume_.  The _Chromalume_ software was written using Isadora.  The Chromalume controlled the presets for 50 moving lights and 4 projectors mapping out throughout the entire music hall using MadMapper as well as a MIDI percussion controller input to control amplitude of various camera inputs and other video filter sets.  The Disclaviers projected color and images that were related to some of Scriabin's color concepts (and my pitch/color theory).  Each note on the piano created a color and particle projection that responded to the dynamic intensity of each note input.
    The Isadora software program was the unifying hub controlling all the media incorporated in the work.  The Rochester [Symphony Orchestra and Chorale](http:// premiered the work two weeks ago.  I call the multimedia package used to enhance classical music events "Symphonic Vision" and hope to use it with the standard repertoire with other willing orchestras.
    Thanks Mark for creating Isadora... and thanks for hitting on this topic near to my heart.
    Kevin Dobbe
    Rochester, MN