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The Dream of Visual Music


The dream of creating a visual music comparable to auditory music found its fulfillment in animated abstract films by artists such as Oskar Fischinger, Len Lye and Norman McLaren; but long before them, many people built instruments, usually called “color organs,” that would display modulated colored light in some kind of fluid fashion comparable to music.

Ancient Greek philosophers, like Aristotle and Pythagoras, speculated that there must be a correlation between the musical scale and the rainbow spectrum of hues. That idea fascinated several Renaissance artists including Leonardo da Vinci (who produced elaborate spectacles for court festivals), Athanasius Kircher (the popularizer of the “Laterna Magica” projection apparatus) and Archimboldo who (in addition to his eerie optical-illusion portraits composed of hundreds of small symbolic objects) produced entertainments for the Holy Roman Emperors in Prague. 

The Dream of Color Music, And Machines That Made it Possible

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