Friday, May 1, 2009

bringers of fire

I've been thinking about Scriabin again. His troubled but tranquil Prometheus: The Poem of Fire features the usual dense conflicted piano work that is the composer's hallmark, lost in a dark wood provided by the pocket orchestra. It is a rewarding listen, but the real instrument of interest is one you can't hear - a Chromola, or color organ, an electromechanical devise to project lights on a screen in accompaniment of the music. Scriabin unfortunately never got to see the final product in action: the light projector failed during a 1911 Moscow performance.

A technically successful performance of this piece using a color organ operated by Preston Millar took place in New York in 1915 - check out this NY Times article from March 28 of that year their archives. A trial run of the color organ was conducted a few weeks before at a small theatre (with actress Isadora Duncan in attendance) but Mr. Millar was dismayed that he could not find a theatre suitable to to stage the full synthesis of color and music that he saw for the piece. "We had to fall back on Carnegie Hall, and even there we were limited to four feet of stage at the back of the platform on which to set up our apparatus." Unfortunately Scriabin, did not attend this limited realization of his vision, and died from septicemia two weeks later on April 27, 1915 in Moscow.

Coincidentally, I just got an assignment to cover Noize Fest this Sunday in New Orleans, a homespun avant garde festival running concurrent to the behemoth of Jazzfest in a guy's back yard. Here a number of fringe musicians will be pulling out their bags of tricks, igniting the air with feats of rouge technology - there will be a circuit-bending booth where instruments and noise makers will be modified on site to realize some of this music - and individual expression. It is not difficult to find parallels in the vision of Scriabin and the ambitions of these musicians.

Noize Fest begins at noon at the home of Michael Patrick Welch (of one mand soul/racket onslaught the White Bitch, more info at his MySpace page) at 609 Lesseps St. Bring your fresh ideas, busted instruments, and maybe some kibble for his pet goat which will be roaming the yard. Oh, and if anyone has a working 1915 light organ, I'm sure some set up for its enjoyment will be enthusiastically arranged.

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