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Robert Austin

Battle of the Colors

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Some of us remember the light shows pioneered back in the late 50s, that were especially popular additions to rock shows in the latter 60s. Though a number of techniques were used, from film strips to strobes, the most popular was perhaps the 'wet show', in which drops of colored water were added to dishes of oil (or vice-versa), and manipulated in various ways. The results were projected onto a screen, and no doubt contributed to the altered states of consciousness experienced by many concert-goers of the time.

But this technique was developed in the 1920s by Max Teuber, and described the April, 1925 issue of Science and Invention. Some things take a long time to catch on... Teuber, though, was not alone in exploring the effects of colored light on mood and mind-state. At around the same time, Thomas Wilfred was developing his Lumia system, which relied on increasingly elaborate optical systems, using lenses, mirrors, and a wide variety of unusual materials in the optical path to project diaphanous, multicolored abstractions of often exquisite beauty. I urge you to search for ?lumia? in Youtube for some examples. Eventually, his optical innovations were incorporated into laser light shows, where they remain today.

Whilst Teuber was developing unique lighting effects for a ballet, Wilfred approached his Lumia compositions from both an aesthetic and mystical perspective (he was a Theosophist). His gradually evolving displays were objects of meditation, potential spiritual transformation. The automatic display devices he built for home use could run more than a year nonstop before repeating themselves. They embodied the essence of tranquility, and I would lay odds that anyone who took the time to attend to one for a quiet half hour or so would display strongly altered brainwave activity, especially a boost to theta and alpha amplitudes and drop in beta, even though the displays barely flickered, but because attending closely to those ethereal, gradually transforming patterns had the power to transform your mind.

I think light and sound stimulation can become a minor, but importantly useful, art-form. In a sense, it already is; the sorts of patterns and visual transformations that most of us experience are often quite compelling. Adding external displays which convert a wall or other object into a sort of 'strobo-sculpture' may be a next step in advancing this technology. Our own Electronguy has generously shared his recent design for such an illumination source elsewhere on this site (this could make a good Sparkfun addition, you DIYers?). Watch for more on this topic in the coming months.
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Updated 08-08-2011 at 11:51 PM by Robert Austin

Categories
AVS , The Brain , Light and Sound , Altered States

Comments

  1. Marisa's Avatar
    I liked the sculpture idea you came up with a few years back. I think everything house, bar, spa, therapists office .... should have one.

    M.
  2. synaesthesia's Avatar
    "Adding external displays which convert a wall or other object into a sort of 'strobo-sculpture' may be a next step in advancing this technology."

    Along these lines , I have an Iphone app like this that projects slowly changing colour washes onto the wall and ceiling to help you relax and go to sleep.
  3. Andy's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by synaesthesia
    Along these lines , I have an Iphone app like this that projects slowly changing colour washes onto the wall and ceiling to help you relax and go to sleep.
    That sounds quite interesting. Do you have a link?