Light Organ

1968 - 1970

Light Organ - 1970

The sixty light sources were set to illuminate a controlled environment which evolved to be a disposition of sixty different coloured areas, the same twelve, pure chroma, colours of the colour circle, but this time as pigment screen-printed onto flat surfaces in five different scales and spatial relationships.

Photograph taken at Trent Bridge Cricket Ground, Nottingham in February 1970 .

During the summer holidays of 1968, following three lacklustre years at art college, AMA elected to read a book called ‘Schoenberg and the Method’. Besides discussing the 'Twelve Tone’ music system, it introduced him to the existence of Alexander Scriabin’s ‘Colour Organ / Clavier à Lumières’, circa 1910. This was the key to get AMA going. The principle was to relate the twelve note ‘Circle of Fifths’ to an optical colour circle, divided into twelve, ostensibly, equidistant parts.



This was 1968 and electric keyboards hardly existed. Consequently AMA acquired an old upright piano, took out the keyboard and set to modifying it so that each key might turn on an individual light bulb. Micro-switches from a disused army tank were incorporated and 240 volts of mains electricity was wired into the five octaves of keys, making sixty switches. As a result, each of the twelve divisions of colour could be activated to appear in five different degrees of brightness. A lot of wattage could pass through this wooden box; I don’t think ‘Health & Safety’ existed then.













The construction of this apparatus and environment took a proportionally long time, leaving not too long to think up some compositions to ‘play’ ready for the final year’s exhibition. That was often AMA’s problem, lots of framework and presentation, not too much content.













However, such was the visual sensation and success of this this work, that AMA was invited to exhibit it at the Midland Group Art Gallery, Nottingham in November 1969 in a show called 'Mutation Phenomena II'. It then appeared in different formats in other art galleries and environments for the next year. Indeed, it was AMA’s ‘Magnus Opus’ before another pragmatic decision to undertake a PSGE course in art education at Bristol University led to his playing no further significant part in the world of art until the spring of 1993.

Installation and performance comprising piano keyboard, modified to act as switch system for 60 coloured lights that dramatically mutate the visual perception of pre-coloured panels. 

Dimensions variable,

Two different colour interpretations of the circle of 5ths

Avoiding any emotional association in attributing a particular note with a particular colour, a pragmatic decision paired the lowest note on the keyboard ‘A’ with the deepest pure chroma colour, Violet; consequently ‘D’ became Blue-Violet, ‘E’, Red-Violet, etc. leading to Eb / D# (the tritone of ‘A’) representing the lightest pure chroma colour, pure yellow.

Three chromatic couloured hexagons awaiting installation
Hexagon under influence of red light
Hexagon under influence of blue light
Hexagon under influence of green light
Dismantled in 1970

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