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ThemesSound and ImageSounding Image
The Sounding Image
About the relationship between art and music—an art-historical retrospective view
Barbara John

Since the early days of Modernism, the interplay between art and music has given considerable impetus to the development of new art forms. [1] This essay will examine the pre-history of this modern synergy. In comparison with other contributions to Media Art Net, the historical framework here is considerably larger. This is justified by the nature of the subject matter: artificial images and sounds have been created since the dawn of human culture. Therefore it is quite right that many texts refer back to prehistory, or at least the ancient world. But a great deal remains speculative here, and often history is reinterpreted, or even written, from an entirely modern point of view.

The approach in this essay will be different. Theoretical statements by artists that have come down to us will be used to show, from a short review of Western culture, how this relationship, which began in very different conditions, changed over the centuries from an art-historical point of view and led to all the arts working together on an equal footing. The route will lead rapidly from antiquity and the Middles Ages to the transition from classical artistic techniques to the beginnings of media art.

Art and music - an unequal start

In the Christian West music was one of the seven free arts, the so-called artes liberales, whereas fine art was seen merely as a craft activity. [2] Music's high standing was based on the philosophy of Pythagoras, who explained musical theory in terms of mathematical laws that were interpreted cosmologically in the Middle Ages. With arithmetic, geometry and astrology, music made up a quadrumvirate working on a mathematical basis within the artes liberales, and it was allotted a special function as a hinge between microcosm and macrocosm.

But even Plato recognized a special connection between eye and sound. Synaesthesia (Greek: sharedsensitivity) has been an epistemological topic since the days of ancient philosophy. Since the Baroque era in particular is has also been an experimental field for inventors of machines and theoretical speculators, like Pater Castel, for example. But this essay will not deal with individual aspects so much as synaesthesia in its full cultural context.

Medieval sacred art and music

The Western roots of a direct interplay between art and music lie in Christian liturgy. [3] The structure of the church building as the place where mass is celebrated emphasizes the special significance of music through the choir, which is immediately adjacent to the altar. Music is an indispensable part of the celebration of mass, and the artistic decoration of the altar is essential for the ceremonial process. Ostentatious medieval piety required staging that appealed to all the senses, like a religious Gesamtkunstwerk: the act of worship climaxing in the raising of the host is accompanied by singing, incense and the glow of candles - with the altarpiece as a pictorial setting. The variety of artistic contributions ranges from the decoration of the musical instruments via the miniature painting in the hymnbooks to panel painting.

The liturgical order determined the content of the art and music programme. The fixed Christian festivals in the liturgical calendar do not determine the choice of liturgical singing alone, they also affect the iconography of the altarpiece. This applies particularlyto the worship of Mary and saints that was widespread in the Middle Ages. This led to an expansion of the iconography of Mary in panel painting, and in liturgy to an increasing number of hymns venerating the Mother of God, which were sung on the appropriate feast days. One especially striking example of saint-worship is the altar painting by the Cologne master Stephan Lochner for the altar of the Three Kings.

In contrast with the Latin hymns, which ordinary people did not understand, and the theological content of the altarpieces, which had to be explained to laymen, a much more vivid way of conveying religious messages developed with the rise of mysticism. Mystery plays, particularly the Easter Passion Plays, emerged from the 12th century, and proved a fertile field of activity for painters, sculptors and musicians. They stimulated new musical and pictorial compositions. Performances required musical accompaniment, and at the same time new ritual figures were designed, like for example the Passion ass for the Palm Sunday play and the sculpture of Mary to be raised in the nave for the feast of the Assumption. Both music and art helped to stage a popular spectacle with religious content.

Book-, wall- and panel-painting count as important pictorial evidence of the history of popular and instrumental music. But they were not intended simply to illustrate, but also to instruct. David with his harp, Salome's dance and the host of angels playing musical instruments are particularly familiar Biblical themes. [4] In secular images we find the singing troubadour, round dances or the personification of music.

Renaissance - the arts in competition

Social changes started in the late Middle Ages: painters, sculptors and architects began to be classed as artists. In the early days of the Renaissance, the arts started to compete with each other. Until then the fine arts had been subordinate to the artes liberales like music, but this was questioned by universally talented artists like Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472) and Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519). One key reason was the discovery of central perspective. This led to a close link between art and mathematics, as artistic composition was now subject to mathematical rules.

Alberti and Leonardo studied perspective intensively, and demanded enhanced status for thefine arts in their writings, particularly in relation to music.

Alberti was principally concerned with the arts' competition between each other. He felt that painting should be allotted the highest status. As a humanistic scholar he insisted that painters should not just have artistic talent, but should also be taught all the free arts, above all geometry. In his theoretical treatise on painting «De Pictura» of 1435/36 he writes: «Hence painting enjoys such high esteem that its exponents, given the admiration accorded to their works, are almost inclined to think that they are to the greatest possible degree similar to God. And is it not further the case that painting should be deemed the teacher of all the other arts - or at least their outstanding adornment?" [5] And Alberti goes on to write: «So: this art gives pleasure, if it is cultivated; it ensures esteem, wealth and eternal fame only if it is so cultivated that it reaches a high standing, Given this - as painting turns our to be the best and most honourable adornment of all things, worthy of free men, beloved equally of the learned and the unlearned - I require all the more emphatically of youth that is eager to learn that they may turn their efforts towards painting, to the greatest feasible extent.» [6] Alberti, who rose to considerable fame as an architect in particular, applied musical numerical proportions to architectural construction. Famous examples are his designs for the churches of S. Francesco in Rimini (1453) and S. Andrea in Mantua (1470). [7]

Leonardo raised the argument to a higher plane. He doubted the superiority of the artes liberales as opposed to the fine arts. His exemplary comparison of art and music led to a demand that art should enjoy equal status. As a universal scholar, he was knowledgeable in all fields. It is said that Leonardo even designed musical instruments, for example a silver lyre in the shape of a horse's head for Prince Lodovico Sforza in Milan. He is also said to have been an outstanding musician. For his famous portrait of the Mona Lisa he arranged for music and singing during the sittings, to encourage the subject to look cheerful. [8] In his now famous treatise «Il Paragone», Leonardo wrote in detail about the relationship between painting and music: «If you say that the non-mechanical sciences are the intellectual ones, that I say thatpainting is intellectual and that it, just as music and geometry consider the relationship between the continuous quantities, and arithmetic the relationship between the discontinuous quantities, painting considers all continuous qualities of the relationship between light and shade and with perspective, those of distances.» [9] And further: «Music can be called nothing other than the sister of painting, as it is subject to hearing, as sense that comes after sight, and creates harmony by combining its well-proportioned and simultaneously appearing parts, though they are compelled to emerge and to fade away in a single or several tempos. These tempos enfold the wellfitting quality of the elements from which the harmony is composed, no differently from the way that the lines describe the elements of which the human beauty is composed. Painting towers over and dominates music, because it does not fade away immediately after it is created like unfortunate music, but, on the contrary, remains alive, and so something that in reality is nothing but a surface shows itself to be a living thing. Oh wondrous science, you keep the fragile beauty of mortal man alive, and it thus becomes more lasting than the works of nature, as these are subject to the remorseless changes of time, and of necessity become old. This science (painting) relates to the divine being as its works relate to the works of this being, and for his reason it is worshipped.» [10]

The particular significance of mathematics as a common basis for music and fine art was addressed above all in marquetry work. From the late 15th century, the wooden cladding of choir stalls and scholar's studies showed trompe-l'oeil-like still life compositions made up of mathematical instruments, musical instruments, books and views of architecture.

Artists vitae, like that of Giorgio Vasari, dating from the 16th century, repeatedly report on the musical talents of individual artists. One of these is the Venetian painter Giogione (1478–1511), a passionate lutenist whose divine singing and playing of music was held in such high esteem that he was invited to prestigious events staged by the nobility as a musician. [11] He addressed music in his painting as well. Music is the central theme in one painting by Giorgione, the «Concert champêtre» (c. 1510, Louvre, Paris). The pastoral scene shows a lutenist resting in a meadow,turning to face a shepherd, and also nude woman playing a flute. On the left-hand edge of the picture a second naked woman is holding a jug over a stone trough. Giorgione, who was himself a passionate musician, is addressing the pastoral landscape as a place of musical inspiration here, where the urban musician is being given artistic inspiration by the divine muses and the shepherd. [12] Another example of the secularization of music as a theme takes us to Rome and the late 16th century.

Baroque - secularization and illusionism

In the course of the 16th century, music increased in popularity as part of a process of increasing secularization, but also as a topic of tangible refinement of sensual delight in life. In painting, the theme tends to crop up as an allegory of fleeting, transient existence. It quickly became a favourite subject for the genre painting that was emerging at the time.

The Italian painter Caravaggio (1571-1610) offers an early example. For his Roman patron Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte, with whom he lodged for a time, he painted a half-figure Group Portrait with Musicians. The youth playing the lute in the centre is surrounded by three other young men, including Caravaggio himself, who is placed behind the lute player on the right and looking at the viewer. He has a horn in his hand. In the background on the left it is possible to make out a winged cupid with a vine. A fourth youth is completely absorbed in studying sheet music. Even if one assumes that these are portraits of musicians from Cardinal del Monte's entourage, the ancient costumes also suggest an allegory, similarly to Giorgione's picture. As well as the homoerotic nature of the piece, its significance includes the allegorical reference to love and music. [13]

In the next century, further development of secular themes led to the emergence of the music still life. Musical instruments depicted alone appear as individual pictures, but also in an allegorical cycle of the human sensory organs. Old inventories record that cycles of this kind were arranged in Baroque chambers of art and curiosities, the predecessors of the modern museum. Rooms of this kind displayed a microcosm of paintings and sculptures, stuffed animals, herbariums,minerals, optical instruments and much more. Music still lifes do not just depict a whole range of the instruments of the day, the idea of vanity makes them instruments of the vanity of sensual pleasure, indeed quite simply into an allegory of man's short life.

Musical instruments occur in the context of depicting a loose life in countless Baroque genre pictures. Music being played in an inn, at a lovers' tryst or in a society salon becomes the symbol of a morally dubious approach to life.

In Baroque churches, architecture, painting and sculpture enter into a symbiosis under religious conditions for the last time. This aimed to merge all the genres, but also posed the threat of making religious content too superficial. As a response to the Counter-Reformation, Catholic church interiors were redesigned to enhance religious edification: high, vaulted naves, colourful painterly and sculptural decoration, highlighted with gold, an organ. The Catholic Church reacted to the Protestant ban of images with a new and sensual pictorial strategy that was not content with presenting a single image, but included the whole church interior. All the design elements worked together on the basis of the Baroque sense of emphatic sensuality and overflowing emotion, but also the idea of transience. The church interior was seen as a reflection of heaven, and an attempt was made to dissolve the boundaries between this world and the next with the interplay of architecture, sculpture and illusionistic wall painting. The nave was intended to open out as it rose, and the believer's eye was to be turned towards heaven and the welcoming saints, all to the sound of the organ. The 17th and 18th centuries are celebrated as the heyday of organ-building. Regular organ landscapes were created, driven by different architectural and liturgical requirements: it was only in liturgical celebration that musical orchestration and artistic decoration of a space could merge. This was to influence one of the guiding intellectual forces of Modernism - Richard Wagner - to some considerable extent.

Early Modernism - Wagner's Gesamtkunstwerk

In the course of the 19th century music acquired outstanding status when compared with the fine arts. Music's expressive resources could successfully reach awide public that was listening to a new language - especially that of Beethoven - after the Enlightenment, revolution and a war that had raged all over Europe. The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer remarked on this: «Music is the true common language that is understood everywhere…. But it does not speak of things, rather of nothing but wellbeing and woe, which are the only realities for the will.» [14]

It is not surprising under these conditions that it was a musician who tried to bring the arts together, naturally with music in prime position: Richard Wagner (1813-1883). In his essay «Das Kunstwerk der Zukunft» (The Art-Work of the Future), he conceived an interplay of the arts as a Gesamtkunstwerk: «The great Gesamtkunstwerk that has to embrace all genres of art, in order to consume, to destroy each one of these genres to some extent as resources for the sake of achieving the overall purpose of them all, in other words the unconditional, direct representation of perfect human nature - this great Gesamtkunstwerk it (i.e. our spirit) recognizes not as the arbitrary possible deed of the individual, but as the necessarily conceivable joint work of the people of the future.» [15]

Wagner identified the composer Beethoven, the hero of «absolute music», as leading the way in this movement. He describes Beethoven's symphonies as «redeeming music from its own most particular element to become general art. It is the human gospel of the art of the future. No progress is possible from it, from it only the perfect work of art of the future can follow directly, the general drama, to which Beethoven has forged the artistic key for us. Thus music has produced from itself something that none of the other separate arts could do.» [16]

Wagner believed that he had received this artistic key himself. He strove towards the Gesamtkunstwerk he so desired to achieve by building the Festspielhaus in Bayreth, reserved exclusively for performances of his own works. The musical staging, with the orchestra in a concealed pit that concentrates the audience's attention entirely on the interplay of music and stage setting is seen as a precursor of cinematic performances.

Wagner's ideas were not without their effect on the fine arts. One of the outstanding examples of hisenormous cultural influence is provided by the Leipzig artist Max Klinger (1857- 1920). Over 16 years, and at a cost of over 100,000 marks he created his polychrome «Beethoven» sculpture.

Classical Modernism - the early days of abstraction

Wagner's synaesthetic ideas became the starting-point for one of Modernism's fundamental developments: abstraction. The simultaneity of acoustic and visual perception, made reality by staging at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, became a new challenge for those who were preparing the way for abstract painting. As well as Frantisek Kupka (1871-1957), Mikalojus Ciurlionis (1875-1911) and Francis Picabia (1879-1953), these included the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944). Looking back on his early days on Moscow, Kandinsky remarked: «But Lohengrin seemed to be to be a perfect realization of this Moscow. The violins, the deep base notes and the wind instruments in particular embodied the whole power of the evening hour for me at that time. I saw all my colours in my mind, they were there before my eyes. Wild, almost mad lines drew themselves in front of me. I did not dare use the expression that Wagner had painted <my hour> in music. But it was quite clear to me that on the other hand painting could develop the same sort of powers that music possesses.» [17]

A key experience for the synaesthetically inclined Kandinksy was contact with the music of the composer Arnold Schönberg (1874-1951). With Franz Marc, Alexei Javelensky, Marianne von Werefkin and Gabriele Münther and other members of the <Neue Künstlervereinigung> he attended one of Schönberg's concerts in Munich on 2 January 1911. The programme included a string quartet that introduced Schönberg's atonal period and the opus 11 piano pieces. This concert gave Kandinsky an important boost on his way to abstraction. His 1911 painting «Impression 3» was created as a result of this musical input. [18]

Abandoning perspective and also detaching colour from the objective motif took Kandinsky straight into abstraction. Even though he had taken the first steps in this direction in 1908/09, he had needed the crucial musical experience to help him risk the decisive step. Just as Schönberg had liberated himself from the constraints of the rules of musical composition,Kandinsky was trying to extricate himself from the dictates of imitating nature. Thus the end of central perspective in painting coincided with the loss of a binding key system in music. Composer and painter met at a turning-point. Kandinsky immediately tried to get in touch with Schönberg personally, who also painted, and made him a member of the «Blauer Reiter». In his first letter to Schönberg, he wrote: «You have realized something in your works that I was longing for in music, admittedly in an uncertain form. The natural movement through their own fate, the personal life in the individual voices in our composition in precisely what I am trying to find in the form of painting.» [19]

Unlike Kandinsky, who was decisively inspired towards atonal music by Schönberg, for the French painter Robert Delaunay (1885-1941) simultaneity and hence temporal perception shifted into the centre of his artistic output. He used the rules of simultaneous contrast to create vibrations in the eye. Time became a new category within artistic creativity, taking over from the meaning of space with a central perspective to a certain extent. Rhythm created a particular affinity between art and music. Delaunay's pictorial motifs started to move, they were even intended to lead to insights into the world over and above the optical effect. His friend, the poet Guillaume Apollinaire, poetically called this way of painting «Orphism.» A piece of Paragone seems to flare up again when we read this statement by Delaunay: «The eye is our most highly developed sense; it is most closely connected with our brain, our consciousness. It conveys the idea of the vital movement of the world and this movement is called simultaneity.» [20]

In Delaunay's case, painting became time-based colour composition. Perception was no longer based on the classical perspective composition of a rectangular framed picture. In his 1912 series of «Window Pictures» Delaunay composed imaged that were metres long, representing the perception of the picture subject as a time sequence, like an excerpt.

Delaunay wrote as follows about his «Window Pictures«: «The choice of ‹Window Pictures› as a title is still a reminder of concrete reality; but the new form the expressive resources are taking canalready be seen. These are windows on to a new reality. This new reality means nothing other than spelling out new expressive resources; these create the new form purely physically, as elements of colour. Among other things, these pictorial elements are juxtaposed contrasts that build up pictorial architecture, a complex, similar to an orchestra, developing like movements in colour. […] The series invokes only the sujet, the composition and orchestration of colours. That is the origin, the first appearance of non-representational painting in France. […] The colour is its own function; all its motion is present at every moment, as in musical composition at the time of Bach, or good jazz in our day.» [21]

Delaunay's reflections about the meaning of colour, linked with the loss of perspective and the new pictorial order analogous with musical composition are reminiscent of Kandinky's ideas. In fact the two artists met at the first «Blauer Reiter» exhibition in Munich in December 1911, in which Delaunay also featured. Correspondence between them from autumn 1911 to spring 1912, when Delaunay began his «Windows Series», has survived. [22]

From painting to the moving picture

Alongside Delaunay's painterly approach, artists also tried to compose colour rhythms as real movement. Leopold Survage (1879-1968) designed over seventy studies for his film project «Rhythme Coloré» in 1913. This was a colour-rhythm symphony that was unfortunately never realized. Survage summed up his aims as follows in 1914: «After painting had liberated itself from the conventional objects of the outside world, it conquered the terrain of abstract forms. Now it has to get over its last, fundamental barrier - immobility, so that it can become an expressive resource for our sensations that is as rich and subtle as music. Everything that is accessible to us has duration in time, which manifests itself most strongly in rhythm, activity and movement […] I want to animate my painting, I want to give it movement, I want to introduce rhythm into the concrete action of my abstract painting, rhythm that derives from my inner life.» [23]

As well as Survage, the Swedish painter Helmuth Viking Eggeling (1890-1925) and the Dadaist and film pioneer Hans Richter (1888-1976) worked on this subject. The two men met in Zurich in 1918, and worked together for several years in their search for a universal language. Richter described this period as follows: «Music became a model for both of us. We found a principle that fitted our philosophy in musical counterpoint: each action produces a corresponding reaction. So we found a suitable system in counterpoint fugue, a dynamic and polar arrangement of conflicting energies, and we saw life as such in this model. […] Month after month we studied and compared our analytical drawings, which we had prepared on hundreds of sheets of paper, until we finally came to see them as living creatures that grew, and then passed away […] Now we seemed to be confronted with a new problem, that of continuity […] until - late in 1919 - decided to do something. Eggeling made one theme of elements into the <Horizontal-Vertical-Mass>, on long paper rolls, and I made one of the rolls into <Präludium>. [24] The results of their experiments with form on long paper rolls took Richter and Eggeling directly to film. Their abstract formal studies became the basis for film scores. They and Walter Ruttmann (1887-1941) count as pioneers of the abstract film. [25]

The Bauhaus was a special place where the different arts could develop symbiotically. Many of the masters teaching fine art there were extraordinarily interested in music, like for example Wassily Kandinsky, Oskar Schlemmer, (1888-1943) and László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946). Paul Klee (1879- 1940) also repeatedly included motifs from music in his drawings and water-colours. He discovered a relationship between painting and music at a very early stage. He put it like this in his diary: «The main disadvantage for the observer or re-creator is that they are faced with an end, and seems to be going in the opposite direction as far as genesis is concerned. […] Musical works have the advantage of being taken up again in the sequence in which they were conceived, and on repeated hearing the disadvantage of being tiring because of the evenness of the impression they make. For the ignorant, creative work has the disadvantage being at aloss about where to begin, and for the intelligent the advantage of varying the sequence strongly while taking it in.» [26] Klee perceived space as time, like Delaunay, to whom he had been introduced through Kandinsky in 1912. Instead of the concept of simultaneity that Delaunay had introduced, Klee used polyphony: «Polyphonic painting is superior to music in that temporal qualities are more spatial here. The concept of simultaneity merges more richly here. To illustrate the backward movement that I think out for music, I remember the reflection in the side windows of a moving tram.» [27]

Klee also claimed the category of time for painting. Differently from Leonardo, he sees time as the element that links the individual arts. His water-colours produced around 1921, which include «Fuge in Rot» (Fugue in Red), greatly influenced experiments with light projections taking place in the Bauhaus.

Abstract sounds - multi-media performances

Klee's colour compositions stimulated Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack (1893-1965), who was still registered as a Bauhaus student at the time, to conduct his first experiments with light projections. [28] His first ideas for the so-called «Farbenlicht-Spiele» (Colour-Light Games) date from 1921/22. The abstract play of coloured forms was performed at the Bauhaus in 1923, accompanied by piano music. Several fellow performers were needed to realize the score the artist had devised. The colour forms emerging from the darkness of the projection room are directly reminiscent of Klee's water-colour compositions, they are painting translating into movement. Hirschfeld-Mack said of his light projections: «…we are aiming for a fugue-like, strictly structured play of colours, always derived from a definite colour-form theme.» [29]

The Hanover Dadaist Kurt Schwitters (1897-1948) did not work with colours, but with words. His so-called «Merz art» includes all artistic fields, from architecture via painting to poetry. According to Schwitters, the word «Merz» means «bringing every conceivable material together for artistic purposes, and technically the fact that the individual materials make the same effect in principle..» [30] Perhaps it was by chance that the first Merz work happened to come into being in association with music: Schwitters had his subject,a doctor-friend, play the piano while sitting for a portrait. When the man started to become agitated over Beethoven's «Moonlight Sonata», Schwitter intuitively glued a beer mat on to the cheek in the portrait! His first Merz poems were written around 1919, like «An Anna Blume» (To Anna Blume), for example. The «Lautsonate Merz 13» (Sound Sonata Merz 13) appeared on a gramophone record in 1924, and the «Ursonate» (Sonata with primeval sounds) was composed over a long period in several versions from 1922 to 1932. Schwitters wrote as follows in the magazine G in 1924: «It is not the word that is originally the material of poetry, it is the letter.» Thus he claims letters, or sounds, as the raw material for his poetry, like the rubbish he found in the streets and used for his material collages. Schwitters summed up his intentions in «Selbstbestimmungsrecht der Künstler» (The Artists' Right to Self-Determination) in 1919: «Merz poetry is abstract. Like Merz painting, it uses complete sentences from newspapers, posters, catalogue, conversations etc, as given elements, with and without changes. (That is terrible.) These elements do not need to fit in with the meaning, as there is no more meaning. (That is also terrible.) There are also no more elephants, there are only parts of the poem. (That is dreadful.) And you? (Draws war loan.) Decide yourselves what is poem and what is frame.» [31]

Fine artists increasingly frequently took part in avant-garde plays or even wrote their own pieces in the 1920s. Known works are Kandinsky's drafts for Mussorgsky's «Pictures at an Exhibition» (1928) or Oskar Schlemmer's «Triadisches Ballett» (Triadic Ballet), 1922/26.

An early example of composers and artists working together is provided by the Russian Futurist Alexei Krutschonych's opera. Michail Matjuschin set the libretto of his opera «Sieg über die Sonne» (Victory over the Sun) to music, and Kasimir Malevich designed the costumes and stage set. The piece had its world premiere in St. Petersburg in December 1913. The piece's trans-rational language was made up of incomprehensible word coinages, and came to express the so-called new reason that replaced the old values, symbolized by the sun. The opera was also of lasting importance for artistic development in Russia: Malevich deployed elements of Suprematism for the first time here. The Russian Constructivist El Lissitzky (1890-1941)takes up the theme again in 1920/21. He designed mechanical figures as a «three-dimensional design for an electro-mechanical show» for a planned new performance of the opera «Sieg über die Sonne» as a multi-media spectacle.

Lissitzky explained his aims himself in the foreword to an edition portfolio containing a selection of the stage designs: «This material is the fragment of a work created in Moscow in 1920/21 … We build a scaffolding in a square that is accessible and open on all sides, that is the show machinery. This scaffolding makes it possible for the show bodies to move in absolutely any way… They glide, roll, float up, in and over the scaffolding. All the parts of the scaffolding and all the bodies involved are set in motion using electro-mechanical forces and devices, and these are controlled by a single person. This is the show designer. His place is in the centre of the scaffolding at the switchboard for all energies. He directs the movement, the sound and the light. He switches the radio megaphone on and the din of railways stations rings out over the square, the roar of Niagara Falls, hammering in a rolling mill. Beams of light follow the movements of the bodies involved, refracted by prisms and reflections…The sun as expression of the old world energy in torn down from the sky by modern man, who can create his own source of energy because of his technical mastery. This idea in the opera is tied into the simultaneity of events. The language is alogical. Individual poems are sound poems.»

The classical artistic techniques like instrumental music and painting have already been gradually overcome by Survage, Viking-Eggeling, Richter, Ruttmann, Hirschfeld-Mack and replaced by new media forms like film, light and sound apparatuses. A new totality is designed that no longer operates as a individual work of genius, but is intended to be an event for the whole of society, in the political context of revolutionary Russia. Here the imposition of technology on human beings and sound has finally consumed Wagner's vision of the divine composer in favour of a world of apparatus that confronts the artist with a completely new set of tasks.

© Media Art Net 2004