Vanechkina I.L., musicologist, pianist, Institute "Prometei"

 Galeyev B.M., Ph.D., producer, Institute "Prometei"


On the basis of their own researches of many years and experiments on the realization of "light symphony" idea by A. Scriabin, the authors have analyzed all noted attempts of  "Prometheus" performing throughout the world. Their own recent experiment on the original solution of the problem of light- music synthesis is described. The music of "Prometheus" was accompanied by the pictorial images of W.Kandinsky, who, as it is known, also dreamt of the synthesis of musical and visual impressions. As one knows, Russian composer Scriabin is considered to be the pioneer of light-music. He was the first among serious composers to include light into musical piece. But the myth existed in musicology for a long time that string "Luce" (light) of Scriabin's " Prometheus" score is "encripted". We made special investigation in which course we succeeded in restoring genesis and idea of Scriabin's "light symphony". It turned out that the composer considered the "symphony" as a kind of colour "aura" of music (using teosophic terms beloved by Scriabin). But if we put it in conventional scientific language it appears that one of voices of note string "Luce" is connected with harmony (chords); the second one relates to tonal aspect of the symphony what meet, in total, aims of color and symbolic "vizualization" of the piece phylosophical program: transformation "spirit-matter-Spirit" (fig.1, a and b). Besides this,it turned out that the score, the light string "Luce" does not reflect the "accompanying" composer's thoughts on possible arranging of color into graphical images, and also those ones on neccessity of using such techniques as audiovisual poliphony and counterpoint , this excluding initial interpretation of "light symphony" as a mere " aura" of light [1-2]. But dany musicians and theoretists knew nothing about those ideas of Scriabin and about content of the string "Luce" itself, though. Accordingly, different level of its understanding was characterestic to " Prometheus" performances with light produced with by M.Altshuler in USA (1915), L.Sabaneyev (Moscow, 1917), A.Lentulov (Moscow, 1918), F.Bentham (London, 1937), SKB "Prometheus" (Kazan,1962-64; filmed versions - 1965-67), K.Leontyev (Moscow, 1962), Yu.Pravdyuk (Kharkov, 1967), in USA (Rochester, 1967), in Sweden (Stokholm, 1969), in cinema and concert halls "Oktyabrsky" (Leningrad, 1972) and "Russia" (Moscow, 1975). The series of light premieres were anew produced on the occassion of 100-th anniversary of birth of A.N.Scriabin (New York, 1969; New Heaven, 1969; London, Albert-Hall, 1972; Saint Luis, 1970; Milan, 1970; Iowa, 1975), and others (Oxford, 1979; Florenz, 1980; Bochum, 1981; Leeds, 1983). More detailed information on the concerts see [3-6]. The recent light "Prometheus" performances worth of mentioning are those ones by G.Neuhold (Antwerpen,1988), Berlin Filarmonie, 1992, H.Autsboe (Amsterdam,1994), and also by conductor M.Pletnev (Moscow, 1998) and Dutch TV (P.Struiken's project), 1998).The equipment has naturally became more sophisticated, electric bulbs and rheostats being substituted with lasers and computer- aided control systems. But complexness of the equipment has by no means provided high results of light part realization. And what is more, the results were sometimes inverse to amount of equipment involved. To all appearances it is necessary to underline the evident fact that aspiration to perform "Luce" in full accordance with Scriabin was most often only justified as idea of purely historical significance, as some kind of documental reconstruction of all in all primitive idea, this being acknowledged by Scriabin himself. ("Algorithm" used for creating "Luce" was apparently formal and more than 400 modulations of light within 20 minutes of symphony performing were apparently "offensive" for sight...) In the same time, there were the cases of working off or total ignoring of "Luce" by directors of light version of "Prometheus" (A.Lentulov, Yu.Pravdyuk, I.Svoboda) that provided the most interesting, from artisitic point of view, results, with preserving the very idea of emboding of philosophycal and symbolic program of the piece.The best version of our "Promethues" films is also acknowledged the one where we introduced our own dynamics of forms, though simple one.

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Fig. 1,a. Beginning of score of "Prometheus" by A.N.Scriabin (at the top - light string "Luce").  

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Fig.1,b. Simplest light instrument used Scriabin.

 It was jubilee concert dedicated to 50-th anniversary of our Kazan conservatory and held in newly built concert hall (21 June 1996)   that we dared execute more radical experiment at. "Prometheus" was included into the concert program, directed by F.Mansurov, piano accompaniment by Ye.Mikhailov. The only lighting equipment the hall is equiped with are two powerful slide projectors "Pani BP-4, Compact" (fig.2) projecting in "fade-in" mode onto the large screen (9x9 m). We planned to use them for new series of our enlightenment concerts "Musics, poetry, painting" (being held earlier in cooperation with conservatory in old concert hall using low-powered slide projectors "Proton" [7]). There is no more lighting equipment in new hall, not counting chandeliers. This was the reason we rejected initially the proposal to perform light version of "Prometheus". But we than recollected our own presentations at the Kandinksy conferences (Hague,1993; Moscow, 1994) being concluded with pathetically high ritorical exclamations: "Ah, it is a great pity that Scriabin was not acquianted with Kandinsky! They could achieve real synthesis if working together!". And why should not we take a risk to arrange "meeting" in our days, the more that nobody else than we investigated, in parallel comparison, so deeply and in details synthetical ideas of Scriabin and Kandinsky?..

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  Fig. 2. Diaprojectors "Pani" with additional "fade in" control panel, created in "Prometei"  Institute.
I.Vanechkina and B.Galeyev at light apparature. 

The both were contemporaries, breathed the same air and fed the same "spiritual feed". They were the novators in equal measure in their "basic" arts and both came to the "Gesamtkunstwerk" idea, though from different sides, dreaming on its ebmodiment in unprecedented temples of "Mystery" (Scriabin) and "Great Utopy" (Kandinsky). Both Scriabin and Kandinsky were attracted to theosophy and it was in its context that very idea of synthesis was developed and system of color symbols (and of forms too, in the case of Kandinsky), and also of synaesthetic correspondings ("color - tonality" of Scriabin, "color - timbre" of Kandinsky and so on) was formed. Both are vivid representatives of "cosmism" in art, not only due the content of their works, but also due to the form, techniques used, being discovered by them. Scriabin was novator in the field of modernization of harmony,his innovations being based on liberating from dictate of tonal gravity (synaesthetic analogue of earth gravity [8]). It was due to this approach that composer achieved the effect of cosmic flightness and lightbearesness of sounds. Kandinsky revolutionized painting by excluding object (which was usually subordinate to gravity laws as part of composition). It was this approach that provided him the possibility to come out to "space" of abstract forms and colors being independent from "gravity". We can divide conditionaly Kandinsky's creative work after mastering "objective painting" into following periods: "abstract expressionism" (beginning from early 10's), "geometrical abstractionism" (beginning from early 20's), "abstract surrealism" (last years of his life). We also have revealed interesting system in course of our work on visual interpretation of "Prometheus": pictures we chose for performance turned out to be arranged "along" music of "Prometheus" in chronological order. More precisely, evolution, thematical development of Scriabin's piece turned out to be in tune, in general, with evolution of Kandinsky's creativity as a whole. It is known that "Prometheus" is program symphony (symphonic poem) in one movement, written in form of "sonate allegro", and containing introduction and chord. Phylosophical program of the piece is embodied in development of the following themes: "Prometheus (creative spirit)", "Will", "Reason", "Game", "Languor", "Pleasure" and others corresponding to the general evolution "spirit - Matter - Spirit". All the themes are presented in introduction and exposition, being transformed and evolved, then in development to become firmly established in renovated form in reprise and chord. We have selected definite type of Kandiksy's pictures for each musical theme. Our selection was based on "prompts" provided by pictures titles and on symbolic charasteristics of colors and forms we knew from his theoretical works ("On the spritual in art", first of all [9]). So, taking in account Scriabin's own words about "lilac chaos" at introductory chords of "Prometheus" we begun our "Luce" with picture entitled "Untitled improvisation" (1914), immersing spectator in depth of grim space. Then, during sounding of theme " Prometheus" it is slowly substituted with picture "Composition VII" (fig.3, a), the theme then being abruptly substituted with that of "Will" (which is in tune with piercing geometry of such pictures as "Accented corners", 1923; then follows "Diagonal", 1923; "Black form", 1924; "In blue", 1940 and so on.) (fig.3, b). The picture "Several circles" (1926) turned out to be in surprising tune with theme of "Reason" both in colors and in forms used (fig.3, c). Pictures were selected also to other themes ("Improvisation", 1913; "Untitled", 1915; "Red oval", 1920; " Blue circle", 1922). We as directors have, certainly, take sometimes absolutely "unexpected measures". So we had, for example, to use once also "realistic" picture of Kandinksy ("Moscow-1", 1916), this being determined by " utilitarian", "human" character of music when chorus begin to sing (without words) in the chord of symphonic poem (fig.3, d). After this, accompanied by music play of slides of late period pictures of Kandinsky with their refined biomorphed images ("Composition X", 1939; "Around the circle", 1940 and so on) were perceived as an organic one, these pictures being dissolved in "dazzling radianness" (thanks to gradual lighting up of the screen and the entire concert hall) in the poem final.

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Fig.3,a. Kandinsky W. Composition VII, 1913
(variant 1, fragment)

Fig.3,b. Kandinsky W. Accented corners, 1923.

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Fig.3,c. Kandinsky W. Several circles, 1926.

Fig.3,d. Kandinsky W.
Moscow - 1, 1916.


There was prepared new, more detailed version of the audiovisual performance in 1998. It is designated for permanent demonstration in small light-music hall of "Prometheus" studio (music is reproduced in audiorecording here). By the way, the experiment close one to this unusual concert was performed by us at All-Union "Light and music" festival in 1987. We have realized then in the same way (i.e. using slides projecting in "fade in" mode) stage version of main theoretical work of W.Kandinsky "The art of spiritual harmony" (accompanied by music by Vagner, the beloved composer of Kandinsky) at our Opera and Ballet House [10]. The audience had then perceived our audio visual show calmly and even enthusiasticaly. Now we anticipated the possible shocking impression our unexpected interpretation of string "Luce" will produce upon audience, especially upon keepers of "genre purity", who does not understand that synaesthetical arts are direction-based ones. Alas, many of musicians (and Scribain himself, to our great pity) were and are of opinion that it is only composer who can solve alone, individually the task of creating synthesis. But I doubt that Lev Tolstoy could make by himself screen version of " War and Peace". In the same time the screen versions of the novel have being made provide evidence that there can exist several different directional interpretations, all of them having equal right to exist... We have proposed our own idea of directing "Prometheus" - the one of synthesis of two creativities, of collision of two universes, the kind of "earth-orbital docking" of two like- minded persons. It is striking but this is obviously something similar to thoughts of our compatriot and colleague G.Gidoni who have written in one of chapters of his book on light music "Forecasts" shortly: " Variety of ways of performing "Prometheus": Scriabin-Greco, Scriabin - Vrubel, Scriabin - Gidoni" [11]. We have proposed our own variant "Scriabin+Kandinsky" (see fig.4, a and b).

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Fig. 4,a. Still from initial part of
"Prometheus (Scriabin+Kandinsky)" performance.

Fig. 4,b. Scene from " Prometheus" concert
21 June 1996, Kazan, Russia.


Art is eternal. One can argue endlessly on "authentity" of directional interpretation in synthetical arts pieces. These disputes will last until original pieces will be created by means of joint,collective creative work. Collective creativity does not though obstacle preserving freedom, this time of performer, to interpret because each member of creative team possesses his own "Ego" (one should tell such approach from the self-assured position ("each gopher is specialist in agriculture") of those critics, who does not understand that specifics of " Gesamtkunstwerk"). 


  1. Galeyev B., Vanechkina I. From " Prometheus" to "Mystery". - In: Art of luminous sounds. - Kazan, 1973 [in Russian].
  2. Vanechkina I.  "Luce" as beam throwing light to problem of harmony of late Scriabin. - In: Scriabin: man, artist, thinker - M., 1994 [in Russian].
  3. Vanechkina I. About first performance of " Prometheus" with light. - In: All-Union school of young scientists and specialists "Light and Music" (proceedings). - Kazan, 1979 [in Russian].
  4. Vanechkina I., Galeyev B. About first in USSR performance of "Prometheus" with light accompaniment. - In: Materials of All-Union school on "Light and Music" problem. - Kazan, 1975 [in Russian].
  5. Vanechkina I., Galeyev B. Poem of Fire. - Kazan: KGU Press, 1981 [in Russian] .
  6. Kienscherf B. Das Auge hoert mit. - Frankfurt/M., Peter Lang, 1996.
  7. Vanechkina I. "Musics, poetry, painting". - Musikalnaya Zhizn, 1988, N18 [in Russian].
  8. Galeyev B. Synaesthesia and musical space. - Leonardo, v.26, 1993, N1.
  9. Kandinsky W. The art of spiritual harmony. - London, 1914.
  10. Galeyev B. Musical-kinetic art in the USSR. - Leonardo, v. 24, 1991, N1.
  11. Gidoni G.I. Art of light and color. - Leningrad, 1933 [in Russian] .

Translated by V.Chudnovsky