B. M. Galeyev

This year (2000) always was, at least for our generation, a distant boundary (or horizon), where all our hopes and hardly achievable aims were refered to. The expectations of "bright future", "Earth's paradise" and so on, were spread in various social strata, though having different contents. This concerns as well the followers of Scriabin, the author of "mysteral" ideas of arts synthesis. They placed the triumph of light-music art into this remote future. As for Scriabin himself, the realization of his "Mystery" and consequent world's renewal by the evolution scheme "spirit - matter - Spirit" was only a dream, faded in the horizon line. (Let's remind that "Mystery"'s finale should be accompanied by dazzling ecstasy - that's why the light was needed). That is true as well for all Scriabin's intentions of "Gesamtkunstwerk" kind, eternal dream of ideal harmony, the unity of heterogeneous art means. If to turn now to Russian reality, it is remarkable that light-music in the blessed Soviet times was regarded as necessary attribute of the "bright future", where we all were pulled by force (and we strongly disliked it, longing for Schoenberg and Kandinsky). See, for example, detailed descriptions of light-music performances of the communist future, presented in the Soviet science-fiction stories: "The country of happy people" by Ya. Larry, "Andromeda Nebula" by I. Yefremov, and others.

Here it is, at last - the year 2000. Neither sky has fallen down, nor roses blossomed in winter. But many things have changed. The slogan of "bright future" has been replaced by the equilly prospective one - "privatization of the whole country". And how about the necessary attribute of the future, light-music and other new arts, prognosted by Scriabin in his aesthetic futurology? How and to what extent our hopes, belonging to "storm and onset" epoch of 60-s, have been fulfilled?

Those who hoped of their complete and unconditional triumph (the whole planet singing and shining in accordance with "Prometheus" score) have been disappointed and depressed with the domination of discotheque and videoclip "music for eyes". Among them many had come to light-music by the pull of youth enthusiasm and fashion. Remembering now the overcrowded concert halls, fiercely discussing light-music till late at night; book's editions of 150,000 copies (being sold like hot cakes!); thousands of letters arrived to our design office "Prometheus", one can only wonder, what was the cause of such attraction to "visual music" in those times? Why the light-music in USSR became a cult phenomenon? Of course, this is striking example of scientific-technological expansion into art realm. It promised to overcome an old antagonism of notorious "two cultures", of "physic-minded" and "lyric-minded" persons. More than that, the "phycicists" had got the opportunity to strike proud attitude: now they determined something in the art too (actually, light-music seemed to be "their" newly made art).

It is clear now that light-music became a sphere of application for the unclaimed creative forces (in those times they were directed primarily to military sphere and court (official) culture). Beside that, it was, so to speak, "light in the window", showing the way to realize one's freedom, which was strongly restricted in other areas. Light-music may be considered as kind of "underground" art, though not hidden too deeply. None the less, it was perceived as "different trend of mind" (not in political sense). Light-music used "different" music form, language and mode of thinking, and it was created and perceived not by usual way, but against the common legitimated rules, kept in the State Conservatories. However, one has to admit that such "different trend of mind" did not bring much danger on the artists, not taking into account psychological shocks of frequent clashes with "art critics in civil suits", who always kept waiting the final Communist Party resolution on "what color the note "C" is...". Fortunately, the majority of light-music enthusiasts came from technic and defence sector, where art critics of the staff had no access.

What had been really done during the passed years? In the country, which itself lived as if according to the rules of concept art (see Communist Party program), the most appreciable results have been obtained rather in theoretical than practical activity (especially in comparison with the West). In this area we have something to be proud of.

Just in the Soviet times, we had been able to clarify some tangled myths about Scriabin's intentions, related to "Prometheus" theme; to ascertain the faulty nature of the ideas of "music-to-color translation" (all the more, in its computer-aided form); to establish the primacy of artistic origin in the process of light-music synthesis on the base of hearing-sight polyphony. As it seems to me, we had gained in understanding of the most difficult problem of psychology and aesthetics - the nature of "color hearing" (synesthesia). We have shown the role of synesthesia in culture and art as the primary factor in achieving "polyphony" of hetero-modal perceptions. Our early works on the nature of "artist-technique" relationship in the epoch of scientific and technological revolution are still of methodological value. All these materials are available in a dozens of books (in Russian), which I had been able to publish just under conditions of "totalitarian State" (see Appendix 1). The number of these editions, devoted to new art, exceeds that in the rest of the world! The articles on light-music and color hearing, though a short ones, were published in the Big Soviet Encyclopaedia, Music Encyclopaedia, some other music and aesthetics reference books. Light-music was the basic theme of ten All-Union Conferences, being held in Kazan in Soviet times (two more seminars took place in Odessa, 1969 and Moscow, 1974; their materials remained unpublished). Some events of this kind were carried out in post-Soviet times too, once again by Institute "Prometheus" initiative. (For the Contents of these conferences see Appendix 2). One may note that very few symposia on this problem are known held in the foreign countries: "Farbe-Ton-Forschungen" in Germany (1927, 1929, 1933) and the recent conference on L.-B.Castel in France (1994). By the way, Institute "Prometheus" assisted in organization of the latter. All that reminds us an old funny story, as Westerns say: "Russians invented love because they are short of money". This can be modified as "Russians invented light-music because they have not...(substitute here one of the following: freedom, abstract art, competition, narcomania, etc.).

New times gave us, mainly, a freedom: freedom to speak and freedom to survive. It has become possible to give up Aesopian language for normal way of communication, and to establish contacts with the foreign colleagues. During the last ten years, the Soviet/Russian works in the field of experimental art were presented at many prestigious international festivals and exhibitions ("Ars Electronica", Austria; "Video Art", Switzerland; "Documenta", Germany; short films festival in Oberhausen; "Imagina", Monaco; "Ostranenie" in "Bauhause" and others). The West got to know, with astonishment and pleasure, the former "terra incognita", and has given to those strange Russians the space in their journals (let's note here the International journal "Leonardo", which published several special "Russian" editions). The acquaintance with the West was as well useful for us, resulting in overwhelming discovery: the light-music does not prosper there, as we used to believe. The life is not too sweet for the Western light-music enthusiasts, if their works do not fit commercial industry demands. (Now we have found ourselves in the same situation).

While the assimilation of freedom of speech were going forward quick and easy, the survival problem appeared to be difficult. Today only two special light-music halls are still functioning, in Moscow and Kazan. In the post-Soviet Russia not a single special monography on new art had been published. The veterans of light-music have nobody to replace them. New generation chooses "Pepsi" and PC; computer is most attractive thing for young people. Among the participants of our bygone meetings in Kazan, some have died (B. Kalnin, V. Polevoj, L. Schkap, O. Sokolov, R. Daminov, M. Blinova, L. Termen, M. Malkov, A. Nemtin), some others went abroad (L. Nusberg, A. Gidoni - to USA; D. Freedman - to Hungary; L. Abramyan - to Germany; R. Lerman - to Israel, and so on).

True, those who stayed in Russia and former Soviet Union states, sometimes demonstrate unexpected displacements not only sidewards but upwards as well: to academician estate, though not always by light-music services (L. Volovitch, V. Selyakov, B. Galeyev); to the title of State Prize laureat (F. Infante, N. Schepetkov, R. Abdullin, V. Koleitchuk) and even to the post of State President (V. Landsbergis, former outstanding specialist on Tchurlionis). But many bright adherents of light-music were forced to resign because of the present "jungle" situation. But our and their work was not in vain. Let the achievments are less prominent now, but in "dispersed" form the ideas of light-music synthesis are still alive (lacking old "Prometheus" pathos and bold ambitions). They penetrated into variety art, opera and ballet stage, holiday events in the open air, discotheques, psychological relief rooms, TV, computer game programs, light-sound toys, etc. Is that good or bad? Some of our opponents and even colleagues see in that the true destination of Scriabin's ideas as universal applied component (V.Vanslov, A.Michnenko, L.Mednikov). But this is not so. To our opinion, the social requirements, at the time being, turned out simply as they are, and it is impossible to change them at somebody's discretion. Of course, the situation was partly caused by the inevitable tragic fact, that new expressive arts lag behind the figurative ones, due to special character of relationship "artist - technique" (the light-musician has to be creative person and equipment engineer at the same time). Would not it better then just to promote the best light-music works created earlier? Unfortunately, the situation does nor favour such strategy, the discotheque culture suppress everything! It seems that, just as common music arose from the rhythm, the light-music (and it's audience) should go through the period of assimilation of synthetic method in it's elementary rhythmic form, getting accustomed to new material. As for Scriabin's "Prometheus" and other complex projects, aimed to more substantial synthesis, they are doomed to stay in elite self-isolation for the time being. Does light-music really possess such elite kernel, that would ensure it's further existence as independent art, having not only its own material and expressive means, but also its own language and method of art thinking? Yes, it does - we did felt "energetic supply", coming from the best specimens of new art, during our conferences in Kazan.

Yes, light-music as a new art, has obtained recognition. Such conclusion is inevitable for everybody who got an opportunity to view, as a whole, the best performances of Scriabin's "Prometheus", light-music films by O. Fishinger, L. Lye, N. McLaren, D. Withney, light-painting compositions by A. Laszlo, Yu. Pravdyuk, S. Zorin, T.Wilfred, B. Seadenius, J. Svoboda, experimental works of design office (studio, institute) "Prometheus", with all their variety of genres. At the numerous international festivals of computer animation, one can see, alongside with other amazing things, hundreds of marvelous examples of light-music synthesis in the so-called "synesthetic" films. Also some light-musicians, who work in a specific "laserium" genre, have achieved very high art standards (J. Dryer and some others). Even light-music fountains and fireworks performances sometimes demonstrate, in full measure, the specific character of new art, whose coordinates in the system of art could be defined as follows: it is sight-hearing, spatial-temporal, expressive (non-figurative) art, the art of intoned meaning. Light-music reveals and unites, in equal measure, the intonations of speech and gesture. It can be considered as "instrumental lighting choreography", and needs the corresponding set of instruments. Let's note specially, that light-music could not come into being until human society has got to know the music of Scriabin, Debussy, Messiaen, Varese (this music is full of "synesthetic" luminiscence by itself, even in the absence of real light); the paintings of Delone, Mondrian, Kandinsky. The paintings of Kandinsky resemble frozen chords of "music for eyes", that could be made evident by their demonstration in a certain succession. Light-music also needs preliminary assimilation of the traditions of "vertical" (sight-hearing) montage, being formed in cinematography, it's closest relation in the family of Muses...

It seems, that we should wait, get patience, never lose hope, and continue our "developing attack" on the territory of the future. We followers of Scriabin and Kandinsky, have had a good fortune to obtain some real artistic results (though early and timid ones), in the course of our prime investigations of experimental aesthetic futurology. These results prove the possibility and inevitability of new art phenomenon, known as light-music since Scriabin's times. As for the prospects of its world-wide and final recognition, let's wait and we shall see. On a historical scale, light-music is only just starting...

Published in the conference book "Prometheus-2000", p.3, 2000 and in the journal: Muzykalnya Akademiya", N2, pp.51-54, 2001 (in Russian)