Lumigraph

In the late 1940s Fischinger invented the Lumigraph (patented in 1955) which some have mistakenly called a type of color organ. Like other inventors of color organs, Fischinger hoped to make the Lumigraph a commercial product, widely available for anyone, but this did not happen. The instrument produced imagery by pressing against a rubberized screen so it could protrude into a narrow beam of colored light. As a visual instrument, the size of its screen was limited by the reach of the performer. Two people were required to operate the Lumigraph: one to manipulate the screen to create imagery, and a second to change the colors of the lights on cue.

The device itself was silent, but was performed accompanying various music. Fischinger gave several performances in Los Angeles and one in San Francisco in the early 1950s, performing various classicaland popular music pieces, and many were impressed by the machine’s spectacular images. In 1964 the Lumigraph was used in the science fiction film The Time Travelers, in which it became a ‘lumichord’, although this was not Fischinger’s intent, but the decision of the film’s producers. Fischinger’s son Conrad even built two more machines in different sizes. After his death, his widow Elfriede and daughter Barbara gave performances with the Lumigraph, along with William Moritz, in Europe and the US.

Today one of the instruments is in the collection of the Deutsches Filmmuseum in Frankfurt, and the other two are in California. In February 2007 Barbara Fischinger performed on the original Lumigraph in Frankfurt. Film and video documentation of Elfriede’s Lumigraph performances are at the Center for Visual Music in Los Angeles.

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