News of changes, events and new releases.
Lumia, images and links to other sites where people are creating dynamic visual art.
Software and ideas for creating your own lumia, including instruments to connect sound and vision.
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Credits, footnotes, bios, and other loose ends.
Annotated bibliographies, books, a timeline, profiles of pioneers, and other historical and background material.
Fred Collopy's bio.
People who contributed to this site.
Why imagers and lumia seem like useful terms for describing these instruments and art form.
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Imagers, Imagists, Lumia & Lumianists

        imager, n. form of

        image 23. to transform (data) into an exact replica in a different  form, as changing digital data to pixels for display on a CRT

        Random House Unabridged Dictionary

Naming this field has proven illusive. John Whitney experimented with many phrases for the field he saw emerging and the people who would practice it. These included "audio-visual-music composer" in 1944, "motion graphics" in 1963, "computational periodics" in 1975, and "digital harmony" in 1980. Earlier pioneers used names like Aurotone and Synchromy to describe it.

The above definition of imager came to me as part of an examiner's response to my application to trademark the name Imager. "Since the term "IMAGER" is the noun form for something that creates images, the term merely describes a feature of applicant's goods and should be refused registration pursuant to Section 2(e)(1) of the Trademark Act."

Though unhappy that I cannot trademark the name imager by itself to refer to my specific program, I was pleased to learn that the dictionary has provided us with a name for our emerging field. I think it is a better name than musical visualizers, visual music, color music, mobile color, or the many similar names that have been proposed for several reasons.

  • It is shorter
  • It places the focus on the images which represent the particular domain  of this field
  • It readily allows for the form imagist to refer to those who play imagers

The first reference to imagist that I am aware of is by Robert Russett who used it in Russett and Starr 1976.

An alternative with most of the same strengths as Imager is Lumia, which was used by Thomas Wilfred who wrote in 1965: "I am urging all of them to use the word Lumia for the art form itself, the word thus corresponding to Music for the art of sound. This will clarify the issue to the public and give us all a single banner to work under, also lending dignity to our efforts. The old designations 'color music' and 'mobile color' are misleading (Land 1974, p. 30)." As early as 1947, Wilfred referred to the players of the instruments as lumianists. In his 1969 book Principles of Color, Faber Birren wrote "There is an art of mobile color, Lumia, dramatic and emotional effects with color that involve the manipulation of lights, shadows, flowing abstract forms (p.78)."

I think that lumia should be used to refer, as Wilfred proposed, to the resulting works, as music refers to works produced using musical instruments. So, an imagist or lumianist uses an imager or other instrument (such as Wilfred's Clavilux or Burn's light piano) to produce a piece of lumia. Lumianist would be used akin to musician. Imagist would be reserved to refer to those using the particular computer-based, synthesizer-styled instruments that are currently being developed (much as guitarist, pianist, and trumpeter are used to refer to musicians playing particular types of instruments).

Copyright 1998–2000 Fred Collopy. This document was last updated on 3/17/01; it is located at