Visual music

Bill Alves, “Digital harmony of sound and light,” Computer Music Journal, 29 (2005), 45-54. In this article, Bill describes how he has combined John Whitney’s differential dynamics with Just intonation to create sound and image simultaneously. In doing so, he focuses particularly on establishing interesting consonances and on exploring the “multidimensional interplay of tension and resolution” that so interested Whitney.

Fred Collopy, “Visual synthesizer design: Where modern art was headed,” 2020. This is an integration of an earlier paper that I wrote as a (rejected) submission for NIME 2018 (“A hypothesis driven approach to designing a visual music instrument”) and a well-received talk (“Where modern art was headed”) that I gave at the Center for Visual Music’s 2018 Exploring and Presenting Visual Music symposium. In it I provide a design perspective on research identified in the Correspondences section of this site.

Fred Collopy, “Playing (with) color,” Glimpse | the art + science of seeing, Autumn 2009, vol 2.3, 62-67. Color has played a central role in the development of visual instruments. Some of the principles developed by early pioneers continue to provide guidance to how it can be used effectively in performance.

Fred Collopy, Visual music as a performing art,” Offscreen, Volume 11, Issue 8-9, August-September 2007, article 10. Inventors to painters to filmmakers to inventors, the history of the art form is very briefly discussed in this essay that I did for a special issue of Offscreen edited by Randolph Jordan. At the time I wrote an expanded version of the essay with the expanded title  “As visual music (re)asserts itself as a performance art.” Michael Betancourt contributed an essay titled “Synchronous form in visual music” to the same issue, in which he noted the dominance of rhythmic synchronizations in visual music and argued for more creative use of the broad range of possibilities that present themselves, including counterpoint. Barry Spinello presses for a still more integrated approach in his essay “On sound and image as a single entity.” He starts by acknowledging that in art “the [art] object is but a residue of the thing.”  The thing of interest is rather the interneural connections in the artist’s mind that lead to the creation of the work, and are not necessarily comprised of “sound” connections in the case of music or “vision” connections in the case of painting. He then proposes an approach to producing an “audiovisual” entity.

Fred Collopy, “Designing an instrument to perform abstract animation in real-time.” This short paper, which I presented at the San Francisco Performance Cinema Symposium in 2003, provides some of the rationale for my design work on the version of the Imager visual synthesizer that I performed with at that symposium.

Fred Collopy and Robert M. Fuhrer, A visual programming language for expressing visual rhythms,” Journal of Visual Programming Languages, 12, 2001, 283-297. Sonnet+Imager is an object-based toolkit for creating instruments that produce abstract graphics in real-time. It is implemented as a visual programming language of the component-circuit variety. It was designed by identifying and addressing some of the principle limitations in the Max-based graphics engine, Imager. Beyond that, we wanted to address rhythm directly. This required us to make time a first-class element of the language. The model of time relies for its power on the notion of functors, an encapsulation of mathematical functions that can be related to the dimensions of rhythm. All of the elements of time manifest themselves directly in the visual language, as components and data packets, thereby creating natural flows that describe rhythmic structures. The resulting design is modular, intuitive, interactive and extensible.

Fred Collopy, “Improvisational lumia: Painting along with musicians,” Artist’s Statement, Leonardo, 34 (2001), 353. This is a brief statement describing imager and Unauthorized Duets.

Fred Collopy, Color, form, and motion: Dimensions of a musical art of light,” Leonardo, Vol. 33, No. 5, 2000, 355-360. Lumia are an abstract art form that permits visual artists to play images in the way that musicians play with sounds. After briefly surveying the history of the art form, Thomas Wilfred’s approach to organizing the controls around color, form, and motion is presented. One benefit of this approach is that each of the domains has a rich literature that can be looked to for ideas and guidance.

Fred Collopy, Robert M. Fuhrer and David Jameson,Visual music in a visual programming language,” IEEE Symposium on Visual Languages, 1999, 111-118. Sonnet was designed as a visual language for implementing real-time processes. Early design and development of the behavioral components has largely focused on music programming. We have developed a collection of visual output components for Sonnet, referred to collectively as Sonnet+Imager. Its design embodies aesthetically grounded representations of color, form, and motion as well as dynamics for each. Its flexible and modular architecture treats these graphic entities and operations as first-class objects.

Roger B. Dannenberg, “Interactive visual music: A personal perspective,” Computer Music Journal, 29 (2005), 25-35. Roger has been experimenting with the integration of visuals and music since 1987. As he notes in the opening of this article, his interest is not in visuals as accompaniment or as interpretation of the audio, but as co-created, “an integral part of the music and the listener/viewer experience.” This article presents a good deal of history, especially related to how visual possibilities changed with available technologies over the two decades his work covers. And it includes an overview of Aura, which Dannenberg and others designed to integrate the elements of multi-media performance. But what I found most interesting are the bits of advice that Roger’s explorations have produced. He suggests, for example, that when visuals are tied to the “deep, hidden information, the audience may perceive that there is some emotional, expressive, or abstract connection, but the animation and music can otherwise be quite independent and perhaps more interesting.” He points out that “many composers take care to ‘teach’ their listeners what their music is about by stating themes clearly, by repeating important material, and by developing ideas slowly at least early on. This approach can be taken with visual material as well.” And he cautions that “composers should be careful not to fall into the trap of mapping musical experience directly into the visual world.”

Tom DeWitt, “Visual music: Searching for an aesthetic,” Leonardo, 20 (1987), 115-122. Developing an aesthetic for this emerging art form must both extend the musical aesthetic into the visual domain and accommodate what is specific to the intrinsic properties of the visual system. DeWitt describes several elements he has identified in the course of his work. One relates to his use of logarithmic spirals to produce a kind of visual harmony, because they have stable structures only at certain fixed intervals of frequency (he acknowledges Whitney’s contribution to this). Another is the threshold between monochrome and color. DeWitt feels that this transition triggers a psychological release. He notes that persistence of vision closely matches our aural perceptions where discrete sound events become continuous tones at about 20 cycles per second and observes that one aesthetic that carries over from music to the visual arts is tempo. The search for elements of the musical aesthetic that can be employed in visual art must, though, be approached with an appreciation of an important difference between the ear and the eye. When the ear is exposed to the summation of many sounds simultaneously the brain extracts the individual elements. This is a subtracting process. However, with the eye it is different. There the brain provides missing or hidden elements; an adding process.

Brian Evans, “Foundations of a visual music,” Computer Music Journal, 29 (2005), 11-24. Evans extends the thinking in his excellent 1990 article to further the development of “a practical theory of visual music composition.” As in that earlier work, he starts with the assumption that tension and it release can be used to move us through time. And again he looks to a hierarchical color model to help address some of color’s inherently subjective characteristics. But what is most exciting here is Evans’ creative application to Serge Eisensteine’s ideas about film to visual music. In particular he demonstrates the application of propotion, temporal design (including repetition, contrast and variation) and montage (at several levels) to supporting the creation of visual music. And his examples are excellent illustrations of the ideas he explores.

Brian Evans, “Temporal coherence with digital color,” Leonardo Digital Image-Digital Cinema Supplemental Issue,1990, 43-49. The author proposes that extracting basic principles from the time-based art forms of theater, poetry, music, and dance and applying them along with fundamental principles from color theory and graphic design provides a useful starting point for devising a language of abstract visual composition. He illustrates using the idea of tension-release, a common idea in time-based art. Applying the idea to the domain of color, he proposes a hierarchy of color. A relaxed or resolved domain can be found in a grayscale, or absence of color. This is the first level of a hierarchy. The second level is a balanced color domain, in which the sums of the colors neutralize to an equal gray. The third level is the weighted domain, where one hue is dominant. Tension then moves to resolution from weighted to balanced to neutral color domains. The article provides details for computing the necessary color measures and defining color palettes.

Sydney Fels, Kazushi Nishimoto and Kenji Mase, “MusiKalscope: A graphical musical instrument,” IEEE Multimedia, July-Sept 1998, 26-35. MusiKalscope is a virtual drum-based instrument that plays both a graphic image and music. The image projects a kaleidoscopic representation of the performer. It becomes bluer (“for a sense of foreboding”) when the player plays a tension note. It returns to normal color when the a chord note is played. Brightness of the image is related to how fast the player plays the virtual drum pad. The design reflects three objectives: 1) maintain a balance between quality of graphics and music generated; 2) allow novices to achieve reasonable quality; and 3) impose no performance ceiling so that with training, greater expressiveness is possible.

Maarten Franssen, “The ocular harpsichord of Louis-Bertrand Castel: The science and aesthetics of an eighteenth-centure cause celebre,” Tractrix Yearbook for the History of Science, Medicine, Technology and Mathematics, 1991 (3), 15-77. Castel’s ocular harpsichord is widely considered the first color music instrument. This well-researched piece examines both the instrument and the impact of the ideas behind it. Working from Athanasius Kircher’s analogies between sound and light and Newtons ideas for a color scale, Castel argued that a color music could be even more satisfying than aural music. Though Castel initially considered his job done when he demonstrated that his ideas were sound, he went on to build and demonstrate actual instruments. The extent and success of these efforts is not clear, though Franssen presents evidence that suggests the inventor was never satisfied that his goals were achieved. Franssen then turns his attention to other harpsichord builders including Johann Gottlog Kruger whose design attempted to solve the problem of chords which were missing in Castel’s design. In the second half of the article, Franssen examines the impact of, and the debate over, Castel’s ideas. Problems and issues were discussed by the likes of Voltaire, Euler, Telemann, and Diderot. Finally, the impact of Castel’s ideas on 18th century Romanticism is examined. Here we get a sense of what Rousseau, Kant and the French music theorist Chabanon thought about the prospects of a color music. This paper is an engaging and far-reaching account of ideas that continue to resonate through the visual music community.

Mary Hallock Greenewalt, Nourathar: The fine art of light color playing, Philadelphia: Westbrook Publishing, 1946. In this book the author deals with everything from the design of rooms and furnishings to be used for light performances through a notation system for recording them. It even includes a light score for the first movment of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonate, which the author claims is the first light-color score in the history of the world. The range of topics about which she writes reflects that of her experiments. She is responsible for many innovations in the field. The book describes her many pantents, as well as her approach to playing, and her ideas about color and how the field should develop. Where most of the designers of light instruments merely aspired to imitate music’s greatness, Mary Hallock Greenewalt believed that light would best it. “Did I not unconsciously want and need the rays of light because they went vibrations of sound one better for completing, for pushing still further inwards the messages that sounds portrayed and conveyed? Such a one could well be a next in the order of fine art progress, with all fine art considered as a whole. Musical sounds antedating this, the more recent conception, are rougher in their vibratory effect. Light is still finer. It is still deeper in its infiltration, within the body’s tissues (p. 45).”

Thomas L. Hankins, “The ocular harpsichord of Louis-Bertrand Castel; or, the instrument that wasn’t.” Osiris, Vol. 9 (1994) 141-156. Castel had little interest in developing his ocular harpsichord, Hankins argues, quoting him as responding to critics thus: “I am a mathematician, a philosopher…and I have no desire to make myself into a bricklayer in order to create examples of architecture [149].” The article acknowledges this as an unfamiliar approach to the natural world and works to explain it. In a section on the harpsichord as thought experiment we see Castel’s use of his idea of the ocular harpsichord as an epistemological argument against Newton’s prism experiment as definitive of ‘fact’. In the section on the harpsichord as rhetoric, Hankins notes Castel’s use of two devices, the used of geometry to “give universality to experiential statements [150]” and the use of analogy because it “reveals important connections between science, art and literature [150].” The section gives an excellent description of how Castel established his twelve-note chromatic scale and why it differed so much from Newton’s seven-note scale. In the final section, on the harpsichord after Castel, Hankins observes Goethe also had issues with Newton’s color theory and shared in some of Castel’s ideas and method. He then nicely sorts out the very different ways in which each of the three—Newton, Castel and Goethe—approached argument and the use of analogy.  The article concludes with brief mentions of contributions by Rimington, Wilfred, Michelson and the conclusion that “One cannot really say that the analogy upon which it was based was proven false, just that it did not lead anywhere in the form that Castel proposed, nor in the direction that natural science subsequently took [ 156].”

Paola Igliori [ed.], American magus Harry Smith: A modern alchemist, New York: Inanout Press, 1996. Igliori, an enthusiast of Smith’s, has created a rich profile of his life and times. It includes recollections by filmmaker Jordan Belson, poet Allen Ginsberg, photographer Robert Frank, and 17 others, many of them original interviews. It also contains some things that Smith wrote, interviews he gave, and a list of some of the things in the eclectic collection he compiled as “archivist of sediments of human activity in motion.”

Randy Jones and Ben Nevile, “Creating visual music in Jitter: Approaches and techniques,” Computer Music Journal, 29 (2005), 55-70. This article provides a good introduction to the timing and threading issued involved in using Jitter to create graphics, particular in a context where you are also using Max/MSP to generate audio. The article opens with a discussion of synaesthesia and proposes several one-to-one mappings between audio and visuals, including frequency to size (high to small; low to large), amplitude of sound to brightness of image (because both measure intensity), and tembre to shape (with complex harmonic tempres being more spiky than simpler ones which would be smoother).

Tom Douglas Jones, The art of light & color, New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1972. Jones created several color light instruments—the Colortron, the Sculptachrome, the Chromaton, and the Celeston. The Colortron was a portable box with rheostats controlling red, blue, green, white and daylight bulbs to demonstrate the effect of mixing them in various proportions. The Sculptachrome combined kinetic sculpture with mobile colored lights. The Chromaton added abstract forms in front of colored light bulbs which were then projected onto a translucent screen. The viewer on the other side saw the shadows as they were projected from within. The Celeston projected light through bits of colored glass on wheels that rotated. In addition to instructions for constructing the instruments, the book includes a brief history, a discussion of color and psychotherapy, and chapters on the relationship of color and music.

Jeremy Kargon, “Harmonizing these two arts: Edmund Lind’s The Music of Color,” Journal of Design History, Oxford: Oxford Journals, 24 (2011), 1-14. Edmund Lind, a British-born American architect, wrote an essay titled The Music of Color in 1894. Kargon is the first writer since Klein’s 1926 book Color-Music: The Art of Light to look at the original (unpublished) typed manuscript and illustrations. In doing so he concludes that Lind’s work   been misconstrued in significant ways. Importantly, Kargon’s research provides an early and interesting counterpoint to the common narrative that synesthesia is a force driving color or visual music. Writers relying upon Klein’ account of the manuscript have argued that synesthesia explains Lind’s impulse toward and integration of color with music, and perhaps that of others as well. “But what Lind’s example suggests is that what has been identified as synesthetic may have been, in fact, something else: the transformative experience of the representational act. For Lind, the ‘music of color’ was not the strongly affective experience of one sense in the other; rather, Lind sought to explore communication between them. Whereas synaesthesia is intensely subjective and depends entirely on the unique circumstances of an individual’s experience, representation is extroverted and founded in the possibility of communication and communion (p. 12).” (11/1/18)

Adrian Bernard Klein, Colour-Music: The art of light, London: Crosby Lockwood and Son, 1927. Of the early works in the field, this is among the most valuable. Klein’s descriptions of the earliest color-music instruments are often more detailed than those provided by the developers themselves. The book opens with chapters on the history of color music and its relationsihp to painting, music and psychology. Klein’s chapter on the problem of color harmony (what colors look good together) remains, over 70 years after its publication, the most thorough historical survey available. Similarly, his two chapters regarding a theory for color music (one examining the arguement for an anology to music; the other for an independent art), provide more food for thought than even the most recent writing and discussion group speculations on this topic.

Richard I. Land, “Kinetic art: The chromara, a lumia technique,” in Frank J. Malina [ed.], Kinetic art: Theory and practice, New York: Dover Publication, 1974, 30-36. The author describes a variety of devices created to produce lumia. Observing both images and sounds he concluded “After years of seeing the light intensities of lamps directly associated with the intensity of music, I am convinced that another way is required (p. 35).” He proposed applying a three passband filter of the audio frequencies, and using the relationship between intensities within the passbands to determine light intensity. The outputs of the filters could be summed or integrated to produce four signals having sophisticated relationships to the original audio signal. He further proposed introducing manual controls and rhythm-sensing circuits that would control motor speed or average illumination level.

Frank J. Malina, Kinetic art: Theory and practice (selections from the journal Leonardo), New York: Dover Publications, 1974. This volume includes pieces, originally published in Leonardo, that describe some of the early efforts to develop an integration of light and sound. Though the utility of many of the particular display devices has been eclipsed by graphic displays of images from general purpose computers, many of the ideas remain to be more fully explored. And the genius displayed in some of the mechanical solutions to the problem of associating light and sound remain an inspiration.

Frank J. Malina, “Kinetic painting: The lumidyne system,” in Frank J. Malina [ed.], Kinetic art, Theory and practice, New York: Dover Publication, 1974, 37-45.

Barton McLean, “Composition with sound and light,” Leonardo Music Journal, 2 (1992), 13-18.

Gordon Pask, “A comment, a case history and a plan,” in Jasia Reichardt [ed.], Cybernetics Art and Ideas, London: Studio Vista, 1971, 76-99. The cybernetician Gordon Pask spent the years from 1953 to 1957 involved in the design and presentation of an instrument that used musical input to create visual output. The player of the musical input became part of a loop with a machine that learned (through parameter adjustment). This article is a personal narrative, in which Pask describes the thinking behind his designs (including ideas about the cybernetic psychology of pleasure), details of the instrument’s design (including flow charts and photographs), and the response of various audiences to the instrument. The last part of the article describes the plan for another cybernetic aesthetic environment, one that explores machines with simple goals.

Kenneth Peacock, “Instruments to perform color-music: Two centuries of technological experimentation,” Leonardo, 21 (1988), 397-406. The history of attempts to relate color and music is discussed, with a particular emphasis on the earliest efforts. Included are descriptions of early instruments by Luis-Bertrand Castel, Alexander Rimington, Modest Altschuler, and Thomas Wilfred. Peacock’s thesis is that color-music instrument designers have not done very well at learning from history. “Nearly every color-organ inventor in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was under the delusion that he or she was the first to conceive of color-music (p.404).” Nor, he concludes, has it gotten much better since. “Every generation, it seems, must re-discover and re-define the art of color-music for itself. And rarely does there appear to be awareness that previous activity has occurred (p.406).”

Ronald Pellegrino , The electronic arts of sound and light, New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1983. The book opens with a brief history of electronic sound and light through the mid-1970s. Though the history concentrates on developments in sound, of which there were many more than of light, it contains some important details of the latter. The book then provides chapters that deal with the nature of waves, synthesizers, computers, oscillographics, videographics, and lasers as each impacts on the creation of sound and images. It concludes with a chapter on composition, focusing on issues related to using the new electronic tools.

Frank Popper, Origins and Development of Kinetic Art, Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society, 1986. This sweeping history begins with Impressionism and moves through surrealism and geometrical abstraction to kinetic art. Of particular interest is the chapter Light and Movement which provides background on many of the less well-known innovators in the field.

Hans Richter, “Easel-Scroll-Film,” Magazine of Art, February 1952, 78-86. Richter describes how he and Viking Eggeling wrestled with the freedom that abstraction provided. After positioning their work in the context of other post-World War I artists who shared an interest in the problem of “order,” he observes the he and Eggeling tackled it “by approaching it with the principle of counterpoint in mind, from the standpoint of polarity. The principle of counterpoint is not limited to music. For us, it was more than a technical device; it was a philosophic way of dealing with the experience of growth (p. 78).” Their movement from easel painting through scrolls to film is described in poetic terms, with a surprising amount of conceptual detail. After briefly surveying more recent developments, Richter speculates that: “Twenty years from now, film poetry may well be accepted as a legitimate part of film making and recognized as part of the tradition of modern art, whence it came and to which it belongs (p. 86).”

A. Wallace Rimington, Colour-Music: The art of mobile colour, New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1911. In this book, Rimington lucidly describes the principles that governed his design of several instruments to play color. The book opens with several chapters considering the relationship of color and music. While speculating about the nature of the relationships between the two, Rimington is careful not to overstate the claim that there is some essential correspondence. Indeed, he notes that even if no direct correspondence proves to exist, the value of colour music will not be diminished. The features and techniques he identifies in defining the art include rhythm, contrast and dissonance, gradual and sudden decreases or increases in intensity, harmony and discord, echo, repetition, and reflection. Likening it to music, he identified its indefiniteness as one of the factors contributing to colour-music’s emotional power. While expressing some reservation about the movement away from representation in painting, he saw it as related to the same impulse that was driving the development of the new art. Though he argues that musical precedents are a reasonable way to establish a foundation for one form of color-music, he does so tentatively. With that background he describes the design of his colour-organ. In the design of his instruments Rimington was keenly aware of the “executant”, and wished to create instruments that could be played in performance as well as composed for. Form played little role in Rimington’s work. He recognized it as a factor that might be explored, but felt that colour by itself could be satisfying for an immense number and variety of compositions.

Joran Rudi, “Computer music video: A composer’s persepctive,” Computer Music Journal, 29 (2005), 36-44. This article looks at visual mappings as a subset of visual representations of music. The introductory sections argue that combining music with visuals “changes and recharges this notion of composition as research process, presenting opportunities to engage with recent and commercial techniques, such as DVD and computer game platforms.” Most of the article details the author’s compositions since 1987. An interesting aspect of his work is his attempt to use the combinations to assist listeners in discovering “those elements in the music that are most difficult to hear.”

Robert Russett and Cecile Starr, Experimental animation: Origins of a new art (2nd edition), New York: Da Capo Press, 1988 (original edition published in 1976 by Litton Educational Publishing). This is a major historical treatment of the field as of the time of its publication. It is primarily a collection of profiles of the animators who worked from 1912 to 1988 to create a new type of animation. It also contains an annotated bibliography, a listing of film and video distribution sources, and lots of illustrations.

S. R. Wagler, “Sonovision: A visual display of sound,” in Frank J. Malina [ed.], Kinetic art, Theory and practice, New York: Dover Publication, 1974, 162-164. The Sonovision system for a visual display of sound was invented by Lloyd G. Cross. When there is no sound input, its laser beam produces only a pinpoint of light.When a single musical note is introduced, the dot moves in an ellipse at the frequency of the sound. The size of the ellipse is related to the loudness. Different notes have ellipses at different orientations. When two notes are played simultaneously, a combination of two ellipses is produced. A second mode produces a circle in place of the dot and petal-type deviations from the circle when notes are played. Color (red, green, blue, and yellow) is introduced by using a prism.

John Whitney, Digital harmony: On the complementarity of music and visual art, Peterborough, NH: McGraw-Hill, 1980. This book documents Whitney’s journey of discovery. The journey that started with his observations of “the geometry of iron rivets in iron plates painted white” on a Rotterdam-bound freighter in the summer of 1938. It culminates with his production of detailed descriptions of his applications of Pythagoras’ laws of harmony to the creating of cinematic relationships involving music and abstract images. The chapters are mostly reproductions of papers he had published elsewhere. They include how-to computer code, detailed descriptions of particular film sequences, and lots or rumination about this enterprise that Whitney hoped and believed would soon emerge as a creative field.

Thomas Wilfred, “Light and the artist,” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, (V) June 1947, 247-255. After presenting a brief history of the emergence of a new art of light, Wilfred described the elements that the lumianist must control. Light consists of form and color. For form, it is necessary to describe location, volume, shape, and character. For color, hue, chroma, value, and intensity. Further, the colored forms must be set in motion. To describe motion he proposed using orbit, tempo, rhythm, and field. Wilfred’s enthusiam and optimism (“But first the Johann Sebastian Bach of lumia must appear on the scene. Let us hope that he is at least a high school student at the moment.”) make this article worth seeking out, despite it’s age.

Thomas Wilfred, “Composing in the art of lumia,” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, (VII) December 1948, 79-93. In describing a scenario in which one creates a lumia, Wilfred identifies several principles that he feels should guide their development. One he refers to as “visual anchorage.” When all of the form elements are being moved in one direction, they should not, except momentarily, exceed a certain critical velocity of motion, unless a relatively stable visual anchor is provided. He also makes a point in this article of differentiating the composition and playing of lumia from that of music. He thinks that the two arts are so different that “attempts to design lumia instruments in imitation of musical ones will prove as futile as attempts to write lumia compositions by following the conventional rules laid down for music.” He also argues that the rules governing static composition and color harmony do not apply to form and color in motion. “If a lumia composition is stopped at any point, an analysis of the static image may show both form and color out of balance from the painter’s point of view.” He argues that we must instead blaze new trails, abandoning ones that prove useless.

Willard Huntington Wright, The future of painting, New York: B. W. Huebsch, Inc. 1923. The premise of this essay is that modernist painting is in reality an art of color. Through its brief 54 pages Wright argues his hypothesis both eloquently and thoughtfully. He draws on both his knowledge of art history and of the work of his brother Stanton MacDonald Wright and others to describe a visual art that, like music and literature, is capable of expressing the deepest human emotions. He ends by initiating the process of articulating principles for the new art. It is exciting to see that such a clear vision formulated by 1923.