Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Color Organ?? - Read On!

Alexander Scriabin (1872 - 1915), was, in my view, a composer who underwent a metamorphosis like no other major composer; that is, he went from Romantic to Mystic, with compositions dealing with such illuminations as the Mysterium, with "bells hanging from clouds."
One of his works, called "Promethius", called for a keyboard Scriabin called the colour-organ, which projected a color onto a screen upon playing the keyboard, each note of which was assigned a particular color. A performance was done, or at least contemplated, in New York, as I recall, in 1915.
It is thought that perhaps Scriabin had a genetic disorder which forced one sense to be influenced by another, such as sound (music, for instance) and sight (color, for instance). Personally, I think that he did not have this disorder. It was, in my opinion, simply one aspect of his order of thought about such elements as sight, sound, scent, etc., which he talked about incessantly during the latter part of his life.
A truly fascinating life; for instance, in Switzerland, he met a gentleman gazing into the same lake Scriabin was admiring, and they became fast friends. This gentleman was no other than Georgi Plekhanov, who changed the course of modern European history by translating "Das Kapital" of Marx into Russian.
Another aspect of great interest, however tragic, was the drowning of his son Julian in a boating accident at age eleven.
I have some copies of Julian's unpublished works for piano, and they are amazing examples of a kind of genius that might well have come close to the child-genius level of Mozart.
A final reality - one day, a boil appeared on Alexander Scriabin's lip, perhaps an infection from shaving. In days he was dead. If penicillin were extant at that time, his life would have been saved, and one can only ruminate about the possibilities that would have emanated from this strange genius, had he lived on.



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