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Dead medium: Sonovision
From: (Jack Ruttan)
Source(s): KINETIC ART: THEORY AND PRACTICE, Selections from the Journal Leonardo, Frank J. Malina ed, New York, Dover Publications Inc. 1974.

This is a book full of information about kinetic and early computer and holographic art. I'll quote something relatively contemporary, from "SONOVISION: A Visual Display of Sound," by S. R. Wagler:

"A new device has been invented by Lloyd G. Cross that makes a visual display in color correlated to sound by projecting a krypton or helium-neon laser light beam on to a translucid screen or opaque surface (((below is a diagram, which simply shows a laser beam being reflected off a membrane stretched over the cone of a speaker, and hitting a screen or wall))).

"When there is no sound input to the device, the beam gives only a pinpoint of light. When one simple sound or musical note is introduced into the device, the dot moves in an ellipse at the frequency of the sound supplied. The size of the ellipse is related directly to the loudness of the note and can be adjusted by turning a knob on the control panel. When the note is changed to another one, a different ellipse with a new orientation is formed. When two notes are introduced simultaneously, the laser beam produces a combination of the two ellipses, similar to the Lissajous patterns obtained from cathode- ray tubes. Thus a symphony of notes will result in a symphony of ellipse interference patterns on the display screen.


"Repeatability means that a way is now available for the deaf to 'see' music and obtain a new experience and the device may also be useful in speech therapy.

"A second mode of operation is available in the same set. A spinning prism produces a circle in place of the dot when the beam is at rest. When one or more notes are fed into the device, petal-type deviations from the circle result.


"The invention of Cross has been incorporated in several kinds of commercial units under the trade name _Sonovision_. [...] Editor's note; Attempts to contact Sonovision, Inc. and S.R. Wagner in 1972 were unsuccessful.

Jack Ruttan