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Modified TV sets and projectors

Tool

David Tudor, Bandoneon! (a combine)
David Tudor, Bandoneon! (a combine) David Tudor, Bandoneon! (a combine) David Tudor, Bandoneon! (a combine)
Tool Identification

Name of tool: Modified TV sets and projectors
Alternate name: TV Oscillator
Creation date: 1965
Designer: Lowell Cross

Historical Notice

Lowell Cross built his device in 1965 for Video II (B) while studying electronic music at the University of Toronto. In the installation, the abstract image projected onto the screen of an oscilloscope or a modified television was produced by sounds from an audio track acting as a video input. Video II (C) and Video II (L) were based on the same principle and controlled a colour television image and lasers respectively. In the spring of 1966, Lowell Cross composed Musica Instrumentalis for David Tudor. The apparatus was much like that used in Video II (B), but this time during a live performance, the sound of an instrument – a bandoneon – generated modified colour and black and white television images. Musica Instrumentalis was the inspiration for Bandoneon! (a combine). In this work, monochrome video projectors would be modified instead of televisions, for reasons of scale associated with the size of the performance area. However, as the modification damaged the projector, (1) a single device was used instead of the three initially planned. As a result, Lowell Cross found another solution: project a live film of an oscilloscope (first and second performance) and one of his modified televisions (second performance), which were connected to microphones that captured the sound of the bandoneon.

The device developed by Cross was highly innovative for its time: the earliest modified televisions and exploration of the potential of graphics via altered devices occurred as early as the 1950s and were initiated in earnest, notably by Nam June Paik, at the beginning of the 1960s. (2) 

Tool Description 

Television and projector modified to produce kinetic abstract images in response to the sound of a musical instrument or audio tape recording.

Summary of Materials

Television, projector, microphones, tape recorder.

Operating Procedure

A stereo audio signal acted as an input to control the movement of the electrons scanning the screen of a television or projector along the x and y axes. This was not a question of modifying an existing image, but rather of creating an image according to the sounds emitted. Lowell Cross likely manipulated the deflection coils in the cathode-ray tubes.

Effects

Kinetic abstract images in black and white and colour.

Documents Consulted

Lowell Cross, “Musica Instrumentalis, Video II (B), Video II (C), Video II (L),” Source: Music of the Avant-Garde, no. 9, (1971) p.3-10. Published on the Internet at: http://www.lowellcross.com/

Lowell Cross, “Remembering David Tudor: A 75th Anniversary Memoir,” Frankfurter Zeitschrift für Musikwissenschaft, (2001) p.1-35. Published on the Internet at: http://www.8ung.at/fzmw/2001/2001T1.htm

Lowell Cross, Memories of Two Works Performed at “9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering,” 25th Street Armory, New York, NY, 1966, unpublished text, personal archives of Lowell Cross, 1966 [revised, 2005]

Joël Chadabe, “A conversation with David Tudor,” (1993). Published on the Internet at: http://emfinstitute.emf.org/articles/chadabe.tudor_93.html 

Vincent Bonin © 2006 FDL

(1) Lowell Cross, “Remembering David Tudor: A 75th Anniversary Memoir,” Frankfurter Zeitschrift für Musikwissenschaft, (2001) p.1-35. Published on the Internet at: http://www.8ung.at/fzmw/2001/2001t1.htm

(2) For a recent view of the early days of video art, see Grégoire Quenault, Reconsidération de l’histoire de l’art vidéo à partir de ses débuts méconnus en France entre 1957 et 1974, thesis submitted December 10, 2005.