History of the First Multi-Color
Laser Light Shows

x-y scanning, z-axis modulation,
diffraction/refraction, and electronic music

Prehistory

1961 | 1964 | 1965 | 1966 | 1967 | 1968

1961
Lowell Cross, undergraduate music major, establishes his electronic music studio at Texas Technological College, Lubbock (now Texas Tech University).
1964
LC receives fellowship for graduate studies and decides to attend the University of Toronto, motivated by the reputation of its excellent electronic music studio (UTEMS).
1964–1965
LC composes at UTEMS Three Etudes for Magnetic Tape, dedicated to Hugh Le Caine (1914–1977), Canada’s pioneering electronic music equipment designer and a gifted composer (his early inventions of electronic instruments date from the 1930s and 1940s). LC utilizes many of Le Caine’s latest designs in the composition of Three Etudes.
1965
autumn
Concert performance of Three Etudes at the Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto, at which LC confronts the issue that his (and all other) tape-only pieces are visually boring; makes the decision to incorporate kinetic visual imagery, derived from the music, in his future electronic compositions.


Video II (B)
late autumn
Realization of LC’s Video II (B) for 2-channel audio tape and x-y display, which he composes while listening and simultaneously monitoring kinetic visual patterns on an oscilloscope. Assistant as “Tonmeister,” Anthony J. Gnazzo.

1966


Video II (B)



Video II (C)
early winter
LC converts a monochrome 17-inch television receiver for x-y display and connects an RF signal generator for z-axis modulation. Shortly thereafter, he converts a color TV for x-y display. David Tudor (1926–1996) visits Toronto, auditions Video II (B), and wants to become involved in these music + video activities. LC offers to compose for DT a performance piece for him and his bandoneon, the amplified 2-channel audio signals from which would activate kinetic x-y displays on monochrome and color TV sets. DT enthusiastically agrees; LC composes and makes preparations for Musica Instrumentalis, dedicated to DT.
Friday, May 13
John Cage (1912–1992), DT, A.J. Gnazzo, and LC present a “Special Avant-Garde Concert” in the Sculpture Court of The Art Gallery of Toronto (now The Art Gallery of Ontario). Works performed are LC: Musica Instrumentalis (DT, bandoneon); AJG: In the World; and JC: Variations VI.
October 14 & 18
Performances of DT’s Bandoneon ! [Bandoneon Factorial] (a combine), in New York’s 69th Regiment Armory on 25th Street, during “9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering.” Experiments in Art and Technology, Inc. (E.A.T.) presents these events, intended to be “The Second Armory Show” (the “First” was in March 1913, and included Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase). LC produces large-screen projected video images, derived from the sounds and feedback oscillations of DT’s bandoneon performances. John Cage also presents his Variations VII (October 15 & 16) during the “9 Evenings.”
1967
May 11
JC, DT, Toshi Ichiyanagi, and LC present a concert of works by Ichiyanagi, Alvin Lucier, LC (Musica Instrumentalis with DT, bandoneon), and JC at Hope College, Holland, Michigan.
November 25
Gabriella Nora Horompo and LC are married.
1968
February 23
LC presents a concert of his works (Video II (B), Musica Instrumentalis with DT, bandoneon) using a powerful black-and-white Eidophor video projector at the University of Western Ontario, London.


Reunion
March 5
JC, Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968), Alexina “Teeny” Duchamp (1906–1995), David Behrman, Gordon Mumma, DT, and LC perform JC’s Reunion in the Ryerson Theatre, Toronto. During the long performance, DT, apparently restless, asks if he could connect his electronic signals into LC’s modified monochrome and color TV sets, already operating (with LC’s electronic music), onstage. LC assents and he completes his graduate studies at the University of Toronto, spring 1968. As part of the Reunion performance, Marcel and Teeny Duchamp play chess against John Cage on an electronic chessboard designed and built by LC.
May 10
DT and LC collaborate in performing Video III with their “live electronic” music and LC’s modified TV sets, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, CA.
summer
LC becomes “Artistic Director” of the Mills College Tape Music Center; Nora and Lowell Cross move to Oakland, CA. A.J. Gnazzo is already there as “Technical Director.”