Mary Hallock-Greenewalt

1871 - 1951
Light organ designer, fabricator, composer and performer. Coined the term Nourathar, the essence of light, the sixth fine art.

Born in Beirut, then part of Syria, and studied piano at the Philadelphia Conservatory of Music and then with Theodor Leschetizky in Vienna. Moved to U.S.. Began career as a professional pianist. Toured U.S.. Recorded (including Chopin).
Devoted herself in 1905 to light and color performance. Wrote light organ scores for classical works, including Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata.

Built thirteen versions of a light play console, many of which were copied.
The name for her art, Nourathar, was adapted from the Arabic words for light (nour), and essence of (athar). Unlike earlier inventors of color-music such as the painter A. Wallace Rimington, Hallock-Greenewalt did not produce a strict definition of correspondence between specific colors and particular notes, instead arguing that these relationships were inherently variable and reflected the temperament and ability of the performer.

Her earliest attempts at creating this art entailed her construction of an automated machine where colored lights were synchronized to records. This produced an unsatisfactory result, leading to her development of an instrument that could actually be played live.

Her color organ, which she named "Sarabet" after her mother, required her invention of a number of new technologies. She received nine patents from the US Patent office for them. Among these devices was a non-linear variety of rheostat, a patent that was infringed by General Electric and other companies. She sued them for infringement and won in 1934. The Sarabet went through a series of refinements between 1916 and 1934.

In 1946 she published a book on her invented art of "light-color playing" called Nourathar: The Fine Art of Light-Color Playing.

Michael Betancourt has noted Hallock-Greenewalt also produced the earliest hand-painted films known to still exist. However, these were not movies but films produced specifically to be performed by her earliest version of the Sarabet which was a machine for automatic accompaniment to records. This device was an early music visualizer of the type now included with computer audio-players. Even though these films were not designed to be motion pictures, they were produced with templates and aerosol sprays, producing repeating geometric patterns in the same way as the hand painted films of Len Lye from the 1930s.

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