Thomas Wilfred

Light organ designer, fabricator, composer and performer. Coined the term, lumia.

Subject of film, Lumia, by 13-Bit Productions (Meredith Finkelstein Chang and Paul Vlachos).

Mother died when he was two. In 1913, he changed his name to Thomas Wilfred.
He was a lutenist and singer of Danish lyrics.

On September 21, 1919, Wilfred, Perine, Trautman, architect Claude Bragdon (author of "More Lives than One" which includes a description of this episode), financed by Brice, founded The Promethians, to harness light for art, to create a "Theater of Light." Apparently influenced by Blatvsky and theosophy, concept of color music, cosmogenesis, spirituality in art. By 1921, they had built a mobile light organ. By 1923, they had built a studio on Brice's property in Huntington, Long Island, which rapidly became primarily Wilfred's studio. It included a shell-shaped plaster cyclorama, projection booth full of custom rheostats and switches.

Wilfred went on to design, build and perform Lumia. He sustained his career fine during the 20s and 30s.

Wilfred founded the Art Institute of Light at Lexington and 46th Street (480 Lexington, perhaps an office space in the Grand Central Palace building). This included a recital hall, perhaps 20 feet square, maximum twenty people. There was no musical accompaniment.
The U.S. Army took over the building during WWII, and evicted everyone including Wilfred.

After World War II he started building automated lumia, and received several contracts to install lumias permanently.

Eugene Epstein has the largest collection of lumia and clavilux.
Wilfred's Opus 158, a Silent Visual Composition, is in the collection of NY's MOMA.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License