Auroratone

Auroratone was a "process for translating music into color" invented circa 1940 by Englishman Cecil Stokes. The music vibrated an emulsion of crystallizing chemicals, and this was then photographed by a color movie camera, producing a kind of psychedelic movie of shifting colors synchronized with music (but this was the 1940s, before the concept of psychedelics was known in popular culture).

The hope was that these auroratone films could be used to treat psychiatric patients, and they were experimentally shown to soldiers in an army hospital suffering from psychotic depressions. Conclusion: "Observation revealed that these patients were intensely absorbed in the films, that their span of attention to the films was appreciably lengthened after exposure to the films. Weeping and sobbing was observed in some patients. Many patients became more accessible to individual and group psychotherapy immediately folllowing exposure to these films."

Their effect was also tested on juvenile delinquents. One kid told the experimenter, "I think God must have painted those pictures."

A company was formed to commercialize Auroratones and guide their development. Investors in this company included the Crosby Brothers (Larry and his famous brother Bing). Bing sang the music for many of the auroratones.

Treating psychiatric patients wasn't very profitable, so there was hope to find more lucrative applications of the auroratone process. One idea was to transfer auroratone color patterns onto textiles and ceramics. Some silk scarfs printed with visualizations of Bing Crosby singing "Home on the Range" were apparently manufactured, but never sold.

Not many auroratones still survive, but an example of one can be viewed on YouTube:



The auroratone process reminds me of the Clavilux (or Color Organ) invented by Thomas Wilfred in 1919 (previously posted about here).

More info about auroratones: Wikipedia and Milwaukee Journal, Dec 6, 1948.

Also see: Rubin, HE & Katz, E. (Oct 1946). "Auroratone films for the treatment of psychotic depressions in an army general hospital," Journal of Clinical Psychology, 2(4): 333-340.
Posted By: Alex - Thu Sep 03, 2015
Category: Movies, Photography and Photographers, Psychology, 1940s





Comments
@Alex: before the concept of psychedelics was known in popular culture There weren't any mushrooms back then either. No frog licking and peyote hadn't been discovered either I betch'a.

I see they (at least in this example) stuck to the warmer colors which would have been soothing.
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 09/03/15 at 09:22 AM
@Expat: Well, yeah, people were taking psychedelic drugs in the 40s, but the term 'psychedelic' was only coined in late 50s, so it wasn't a concept they were talking about, which is what I meant. I phrased it awkwardly. Not enough coffee yet.
Posted by Alex on 09/03/15 at 09:53 AM
FAR OUT MAN
Posted by F.U.D. in Stockholm, Sweden on 09/03/15 at 10:23 AM
I'm not sure why it was thought that such images would be helpful in psychiatric treatment, but Der Bingle's voice should be enough to put any mind in a state of catatonia.
Posted by KDP in Madill, OK on 09/03/15 at 03:30 PM
There are people, I've read, that have crossed signals to do with the senses. For instance they see sounds or smell colors. I wonder if these images would match up with what one of those people who sees sounds experiences. Don't worry Alex, Expat certainly understands coffee deprivation. wink
Posted by Patty in Ohio, USA on 09/03/15 at 04:49 PM
(coffee slurping noises in the background)
Wow! Get a little facetious around here and all of a sudden the COFFEE GOD is called down upon me, not once but twice!!!
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 09/03/15 at 11:42 PM
Coffee is such a wonderful drug. And yes expat 47, there is a great god of coffee, I worship before its alter at least twice a day, if not more.

So in visiting some New York City clubs in the early 70s I saw lots of colors on the walls ceilings, floors and in plastic cubes hanging in midair that contained naked young women painted in glowing colors. A companion along on one of these trips was convinced the Lincoln Tunnel leaving the city was a great snake that was consuming us including my 63 VW Beetle. I suspect she had sampled some of the blotter material available. She ended up being tied onto the front seat by a friend to prevent her from jumping out, but not before shedding all her clothing and tossing it out the window. That would have been hard to explain to the humorless New Jersey State Police that often lay in wait at the other end.
Posted by Gator Guy in The Great Swamp on 09/04/15 at 08:47 PM
@Patty- I know 2 people who have synesthesia, as the phenomenon of experiencing one type of sensory input in another manner is called. They both saw printed letters and heard spoken words as colors. They were funny talking about people's names and what "colors" they were. Apparently, my name was a coral-y pink for one of them and a bright jade green for the other. One of these women also had perfect pitch decoding and could listen to a musical piece once and then play it from memory. The color thing didn't apply to musical notes though.
Posted by ScoutC on 09/06/15 at 01:57 PM
When I was a child we had an elderly neighbor who could play piano that way. She could play anything she heard. My nephew does it on guitar. Very unique talent.
Posted by Patty in Ohio, USA on 09/06/15 at 03:58 PM
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