Prometheus, The Poem of Fire

Hancher Auditorium, September 24, 1975

Alexander Scriabin wrote Prometheus, The Poem of Fire at the turn of the 20th Century, one of the first compositions intended to provide a multimedia experience. Included in the score is a part for “tastiera per luce” or “clavier à lumières,&rdquo a seldom realized instrument of light with pitch–color correlations.

On 24 September 1975, The University of Iowa Symphony Orchestra performed Prometheus—with LC operating VIDEO/LASER III, fulfilling Scriabin’s intentions for the “luce” instrument. The attendance and response were overwhelming: a crowd large enough to necessitate two performances, both receiving standing ovations.

For a detailed explanation and analysis of Scriabin’s Prometheus, refer to LC’s program notes from the 1975 debut performance at The University of Iowa.

Faubion Bowers (1917–1999) reviewed The University of Iowa performance of Prometheus in the January 1976 issue of High Fidelity / Musical America. Bowers writes, “Certainly, in Cross’s expert hands, Prometheus manifested Scriabin’s ... vision, and proved that lights and colors accompanying music need not be a distraction but rather what Scriabin always said, ‘a complementary and mutual enhancement.’”

(Click on thumbnails to enlarge images and play movie clips.)

Prometheus photos
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Prometheus movie clips (QuickTime)

Please note that the movie clips below are taken from a 30–year–old 16 mm film. The audio is based on a low-quality, monaural optical soundtrack. The colors also lack the brilliance and accuracy of those seen live—however, it is impossible for even the highest quality visual recording medium to fully capture the intensity and experience of a live laser light show.

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Prometheus performance and film credits
Film Title

The 1975 performance of Prometheus was captured on 16 mm film by Franklin Miller, which was subsequently shown in television broadcasts on CBS (United States), WDR (Germany), NOS (The Netherlands), and USSR State Television (Moscow). The film was converted to DVD in July 2005 by Ron L. Zachariasen at The University of Iowa Center for Media Production. Movie clips on this page were taken from the DVD version.

Alexander Scriabin’s
The Poem of Fire

© Copyright 1975 The University of Iowa

Performed September 24, 1975 at
Hancher Auditorium by
The University of Iowa Symphony Orchestra and Kantorei

James Dixon

James Avery

Laser Projections by
Lowell Cross

Film by
Franklin Miller

Thomas Mintner

Sound Editing
Lowell Cross

Second Camera
David Parrish

Assistant Editors
Maria De Luca
Chuck Hudina

Supported by grants from:
Iowa Arts Council and
The University of Iowa