Mary H-G: Inventor of Visual Instruments / Pianist
December 8, 2017 8:34 PM   Subscribe

The "light organ" and "light piano" are the instruments. As I understand it, in the early 1900s Mary Hallock-Greenewalt devised a method of creating light instead of sound when playing these instruments. "Nourathar" is her name for this visual music (the name honoring her Beirut heritage). Here is another photo of the organ, (an earlier version) early organ showing the non-linear rheostat she invented and patented (and which General Electric and other companies stole and used, but she sued them and won).

Mary wasn't the first to invent this idea of visual music but managed to give it a certain respectability. For instance, shen gave a speech to the Society of Illuminating Engineers. speech Here is a schematic of the inside of the light piano. light piano And here is her wikipedia page with a considerable amount of detail on her and her inventions. biography. As noted, her papers are in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia; there's lot of stuff and I only chose a few.
posted by MovableBookLady (5 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
FYI -- this is the finding aid for Mary Hallock-Greenewalt's papers. I learned about her via HSP, and I am pretty pleased to see her here!

(Huh, neat, Library of Congress also has a lot of her papers.)
posted by kalimac at 8:50 PM on December 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

It should be pointed out that the light piano shown here does not match what she performed with, if the note on the left is to be believed.
posted by King Sky Prawn at 8:24 AM on December 9, 2017

King Sky Prawn: what a great article you found. I did mention her rheostat and supposedly you can see it in the photo of the early version of the organ. This quote you found has considerably more info, however, and I regret not finding it myself. Ah well.

As to the piano, I'm not sure she ever performed on the piano but did have this schematic, and I thought it looked interesting and gave a better idea of how such an instrument might work.

Cool lady.
posted by MovableBookLady at 6:18 PM on December 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

As a former lighting technician/designer, I love this super muchly! Thanks for the post.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 8:51 PM on December 9, 2017

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