Common errors, errata in recent publications and websites regarding Oskar Fischinger and Visual Music.
Plus a few curiosities and notes.
In our field, we see many of the same errors repeated continually in papers, essays, dissertations and books. Other errors noted below are new, with some rather bizarre fiction. We hope that this resource will encourage and assist more accurate scholarship in the field of Visual Music.
Section A: Recent Publications
Section B: Common errors
Section C: Misc. Articles and Older Publications
Section D: Websites (including several online databases)
Section A: Recent Publications
Zinman, Gregory. Making Images Move: Handmande Cinema and the Other Arts (Notes here in progress)
--Page 46-47, re Mary Hallock-Greenewalt. "As with so many early visual music practitioners, Greenewalt was convinced she was the originator of the form, and claimed it as 'the sixth art'." CVM Note: Greenewalt was referring to her type of light-color playing, on what is known as a 'color organ.' It appears Zinman has confused color music with visual music here. The early visual music practitioners (usually attributed as Eggeling, Ruttmann, Fischinger, Bute, etc.) did not claim to be 'originators of the form," but many color organ inventors (who played what's known as color music), indeed did claim this.
--Page 47, Zinman refers to "the dream of color music" but does not attribute this phrase to Dr. William Moritz, who both originated and used it often throughout his texts. Example, Moritz's well-known 1997 essay "The Dream of Color Music and Machines that Made it Possible" in Animation World Magazine.
--Page 225, re Vortex (note to come) re "images from what would become James Whitney's Yantra" [were shown]
--Page 236, re Single Wing Turquoise Bird members in the 1960s. Zinman's account of SWTB members notably omits one of its earliest members, Jon Greene. The inclusion of Amy Halpern in the 1960s account is incorrect; she joined the group in its later iterations in the 2000s.
--Page 286, Zinman's claim about James Whitney's film - "Yantra is often written about as a computer film" is incorrect, though this may be said about Whitney's later film, Lapis. Zinman provides no notes as to whom might have written about Yantra as a 'computer film." He claims that James used his brother John Whitney's "analog computer" device made of surplus military parts and 'rotating tables; to make Yantra, but this is not true. The literature in our field (especially Moritz on Whitney) is quite clear that James did not use John's inventions to make Yantra. It is a hand made film, not made with any computer devices, even analog.
Abbado, Adriano. Visual Music Masters, Abstract Explorations. Skira, 2018. Extensive factual errors throughout the historical section, notes in progress here. A number of outdated or inaccurate resources and links are used in the appendices.
--Page 29, Mary Hallock-Greenewalt published her book Nourathar in 1946, not 1945 as noted.
--Page 35, "In 1961 Dockum, with the help of Mary Ellen Bute and Ted Nemeth, shot a film about his works, Mobilcolor Projections." CVM Note: Dockum shot a number of films about his Mobilcolor Projectors, though not in 1961. In 1952, one was shot at the Guggenheim, New York, with the assistance of Ted Nemeth. The others were made in Dockum's studio in Altadena, CA. CVM has restored 5 of the films to date; more information can be found at our Dockum Research Site.
--Page 47, Fig. 4.9. The correct name of this film is Studie nr 6.
--Page 50, re Mary Ellen Bute. "...Mood Contrasts (1953) which completed the series Seeing Sound." CVM Note: Bute did not include all of her films as part of her Seeing Sound series, only some of the earlier ones; Mood Contrasts was not titled or advertised as such. See CVM's Bute Research Site.
--Page 58, re Jordan Belson's film Bop Scotch. Author states it was created "based on scroll paintings," but this film is made with pixillated images of actual objects such as manhole covers and textures of streets. See CVM's vimeo VOD channel for Bop Scotch.
--Page 58, re Vortex. Henry Jacobs was a sound artist and DJ. Author writes of "a series of five events," though there were more than 35 Vortex concerts, in five separate series over two years. See Vortex resources at the Belson bibliography page.
--Page 59, the large image is from Belson's film Allures, not Light as noted. This image is © Center for Visual Music.
--Page 60, Jules Engel "started a course in experimental animation at the California Institute of the Arts." CVM Note: Engel established and served as the Director of the Experimental Animation Program at Cal Arts, for 30+ years.
--Page 84, re John Stehura's Cibernetik 5.3. Author gives dates of 1965-69 for this film, but it was actually made 1960-65.
--Appendices - Websites. Numerous incorrect and outdated links are provided. A few corrections:
Mary Ellen Bute - www.centerforvisualmusic.org/Bute.htm (Warning - url given by author on page 160 contains multiple errors)
Charles Dockum - www.centerforvisualmusic.org/Dockum/ (Warning - url given by author on page 161 contains multiple errors)
Oskar Fischinger - www.centerforvisualmusic.org/Fischinger (Warning - url given by author on page 162 contains multiple errors)
Len Lye - www.lenlyefoundation.com/
Ed Emshwiller - www.eai.org/artists/ed-emshwiller/biography
Rogers, Holly and Jeremy Barham, eds. The Music and Sound of Experimental Film. Oxford University Press, 2017.
--Introduction, pages 3 and 21. Date error in title of book cited, should correctly be: Oskar Fischinger (1900-1967): Experiments in Cinematic Abstraction.
--Introduction, page 5, re Mary Ellen Bute's "series of abstract shorts, Seeing Sound (1930s to mid-'50s)." Note that Bute did not make her Seeing Sound films still in the 1950s.
--Introduction, page 7, re Fischinger's "technique of drawing on the optical soundtrack of the film strip to produce direct sound..." Fischinger did not actually draw on the soundtrack, but prepared drawn objects which he photographed, then printed on the soundtrack area for his Ornament Sound experiments of the early 1930s.
--Bibliography, page 21, error re William Moritz's Optical Poetry biography of Fischinger - this was published by John Libbey Publishing: Eastleigh, UK, 2004.
--Page 25, Daniels, Dieter, Absolute Sounding Images. Author states that by the end of the 1920s Oskar Fischinger, among others, "played a significant part in the development of" two art forms, "abstract film and radio drama," but gives no source or supporting information. CVM is unaware of any involvement by Fischinger in the development of radio drama (nor does his archive of papers, texts, essays and clippings reflect this), nor has this been previously published by Fischinger's biographer or others.
Harvey, Doug. CVM DVD review in Artillery magazine, 2017. Extensive factual errors. Among them, a company (not CVM) is credited with distributing and promoting Oskar Fischinger's films over the last 15 years, which is false. There is no other "Los Angeles based" company which holds any rights to Fischinger's films, nor has there been for many years.
Hong, Leon, Google. Oskar Fischinger's 117th Birthday. June 22, 2017. Hong states that Fischinger "spent months — sometimes years — planning and handcrafting his animations." Though months is correct, Fischinger didn't spent years making an individual animated film. Unfortunately this error has been repeated in dozens of publications worldwide.
The Telegraph (UK), Who was Oskar Fischinger? (June, 2017) states, "His impeccably-created stop-motion animations, synchronised to music, were a painstaking endeavour that he would obsess over for months or years." See above re claim of years; also, Fischinger made only a few actual stop-motion animated films including Composition in Blue, An Optical Poem and the Muratti ads. This term does not accurately describe the vast majority of his films, many of which were made with animation drawings, cels and other animation techniques.
Still from An Optical Poem, scanned from 16mm print from Fischinger Archive collection at CVM, showing more accurate colors than the faded versions on youtube. Image © Center for Visual Music.
Ryan Kilpatrick, TIME, Google honors animator Oskar Fischinger...(June, 2017) states, "From his new office at Paramount Pictures in Hollywood, Fischinger produced entrancing animations synched to popular and classical music, and he contributed fantastical sequences to Walt Disney’s Fantasia and Pinocchio." Corrections: Fischinger never actually finished ANY film from his office in Paramount in 1936. Author links here to a poor quality copy of An Optical Poem on youtube, which was made for another studio (MGM) and released two years later. Fischinger did not contribute a sequence to Fantasia, but quit after his concept drawings and designs were continually altered to make them more representational. Article also repeats the stop motion and "years to complete" errors mentioned above
Maya Oppenheim, Independent. Oskar Fischinger: Pioneering animator's most psychedelic films. We'll pass over the use of "psychedelic" here to the subtitle which states he "worked on some of his animations for months or even years." See above. Article uses a large, poor quality, faded still from An Optical Poem (ripped from youtube).
-Author continues, "Fischinger trained as a violinist and organ-builder before taking up an interest in film and relocating to Berlin..." however Fischinger first moved to Munich where he spent several years making films, before moving to Berlin.
-"Before long, the animator, who was born near Frankfurt in 1990, was contributing sequences to Walt Disney's Fantasia and Pinocchio from his Paramount Pictures office." That should be 1900, not 1990, and he didn't work on Disney films from his Paramount office! See above.
Sophie Curtis, MIRROR. Who was Oskar Fischinger?...."Oskar Fischinger, the artist best know for his work in motion graphics and animation" NOTE: Very early motion graphics, perhaps. Author states Fischinger "began making abstract films while living in Frankfurt in 1924," but it was actually 1920 or 1921. Same error as stated above re spending years on an animation.
Open Culture. Optical Poems by Oskar Fischinger, the Avant-Garde Animator Hated by Hitler, Dissed by Disney. (September 2014). No explanation or evidence included as to why the author believes Hitler even knew Fischinger, let alone hated him. Article also states, "in the 1930s, he moved to Berlin," note that the correct year is 1927.
Most ridiculous statement in a title: Adrian Seale, The Guardian, Oskar Fischinger: The animation wizard who angered Walt Disney and the Nazis (January 9, 2013). Author does not provide any evidence or explanation as to why he thinks Fischinger angered Walt Disney (nor have any others). He writes, "His art was classed as degenerate by the Nazis," but all abstract art (not specifically Fischinger's work) at that time had been declared degenerate. Author states, "Motion Picture No 1 was the last film he made," but this is incorrect, he made several advertising films after that time; and the actual name of that film is Motion Painting no. 1 (aka Motion Painting I), not "Picture."
Keefer, Cindy and Jaap Guldemon, eds. Oskar Fischinger (1900-1967): Experiments in Cinematic Abstraction (2013)
--This book was co-published by EYE Filmmuseum, Amsterdam and Center for Visual Music, Los Angeles. It is sometimes incorrectly cited as only being published by EYE.
--This book was published in Europe in December 2012, and in North America in 2013.
--Filmography, page 228, re Euthymol Commercial, the correct date of the Moritz recreation on videotape is 2000.
Section A: Recent Publications Continued - PAGE TWO
Contains Information on these publications:
Sito, Tom. Moving Innovation: A History of Computer Animation. MIT Press, 2013. Contains numerous errors on Fischinger, Hy Hirsh, and other abstract filmmakers.
Lütticken, Sven. "Moving in Circles" in Texte zur Kunst, Nr. 89, March 2013. Numerous errors regarding Fischinger
Zinman, Gregory. "Analog Circuit Palettes, Cathode Ray Canvases: Digital's Analog, Experimental Past" in Film History, 2012.
Huffman, Kathy Rae, ed. Exchange and Evolution: Worldwide Video Long Beach 1974-1980. Long Beach Museum of Art, 2011.
Young, Paul and Paul Duncan, Ed. Art Cinema. Taschen, 2009.
Lund, Cornelia and Holger, Eds. Audio.Visual - On Visual Music and Related Media. 2009.
Rees, A. L. A History of Experimental Film and Video. London: British Film Institute, 2008.
Frank, Peter. MidCentury Modernists in LA Weekly, 8/22/07.
Brougher, Kerry et al. Visual Music: Synaesthesia in Art and Music Since 1900 (2005).
Moritz, William. Optical Poetry: The Life and Work of Oskar Fischinger. John Libbey Publishing, 2004
Radical Light: Alternative Film & Video in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1945-2000. Anker, Geritz and Seid, Eds.
Foye, Raymond. The Alchemical Image, in “The Heavenly Tree Grows Downward” ex. catalogue (2002).
Section B: Common errata Some of the most common errors related to visual music continually repeated in papers, articles, dissertations, books:
A number of early Moritz articles placed online at various sites contain incorrect information, not only on Fischinger but Belson, Hirsh and other artists; a few of these articles are mistitled or are actually drafts, not finished versions. See CVM's online Library for annotated versions with corrected/updated information.
Neither John Whitney nor Jordan Belson worked on or contributed film to the Hollywood feature film 2001: A Space Odyssey. The slit-scan technique used in this film was however copied from Whitney's work and techniques (without his collaboration). Whitney's slit-scan effect can be seen in the long version of his film Catalog.
James Whitney did not use computers to make his film Yantra. It was hand-made; read about it here. About Lapis and John Whitney's early computer animation, William Moritz discusses here.
Jacobs and Belson's Vortex Concerts. There weren't 100 Vortex Concerts, or 62 or 60, as often printed, according to Jordan Belson, who stated there were far fewer. From Keefer, Cindy: "Cosmic Cinema and The Vortex Concerts." Cosmos: The Search for the Origins, from Kupka to Kubrick. Arnauld Pierre, Ed. Madrid:El Umbral/Santa Cruz de Tenerife:TEA, 2008): Page 361 and 475, Footnote 1: "In May 2008, Belson remembers there were only a few dozen Concerts. No documentation has been found to support the statements of “over 100 concerts” which appear in many texts. From existing documentation today it is possible to verify around 35 concerts, including Brussels...Many texts refer to “over 100” concerts though in 1967 Sheldon Renan writes of 62...However, Belson does not support the accounts of “over 100” or 60, nor do available documents and program notes from the era."
The Vortex Concerts were held in 1957-1959, not 1960 as often printed (Source: Numerous papers, programs, clippings and press in the Belson Collection at CVM and elsewhere). The films Allures, Yantra and Eneri were not screened at Vortex, only a brief manipulated fragment from an early version of Yantra was used. Interference projector patterns filmed for Vortex were later used in Allures (Source: Jordan Belson; for an in-depth essay regarding Vortex and these films, see Keefer, Cindy. "Cosmic Cinema and The Vortex Concerts," cited above). For a bibliography of articles on Vortex plus other resources, please visit CVM’s Belson Research pages. CVM has recently restored one of Belson's Vortex 5 presentation reels containing brief Hirsh oscilloscope patterns and the manipulated fragments from the early version of Yantra.
Hy Hirsh's name is not spelled with a "c." Source: Hirsh's stamps on his photographs and credits on his films.
Various statements referring to Fischinger's "hand painted films." Fischinger did not make hand painted films, but Harry Smith did and titled one of them "Circular Tensions - Homage to Oskar Fischinger." Thanks to the potential of repeated viral inaccuracy on youtube, a clip of the Harry Smith film placed on youtube has often been spread, posted on blogs and attributed as a hand-painted film by Oskar Fischinger. We do want to mention there were a very few hand-tinted shots in Fischinger's early 1920s experiments, but he did not make any actual "hand painted films."
Oskar Fischinger wasn't a "Bauhaus artist." He never taught, studied or lectured there, though his films were occasionally screened at the Bauhaus. He also was not Ruttmann's student. (Source for latter: Fischinger correspondence to Richter, 1947, CVM Fischinger collection)
Fischinger was not fired from Paramount or Disney (See Moritz, Optical Poetry; and Fischinger's Paramount resignation letter).
1949 award at Knokke-le-Zoute Festival, Brussels: Fischinger received the Grand Prix for Experimental Film for Motion Painting no 1. The Whitneys received an award for sound, but not the Grand Prize as sometimes stated. Documents and sources forthcoming
Fischinger's film Allegretto was begun at Paramount under the name Radio Dynamics, but not completed there. His final version of Allegretto was completed in 1943. Though many older texts date the film Allegretto as 1936, the film known as Allegretto and in distribution for many decades was completed in 1943. Fischinger was not able to print in color or complete the film in 1936. (Sources: Papers of Oskar Fischinger, William Moritz's Optical Poetry)
Section C: Misc. Articles and Older Publications
Richter, Hans. "A History of the Avantgarde" in Art in Cinema, Frank Stauffacher, Ed., San Francisco, 1946. Contains extensive errors. Richter's film Rhythm 21 was not completed or screened in 1921 (see Jeanpaul Goergen, Hans Richter. Film ist Rhythmus, Berlin, July 2003. Available at Arsenal, Berlin). Richter has pushed the start dates in Art in Cinema of Ruttmann and Fischinger's films to later dates. Ruttmann's Opus 1 was 1921. Fischinger did not start as a painter as Richter writes, and he started making abstract films well before 1929. See the Fischinger Research pages for an Excerpt from 1947 text by Fischinger correcting this account. As Goergen has explained to CVM via email, “The only film by Richter that passed the German censorship and was shown officially and in public was a film called "Film ist Rhythmus" (not preserved under this title) presented at the second screening of the matinee "Der absolute Film" in Berlin, 10. 5. 1925.” Thus the claims of 1921 or 1923 for a Richter film are incorrect. It may even be finally in 1951 that these early Rhythm films were edited and released, according to Goergen.
Moritz, William. “Hy Hirsh and the Fifties” (2001). Re James Whitney and Hy Hirsh. James Whitney’s film Yantra was not screened by Belson, or synchronized to music, at Morrison Planetarium during a Vortex Concert. At a separate, later 1959 event at the San Francisco Museum of Art called "Vortex Presents," Belson did screen Yantra, which was first synchronized then with an excerpt from the “Cain and Abel” soundtrack (Source: Belson interviews, Belson correspondence and "Vortex Presents" program). Re the Hy Hirsh funeral story here - Interviews with Hy Hirsh’s friends from his final Paris years have revealed that Moritz’s story about the many lovers showing up at Hirsh’s funeral, and inspiring a Bergman film, has no basis in fact. Note that Moritz’s texts for the 1990s Absolut Panushka site also contain similar, numerous Vortex, Belson and Whitney errors.
Many of Moritz's earlier visual music-related articles (especially from the 1970s - 90s) contain errata which he later corrected after additional research, or which were later found to be incorrect. Beware early non-annotated Moritz articles online at various sites. Some are even online with incorrect titles and publication citations; a few early drafts containing errors are also presented online as final published articles. It was Moritz's wish that not all of these early articles be placed online. We have begun annotating his articles, starting with some significant errors - visit our online library.
Lukach, Joan. Hilla Rebay: In Search of the Spirit in Art. New York: George Braziller, 1983.
Page 215. Lukach writes that Fischinger's "most-acclaimed film, Motion Painting No. 1" is a film without music. Correction: this film does have music, by Bach.
Section D: Websites (too many to list, only a few examples follow)
Absolut Panushka online project, William Moritz texts. Numerous errors throughout, written by Moritz during a period of severe illness. Data is incorrect on Vortex concerts, John and James Whitney, Hy Hirsh and much more.
Handmade Cinema website, by Greg Zinman
Oskar Fischinger entry. Fischinger was not from Munich as stated, but from Gelnhausen, a village near Frankfurt. Described here as a "tinkerer," Fischinger was actually a trained engineer who invented numerous machines and equipment, patenting several during his lifetime.
Zinman writes, Single Wing Turquoise Bird "were students of fellow West Coast abstract filmmakers Belson, the Whitneys, and Fischinger." The members of SWTB light show group were colleagues of the Whitneys, and some were friends, but were not tutored by the Whitneys. Belson lived in San Francisco and had little contact with SWTB members. Fischinger did not tutor any of them, though he lived in the same city. The use of the phrase "were students of" is somewhat misleading when referring to contemporaries living in the same city.
Alexander Laszlo entry. Multiple errors. Laszlo performed his own multimedia shows in Europe with music, projected lights and slides, before inviting Fischinger to participate with some of his films. The statement "Fischinger projected hand-colored films to Laszlo's compositions" is incorrect on several counts. Fischinger didn't make "hand-colored films," though he did use tinting and toning which are different processes. For more details re Laszlo and Fischinger's collaboration, please see Keefer, Cindy. "Raumlichtmusik - Early 20th Century Abstract Cinema Immersive Environments" (PDF, Leonardo Electronic Almanac site)
Los Angeles Filmforum, Alternative Projections website. A project funded by The Getty for Pacific Standard Time. Contains numerous errors regarding Oskar Fischinger, Jordan Belson, William Moritz, Hy Hirsh and their individual films. Extensive use of inaccurate information from decades-old sources. Examples below.
--Films section. "Circles" by Oskar Fischinger. Kreise (Circles), correct date is 1933-34 (several different dates are given in this listing). This film was not "the first color abstract film ever made" as stated here. It was one of the first color films made in Europe. Time given is incorrect, this film is almost 2 minutes in length, not 1 as stated.
--Films section. Most of the running times given for Fischinger's films are incorrect. For example, Motion Painting no. 1 is an 11 minute film. Studie nr 8 is not 6 minutes, but 5 minutes. Many of the dates are also incorrect. Titlles of the Studies are incorrect; Fischinger did not use hashtags in the titles of his films.
--Films section. Composition in Blue listing. Two different dates are given. This film was made in 1935, not 1933. Re the statement here "This is one of the first abstract color films ever made," this is confused with a statement made about Kreise, made in 1933-34. Many other color films were made before 1935.
--Films section. R-1 ein Formspiel is the title of a re-creation made in 35mm Cinemascope by William Moritz in 1993. It is unclear if Fischinger ever used this title for his multiple projector performances, which were in 35mm.
--Films section. Radio Dynamics was originally made in 35mm. 35mm prints are still distributed today, as well as 16mm.
--Films section. The film Studie nr 5 was made in 1930, not 1928 as stated here. Correct length is 3:15 minutes, not 6.
--Films section. Studie nr 6 was made in 1930, not 1929. Length is given as 6 minutes, but the correct length is 2 minutes.
--Films section. Though credited to him here, Hy Hirsh did not make a film called Mad Nest. Nor did he make an 8 minute film titled Recherche in 1961, as stated. Re his film Come Closer, it is incorrect that it was a computer film. While Hirsh did film some oscilloscope patterns, he did not use a computer to make this film in 1953 (2 different dates are given on this same page for the film).
For correct data, see Hirsh's own CV and filmography.
--People section. This section description states: "People included in this database are filmmakers, artists, critics, and programmers who were active in experimental and avant-garde film and video making in Los Angeles from 1945 to 1980." This section mistakenly includes Hans Fischinger, who died in the early 40s in Eastern Europe during WWII and never even visited Los Angeles. Biographies for a number of filmmakers here are quite outdated, e.g. Chris Casady, Jules Engel (1977),
--Hy Hirsh biography - incorrect on numerous points. No evidence of employment in Spain has been found by those researching Hirsh over the last 5 decades (Moritz, Keefer, Reid etc.).
--Jordan Belson Filmography. The film High Voltage was not directed by Belson and James Whitney.
--Organizations section. Neglects to list the Visual Music Alliance, which is the oldest organization devoted to Visual Music.
Many of the corrections have been sent to LA Filmforum, several times, from 2011-2015.
IMDB - errors too numerous to list. Not a reliable source for many visual music filmmakers. Wikipedia also contains numerous errors.
Youtube - Extensive errata. We don't know where to start, there are too many.
-Videos of Fischinger's An Optical Poem on youtube. These are faded versions; the yellow layer of this film appears to be gone. This film has rich yellows, browns, oranges which are not visible in these degraded online clips. Dates are usually incorrect as well.
--Hy Hirsh films on youtube. The long-standing "official distributors" are not acknowledged here as distributors- LUX London and Light Cone, Paris. The new head credit placed here on Come Closer, "copyright 1952 Creative Film Society" is not accurate; Hirsh was still alive in 1952 and had not given his copyrights to anyone, including a company not yet formed. Similar errors for Scratch Pad (1960) and Chasses des Touches (1959); Hirsh was still alive and held his own copyrights at that time.
--A Harry Smith film on youtube, Homage to Oskar Fischinger, is often mistakenly credited to Fischinger.
Last updated June, 2020
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