Page 1

Julie Herndon

A Long Postlude

for light bulbs 2018


Program Note: Alexander Graham Bell developed the photophone in 1880. The device reflected vibrated sunlight to convey speech wirelessly. While Bell thought it to be one of his greatest inventions, it was too impractical to be put to general use.

This piece explores the mystical properties of light and its applications, using text documenting the photophone interspersed with Mormon prophecies about light. Light bulbs are absent from the story itself (Bell used sunlight for his experiment). As such, the bulbs become bystanders, independent characters since groomed by history, communicating a story of speech by light. Requirements: Light fixtures (approx. 6), each with an incandescent Edison bulb 2 light bulb controllers (available from the composer) with dimmers and switch Power strip (1-2) and extension cords (1-2) as necessary Computer to run Max patch (available from the composer) Inductor microphone Interface (min. 1 in, stereo out) Stereo PA Set up: Light bulb chorus: assorted light fixtures arranged in a group

Solo light positioned in foreground inductor microphone taped or attached to bulb power strip

interface

to stereo PA

laptop running Max patch performer solo light controller chorus light controller

outlet


Text: The means was simple and the range limited. …to develop a light-sensitive selenium cell of sufficiently low resistance. That achieved, Bell and Tainter placed the cell in a telephone circuit and by a system of lenses threw upon the cell a beam of light reflected from a voice-vibrated plane mirror.

Darkness reduces our ability to see clearly. It dims our vision of that which was at one time plain and clear. The voice distorted the mirror’s surface, and thereby varied the intensity of the reflected beam. This in turn varied the resistance of the selenium cell and thus made the battery current “undulatory,” as required for telephonic speech. …the mirror and cell were within earshot of each other, and so the experimenters listened to the effect through a telephone in another room. When we are in darkness, we are more likely to make poor choices because we cannot see dangers in our path. When we are in darkness, we are more likely to lose hope because we cannot see the peace and joy that await us if we just keep pressing forward. Light, on the other hand, allows us to see things as they really are. Their early success seemed to reassure Bell, that his life thenceforward was not to be merely a long postlude to the telephone. In a letter he wrote his father on February 26. He gave his dramatic instinct full play. I have heard articulate speech produced by sunlight! (contour echo). I have heard a ray of the sun laugh and cough and sing! I have been able to hear a shadow, and I have even perceived by ear the passage of a cloud across the sun’s disk.”

from Robert Bruce, Bell: Alexander Graham Bell and the Conquest of Solitude, (Cornell University Press, 1990). Prophecy by Dieter Uchtdorf, “Bearers of Heavenly Light,” Latter Day Saints General Assembly (October 2017).


Score

A Long Postlude

Julie Herndon

Time: 0:00

Light Bulb Solo

bright medium dim

Light Bulb Chorus Voice

[start sample] The means was simple

0:32

and the range

limited.

like gibberish Morse code

L.B.Solo

V.

to develop a light-sensitive

selenium cell

of suďŹƒciently low resistance.

0:45 L.B.Solo

V.

Bell and Tainter

placed the cell in a telephone circuit

and

by a system of lenses

threw

1:01 L.B.Solo

V.

the cell

1:21

a beam of light reected

from a voice-

vibrated

our

ability

plane mirror

switch to chorus light controller

L.B.Chorus

V.

Darkness

reduces

to

see

clearly.

upon


Score Voice

2

!

A Long Postlude

Julie Herndon

to solo controller

1:35 L.B.Chorus Light Bulb

V.

Voice

!

It

dims our vision of

that which was

at

one

time

plain

and

clear.

following the contour of the speech

1:53 L.B.Solo

V.

The voice distorted the mirror’s surface,

Score

L.B. .

2:05

Morse code-like

!

"

and thereby varied the intensity

A Long Postlude

Voice

!

V.

! This

in turn

varied the resistance of the selenium cell

"

Julie Herndon

jagged

"

L.B.Solo V. Light Bulb

V. L.B.S. L.B.

of the reflected beam.

and thus made the

battery current

“undulatory,”

"

2:20 L.B.Solo

V.

as required for telephonic speech 2:32 L.B.Solo

V.

The mirror and cell were within earshot of each other,

and so the experimenters listened to the effect through a telephone

trill (ord)

© Julie Herndon 2018

L.B.

bsbg &&----00*******098789000000--------------087654333222221111==-0-0-0-0 &&&&&&&&------******* &&&-----*******

"

2:45

L.B.Solo V. V.

!

trill (ord)

in

another room.

" © Julie Herndon 2018

When

we are

in

darkness,


3 3:00 L.B.Solo

L.B.Chorus

V.

we are more likely to make

poor choices

because we cannot

see

dangers

in our path.

3:19 L.B.Chorus

V.

When we are in darkness,

we are

more

likely

to

lose

hope

3:33 L.B.Chorus

V.

because

we

cannot

see

just

keep

the peace

and

joy

that

await

us

3:49 L.B.Chorus

V.

if

we

pressing

forward.

4:01 L.B.Chorus

V.

Light,

on the other hand,

4:15

allows

us

to

see

things

to solo controller

L.B.Chorus

V.

as

they

really

are.


4

4:28

jagged, following contour of speech

L.B.Solo L.B.Chorus (dim.) V.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Their early success seemed to reassure Bell 4:43

that his life thenceforward

Morse code-like

was not to be merely a

long

postlude

speech contour

L.B.Solo L.B.Chorus (dim.) -

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

V.

to the telephone.

in a letter he wrote his father on February 26.

He gave his dramatic instinct

5:00 L.B.Solo

L.B.Chorus V.

full play.

I have

heard

articulate

speech

produced by sunlight!

5:16 L.B.Solo

L.B.Chours

V.

I have

heard a ray of the sun

laugh

and

cough

and

sing

5:44 L.B.Solo

L.B.Chorus

V.

I

have been

able to hear

a

shadow,

and I

have even perceived by ear

5:51 L.B.Solo

L.B.Chorus

V.

the

passage

of a

cloud

across

the sun’s

disk.

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A Long Postlude  

for light bulbs and voice

A Long Postlude  

for light bulbs and voice

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