Image of Kepes' <i>Flame Orchard</i> Kepes' Flame Orchard
Flame Orchard

Beginning in the early 1800s, the stages of opera houses were lit with gas foot lamps, whose flames appeared on occasion to change shape with the volume and tone of the singers’ voices. MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS) founder Gyorgy Kepes’ Flame Orchard not only investigated this phenomenon, but also did much more. Reporting from the Bienal de Arte Coltejer in Medellín, Colombia, curator Jasia Reichardt compared watching Flame Orchard to watching clouds or the surface of the sea—but they were moving in synchrony with an “extraordinary synthesis of church music and modern jazz.” Flame Orchard consisted of six square units like the one featured in the exhibition, each housing a 2-foot by 2-foot by 3-inch gas container and a sound speaker that vibrated the gas. As composer Paul Earls’ music played, the flames vibrated and leapt. An accompanying video gave the visitor a sense of the beauty of the original piece that is only partially rendered by the photographs here.

Flame Orchard, Gas Container and Sound Speaker Unit from Multimedia Installation
Gyorgy Kepes
Musical composition by Paul Earls
Loan from the estate of Gyorgy Kepes and the MIT School of Architecture and Planning.

photo: Courtesy of CAVS Archives

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  • [...] Kepes – Flame Orchard, [...]

    3 Feb 11 at 2:59 pm
  • In Nov. 2010 at The Ludvig Museum in Budapest I had the pleasure of attending the Kepes exhibit and first saw the Flame Orchard. The moving flames swayed with the music-hypnotic in the same way when one looks at a field of poppies moving (responding) to the wind.

    Sylvia Hahn- Kepes Committee of Wellesley, MA
    9 Feb 11 at 9:48 pm