Grundlagen und Aufgabe der Bühnenbeleuchtungskunst

Ein Beitrag zur Bühnenbeleuchtungskunst

Dieser Artikel wurde im Rundbrief der Sektion für Redende und Musizierende Künste Nr. 27 im Januar 1997 veröffentlicht. Da der Rundbrief zweisprachig erschienen ist, ist er auch ins Englische übersetzt worden. Die folgende Übersetzung wurde von der Redaktion des Rundbriefes geschrieben. (--> deutsch).

© Arnold Johannes Jäger

A Contribution to the Art of Lighting

It was significant for the development of anthroposophical lighting that Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, a young physics student, was able to take up Rudolf Steiner's suggestions and work independently with them. He installed the first lighting unit 75 years ago for the stage of the carpentry building. Since then the basic principle behind this unit has been duplicated by many anthroposophical institutions. In those days public performances of eurythmy also began and work was done to develop the lighting. Not long after Ehrenfried Pfeiffer finished his unit for the carpentry building stage, he built one for the first Goetheanum, which was a further step. His task was not merely to study and use the technology already available, but to develop the necessary technology himself. Lighting was needed that would be as diffuse as possible, similar to the softness of daylight, enfolding the eurythmists and actors fully in colour. Ehrenfried Pfeiffer achieved this by using lamps that were fastened to a convex white reflector and covered by a coloured glass dome.

The lighting in the carpentry shop rests mainly on the stage apron: many lamps set as dose together as possible in rows. Each lamp has a reflector that directs the light forwards through a colour filter. The colours are mixed. The opposite principle was applied to the lighting of the small dome in the first Goetheanum: the reflector did not surround the lamp in order to concentrate the light, it was behind the lamp and thus strengthened the light's diffusion; the coloured filter was not fiat, it surrounded the lamp; the row of colours was not parallel to the apron below but went from front to back behind the pillars.

Modern stage lighting has taken the opposite path: it has been separated from apron lighting. Spotlights are used to concentrate the light on a specific pomt with the help of mirrors and lenses. Points of light accentuate important figures and small or large portions of space are created. Modern surface lamps are designed to distribute light evenly over an exactly limited surface. This can be seen as an enhancement of the single cell of apron lighting, enabling each individual lamp to be set exactly to shine on a surface, horizon or backdrop.

This type of lighting emphasizes space and it can accentuate individual positions very weil for example in dramatic works. The change from one space to the next is easily recognized and unavoidable. These lamps are usually used in such a way that colour moods give way to brightness. However, when we want to show movement in a space filled with coloured light, replacing the geometrical stage with a space made of colour, and without dividing the space into several sections - then these modern lamps soon reveal their limits. To portray super-sensible forces, worlds and beings, thus also to perform eurythmy, we need lighting which corresponds to the quality of Imagination. And just this was taken into account in the lighting of the first Goetheanum.

Lighting Technology and Computer Systems

Why do we distinguish between the art of lighting and its technology? For the musician it is dear that he needs a satisfactory instrument in order to play. It only becomes a matter for discussion when the instrument faus to meet a necessary standard. It is different with people engaged in lighting. They talk at length ab out every detail of their technical units. Stage lighting is determined by technology and not technology by the lighting! Do we want to apply a certain technology, or do we want to bring a certain mood onto the stage? Weil, the answer is dear, depending upon your pomt of view We Cannot practice the art of lighting without the technology, however the task of stage lighting must not be determined by it. For anyone who is at home with art, this is obvious, but for people who are fascinated by technology, the goal is to carry out whatever is technically do-able, whatever the price.

It is interesting to consider the case of the organ - also a highly technical instrument - which came to play an important rdle in the church, thus in an area of culture which wants to lead the human being towards the divine. lt was not until the technology of the organ had been developed so far that the organist became superfluous that the organ became an instrument for entertainment (e.g. the street organ) and lost its connection to the super-sensible and the church. Just as the technology of the organ retreats into the background in order to serve the music, so also should the technology of a lighting unit be able to do this.

On-off-on-off-on-off-on... - This is electricity's operating mode, which we often use each day, usually without giving it a thought. Everything else is a sensitive interplay between water resistance and incandescent lamps: either there was a lot of light on the stage, or the water became hot. The same is true of all other forms of resistance that are used to control the lighting. Since the development of semiconductors, even brightness is controlled by rapid on and off switching. (This is why the lamps hum.)

With the arrival of the Computer we now have «onoff» for every grade of brightness also at the lighter's desk. This form of switching is so much a part of electronics that the people who build the units forget the people who are going to use them. Numbers become the main thing. Computer-controlled units arose after manufacturers had already noticed that the relation between the lamps and the control unit is important after all.

The main aim however remains to reduce the number of people doing the lighting. Some of today's opera houses are building units that will make it possible to prepare the entire lighting for a production at the Computer, without the stage - so that the stage can be used for rehearsais and performances meanwhile. Another technical possibility: a rehearsal is recorded and the Computer can then use sounds and entrances to ascertain when scheduled lighting changes are due. Thus the lighter has nothing more to do during the performance than to look after the machines. - (When will they overcome the need for actors?)

Enough about the technology in itself. More important for us now is to look at our own experiences with it. It is Customary today to store all the changing moods of the performance - with or without transition times - and then to recall them one by one during the performance. This corresponds to the earlier practice of writing down numbers for the moods, which were then transferred from the paper to the unit during the performance. But is this an art form? If we Compare it with the activity of a pianist, the answer is a dear no! We wouldn't listen for long to a pianist who merely plays the notes from the page - the music is missing!

When the lighting is transferred from the paper by the lighter, he or she knows in advance what mood is to be created. He or she can accompany it inwardly. lt is possible to work in a very intimate way with what is happening on the stage; the less one has to look at the paper, the better it will succeed. In Contrast, the process is more technical when lighting out of Computer memory. Then our attitude is more likely to be worrying about missing a lighting change, and if one was missed, worrying about what should come now and does the stage look the same as usual? Our inner activity is no less intense, but it is directed more towards externals. We notice this after the performance. As lighters we are always exhausted after a performance. In the first case, when we have actively created the moods, we feel fulfilled. In the second case, when we were continually worrying about whether everything was right, we feel drained. Such observations help us form judgments about the use of technology.

Is a Computer unit a help or a hindrance?

Technology has progressed so far that we can ask for whatever we want! Anthroposophical lighting requires a unit on which the lighter can play as does a pianist on a piano or an organist on a church Organ. This can easily be achieved today with Computer units, but we have to want it and to insist that they be made accordingly - modern theater will not give it to us! In the future, if we do not concern ourselves with this, we shall be left with units that were designed to replace Us, rather than be guided by Us. It is up to us! Just as it would be senseless to build a concert piano oneself, so also is it senseless to produce our own lighting units.

Is it not so that Ahriman wants to create his own world out of people determined by technology, yet he becomes enmeshed it it himself? And cannot we, when we realize this, place his technology in the Service of humanity and the Michaelic forces (thus redeeming Ahriman)? (Think of the statue «Representative of Man», which was meant to have a central place in the first Goetheanum.) The art of lighting offers a special opportunity; for here our freedom to chose how we use the technology is great. The computer can be a tremendous help, but also a hindrance. it depends on us! - Unfortunately there is little understanding for the technical side of a stage, as we can observe on tours through the schools. The people who use the units thus are presented with more difficulties than necessary.

The arts inspired by Ahriman are binding the human being to them in addiction, creating huge money profits. Our art needs people who can replace those arts out of their own will, out of esoteric knowledge. Then it can achieve much with little material and little money. - This is true also for the art of lighting.

© Arnold Johannes Jäger