The Terry Riley and Joshua Light Show

The Joshua light show was a psychedelic manually produced light show that was produced on a flat screen behind the performers. It was originally made by Joshua white in the late 1960’s and the early 1970’s. The multilayer projection, uses a variety of manual techniques, such as dripping dies into water and rotating colored glass tubes to create the spectacular effects.  Today’s show takes 10 projectionists to operate it – they all act from behind the screen and are concealed from the audience. The screen is lifted momentarily towards the end of the show to reveal the machines and the projectionists.

Terry Riley is a renowned American composer who is generally associated as been a pioneer of the minimalist movement.  The music he chose to play for the Joshua light show was anything but minimalist. He had tailored his selection of songs to be appropriate for the projections. The music which he performed with his son was multilayer, combination of both syntheses, classical guitar, piano and vocals. I had not expected to here him sing, and in some ways I wish he didn’t. His music was incredible but challenging at time. He played a song called ‘trash aliens’ and that’s what it sounded like.

The show utilized innovative techniques at the time. It creates effects that would be near impossible to recreate digitally. It has a level of depth to it that is not possible with flat digital screens. The depth of the visuals creates a hypnotic effect if your eye holds focus to a spot midway through both the projections.

I found the visuals varied, although still all maintain to a similar brightly saturated, liquid, psychedelic style.  The speed, color, rhythm, depth and projection techniques changed throughout the set and were matched perfectly to the feeling and rhythm of the music Terry Riley was playing. Some songs became quite psychotic and challenging aurally and in keeping with this experience the visual would also build up to a rapid point of explosion.

The entire experience could be likened to an acid trip. I felt like I was taken on a journey that was outside of myself and when I came back down and was spat out into the New York streetscape, the city seemed dull by comparison.