Jen and I have been friends since the turn of the century. She was a graduate student at CU pursuing her MFA in Dance when I asked her to work with me on a solo project. She was an improvisational dancer and often created solos. We would work together in a process similar to one Dana Reitz and I had sometimes used, someone I had worked together with for a time in the early ’80’s.

The idea was I would create the lighting cues first and she would react to them, something I liked to do from time to time to shake out the cobwebs. We did and it was put in a show eventually. We connected strongly from that experience and have remained in touch. She married her long-time partner and they have created two quite amazing children, likely shamans both. She has always had a strong spiritual side to her, so no surprise.

This morning she sent me an email:

Hello dear Bob,
It finally occurred to me that I know an actual wizard of light whom I can ask…..Have you noticed anything different about the light of late? Does it seem whiter to you? A fuller spectrum? More illuminating somehow? 
I’m not quite sure when it began, but I have become more interested than usual in noticing how the natural light sits in the air and falls upon objects. I’ve recently begun to think that this is because the light is changing. It’s almost as if it’s just about to illuminate MORE, such as the space between the air. 
I’m wondering if anyone else has noticed this. So far, of the few people I’ve asked, only one has felt that she is also more fascinated by the light lately. She is a photographer, so light is also her thing. 
And I wonder, have you noticed anything, Bob? It the light….lighter? 


My reply:

Good Morning Jen,

No. The air is anything but clear. Now that you mention it I have been aware of how pinkish the air is here, in Franklin and the greater Nashville area where people drive a lot. They have hardly curtailed their driving at all during the pandemic and they drive a lot of big SUV’s and pick-up trucks.

But I do perhaps know why you and your friend sense a difference. It happened to me in 1983. I was in Amsterdam, on tour with Dana Reitz as a solo artist. We had a gig at the big new theatre there, a huge stage, with a large inventory of the newest and brightest in lighting instruments available in Europe. It was a one-off and I showed up at the theatre at the 9am call time and they were ready for me. For the next 3 hours I called focus on the 200 or so lights, the plan having been sent them in advance, hand-drawn (no computer CAD back then) while we sat for 3 weeks in Paris waiting for the stagehands to end their strike at the Pompidou Center so we could perform there, which we never did.

I was amazed at the brightness and clarity of the light produced by all the instruments, but in particular one type that it turns out I had never used before, as they did not make or sell them in the U.S. It was called a PC, so named because it used a single plano-convex lens to focus the rays emanating from the lamp and reflector. Another factor is the voltage in Europe which is 220, all the lamps seem brighter even before you focus the extra photons with lenses. Also every lamp was tungsten-halogen, a whiter, brighter lamp not yet totally adopted in the U.S.

Focus done, we went to lunch, and in the afternoon came back to look at the cues that had also been pre-loaded into the computer console. Dana came by and spent some time moving in the space while I did so. This is when I had a first moment of realization.

I had sensed it previously. Now it was clear. In “my world” light does have mass, contrary to what the physicists tell us. I could “see” the light as a thing, not just the result of it’s being reflected off objects. It has “weight”. Having that property made it make more sense to me as an object I could use to create my “looks”. Over the years that only grew stronger in me. I did not always like what I created but those looks were always things of themselves, “places” if you will, where dancers could play. A big 3D “sandbox” if you will.

That is what is happening to you now too. For whatever reason, perhaps simply because you have suddenly started to look, you now “see” light, the photons themselves, as well as the objects that reflect them.  In later years David Capps tried to explain to me how he felt when he saw the light I created onstage. Same thing. He was beginning to see it how I did, as a thing unto itself. 

Enjoy your new knowledge.


Author: RJMS

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