Mary Elizabeth Hallock-Greenewalt (1871-1950), a renowned inventor and pianist, made substantial contributions to music and technology. Her most notable creation is Nourathar, a unique art form using environmental color fields to generate diverse light intensities and colors. To realize her Nourathar vision, Hallock-Greenewalt devised the Sarabet, a color organ that necessitated the invention of new technologies. She secured nine patents for these innovations and authored a book on her art form, Nourathar: The Fine Art of Light-Color Playing, in 1946. Besides her work with Nourathar, she was an accomplished pianist, performing solo with the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh symphonies. As a trailblazer in music and technology, her innovations continue to inspire and impact artists and inventors today.
Mary Hallock-Greenewalt introduced Nourathar, a groundbreaking technological art form, in the 1920s. It comprises environmental color fields that generate various light intensities and colors. Nourathar is intended for live performances, requiring the use of the Sarabet, an instrument invented by Hallock-Greenewalt. The Sarabet, a color organ, employs a console with graduated sliders and other controls, enabling the performer to manipulate the lights in real-time. Unlike earlier color-music attempts, Nourathar doesn’t strictly associate specific colors with particular notes; instead, Hallock-Greenewalt contended that these relationships were inherently flexible, reflecting the performer’s temperament and skill. Nourathar uniquely blends music and technology in a previously unseen way and continues to inspire and influence artists and inventors today.
Besides her Nourathar and Sarabet work, Mary Hallock-Greenewalt was also a gifted pianist. She studied at the Philadelphia Conservatory of Music and with Theodor Leschetizky in Vienna, performing as a soloist with the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh symphonies. An early recording technology adopter, she released a 1920 recording of her Chopin performances on Columbia Records. Hallock-Greenewalt was also a hand-painted film pioneer, producing some of the earliest known examples. Her films were designed for her early Sarabet version, a machine for automatic accompaniment to records, rather than motion pictures. Despite her numerous achievements, Hallock-Greenewalt is perhaps best remembered for her innovative work with Nourathar and the Sarabet, inspiring and influencing artists and inventors to this day.