AllisonWonderland Concert Lightshow

 
 
AllisonWonderland Concert Lightshow
 
 

When Allison was in elementary school, his fourth grade teacher, Ms. McKinny noticed that his syntax wasn't normal. He would refer to colors as sour, sweet, loud, or bitter.

He would refer to sounds as red, green, or blue. He would refer to feelings as loud, or hot.

Ms. McKinny discussed this with other teachers, and one of them recognized what was happening. They subsequently arranged a trip to UCLA in Los Angeles where Allison was given a number of tests, and was found to be a synaesthete, a condition where one's sensory perceptions are cross linked.

One of the results of this condition was that he could see sound, and hear light. At the time, he thought everyone could do this.

1964 found Allison in Houston, Texas where he was the owner of the MediAssociates Advertising Agency, Prelude Art Studio, and The Mob Modeling Group. At the time, the “cutting edge” way of doing advertising presentations employed Slide Projectors.

The cutting edge Slide Projector was the Spindler Sauppe SLR1200 UltraBright SelectroSlide Projector (see below images), which had a way to fade from one slide image to the next using two Spindlers, and a piece of electronic equipment called a “Dissolve Unit”.


MediAssociates had such a Spindler Sauppe setup.

It was at this time that the “Hippy” movement (with all its attendant effusions) was in its infancy. In Houston, Texas the main movement of the Hippies adherents was toward Psychedelic Rock Music, and accompanying the music were “Liquid Lightshows”, which employed Overhead Projectors, large “Clock Faces”, colored oils, and waters.

They were quite dynamic, and also quite messy to say the least.

Instead of going that route, Allison began experimenting with his agency's Spindler Sauppe Slide Projectors, and Faceted Crystals. He found that physically handling the crystals in the light beam made possible amazing moving images.

Branching out from faceted crystals, it was found that anything that was transparent, translucent, reflective, refractive, or diffusive would make unique images. In experimenting with such objects, it was found that by moving them linearly and radially in the light beam, one could make images that grew or diminished, and moved in manners that made visual equivalents of the sounds that Allison synaesthetically perceived.

The next step was to assemble groups of these crystal luminescent pieces into what were called: “Arrays” (see below images).

This led Allison to build an instrument that would contain the Projector, an optics setup, and included ways to modify the light beam to make it more malleable, and provide a way to add and change colors.

Allison named this Vusic Instrument the “Crystalume” (see below images).

Anything that a music instrument can do to the mind through the ears with sound, the Crystalume can do to the mind through the eyes with light.

After researching the subject of Light, Allison came up with a philosophical premise that he called: “If Silence is Black”, which he has used to guide development of the methodology to make Vusic (Visual Music). He has since written a quite lengthy thesis on the subject of “If Silence is Black”.

At first, this was just a hobby, but soon, friends were encouraging Allison to promote concerts and shows using the Crystalume. It wasn't long before he had accrued a substantial cult following.


One of Allison's Advertising Agency clients, named H.A. Lott, who was the CEO of the construction company that built the Astrodome, the Tower of the Americas, and the Galleria (among many other projects) saw what Allison was doing, and wanting to help, became his patron.

He implemented the acquisition of a concert sound system (more about that later), and having his own sound system, Allison began doing concerts at places such as the Contemporary Art Museum in Houston, colleges such as SouthWest Texas State in San Marcos, Trinity University in San Antonio, University of Houston, and St. Thomas University, to name a few.

As his following grew, various entertainment venues such as Six Flags over Texas in Dallas, Aquarena Springs in San Marcos, and many Night Clubs began booking the AllisonWonderland. There were also private parties, and special events that featured the AllisonWonderland.

The lightshow began taking precedence over Allison's Public Relation businesses, which Allison shut down in 1967 in order to devote full time to the career of being a Lumiast.

The AllisonWonderland Concert Lightshow was last done, along with the “Eyedream of Jeane” in 1997 with Charles Neville's Band “Diversity” at Tupitina's in New Orleans.

Allison's career was severely attenuated by a catastrophic murdercycle accident in 1987.

It took almost eleven years to recuperate. Allison planned on getting back onto the Concert Circuit, and needed
only a hip replacement procedure to complete his recuperation.

The procedure was scheduled for December 1, 1998, In preparation for the surgery, blood tests were done, and a rare autoimmune Liver Issue was found. He was given only five months left to live.

He was put on a therapy which involved the chemical suppression of his immune system, which
meant that he had to live a “bubble life” in solitary confinement to keep from contracting any pathogens,
as his body had no way to fight off an infection.

No one was allowed to visit, and he wasn't allowed to go out and about. It is an ongoing situation which has so far, lasted twenty-two years and counting. Allison is now in 2020, eighty-one years old.

There were many people associated with the AllisonWonderland over the many years. There was his patron, Mr. H.A. Lott, his manager Mary-k Ashley Wilson, his agent Gerry Zekowski,

And there were many others, mostly logistical personnel (roadies, sound-techs, and etc.). It was not until Allison started the AllisonWonderland Theater in Dallas http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/27935 that others became interested and inspired to do what Allison was doing.

The 1972 “Sensatiation” TV Program personnel were Kenan Branam, TV Producer (who passed on some years back), and Mary-k Ashley Wilson, executive coordinator, (see below image).

Also involved were Jay Menier, cameraman extraordinaire, and Pat Fant, who, at the time was a disk jockey at Houston's number one Radio Station KLOL,

Influences:

In doing the research into Lumia, the Art of Light, it was found that people such as:

Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athanasius_Kircher , who invented
the "Lanterna Magica" (Magic Lantern). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_lantern

Isaac Newton (1642-1727), who wrote the book titled "Opticks" in 1704.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Newton#Optics

Mary Hallock Greenwalt (1871-1950) who wrote the book titled "Nourathar" which is what she
called visual music. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Hallock-Greenewalt

Thomas Wilfred (1889-1968), who invented the "Clavilux Lumiere", a keyboard actuated light
instrument. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Wilfred

Alexander Scriabin (1871-1915), who was also a synaesthete, wrote the symphony "Prometheus,
the Poem of Fire", which he scored for light.

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prometheus:_The_Poem_of_Fire .

All sought to use light the way musicians use sound. But probably the most salient factor influencing
Allison is his synaesthesia, which makes it possible for him to see sound, and hear light, which has
guided the development of the methodology to actually make visual images that correspond to aural
stimulus. who later became the station's manager.

Allison has also had many students whom he taught to make Vusic using the Crystalume.

Allison has worked with:

Seals and Crofts, JJ Cale, Mother Earth, Charlie Neville, Buddy Miles, Richie Havens, Hank Saroyan, and many local Houston Bands. But the AllisonWonderland is a stand alone concert attraction, having its own Concert Sound System, thus not needing to work with a band. Allison is also an accomplished musician who makes his own music to which the lightshow is done.

Here is a link to some of his recordings.

https://ourstage.com/profile/allisonwonderland/songs

Allison has cooperated with:
Jeane Z. Champion'sThe Eyedream of Jeane”, and Kent Skinner's “Choreoptics”,

The name is a play on the title of Lewis Carroll's book “Alice in Wonderland” but using Allison's name.

 

Here is an article about AllisonWonderland By Kent Skinner:

After I returned from my backpacking trip to Europe, my friend Dale Meyler suggested that I go check out a place called AllisonWonderland on Knox Street in Dallas. It was an old movie theater that the tenant, Jim Allison had turned into a cool weekly multimedia show with live music, serial movies, weird flicks and the most amazing light show.

Dale had been doing lo tech multimedia shows in his garage for years and he wanted me to try and figure out how Jim was doing his lightshow.

I was flummoxed. All I had to do was ask.

I introduced myself to Allison and played some original guitar pieces and songs while we talked for a while. I ended up playing there almost every week for a while. After that initial chat, Jim asked me “OK, so you're name isn't really Cat Skinner is it?" Laughter. He had misheard. "No, it's Kent Skinner!" I corrected him.

He gave me a tour backstage and demonstrated the instrument he had built and named the Crystalume.

He would manipulate a collection of lenses and crystals and various pieces of cut glass and lucite, working in and out of multiple focal points of light from a 1200 watt projector. By playing the beam of light with his fingers and varying the rhythm, intensity and size of the imagery he created what he called "Vusic" or visual music.

This was leagues beyond the cool but splashy psychedelic light shows that one associates with the 60s. This was a polished, practiced visual interpretation of music. This was art.

Jim would drop little nuggets of information occasionally but he let me discover on my own. I had to build my own setup. I experimented and went through a couple of Crystalumes before building one that was portable and powerful and is sadly gathering dust in my garage as I write.

I convinced the art department at U.T. Austin to give me six hours of credit towards my Art Degree. I named my show "Talking Lights" and later, "Choreoptics" and always acknowledged Jim as the source of my inspiration. But this story is not mine but his.

Jim is a visionary. In the early 70's he anticipated a day when you would be able to buy your favorite album of music and take it home and watch it! I remember him owning an early videotape cassette recorder and in later years, playing with lasers.

He should have gotten more famous and been known for being the pioneer that he was.

The AllisonWonderland Theater did not endure. There was conflict between partners and it eventually folded.

Jim moved away for a while and as a parting gift, gave a bottle of Aramis cologne and a fantastic set of pen points and Rapidograph pens which I used for years. I wore the Aramis too.

After a stay in Natural Dam, Arkansas, Jim lived with his lady friend and manager, Mary-k Wilson in a house near Inwood and Mockingbird Lanes in Dallas. Although they were probably about 15 years older than me, it was cool to go hang out and listen to his stories.

Jim is one of those people who has this incredible charisma that people are drawn to. Within five minutes, no matter where you are, there will be a crowd of enthralled listeners. There were also rumors of their cat "Slo" (short for "Speed's Little One"), relaxing in a giant glass brandy snifter while smoke was blown through the center hole of an LP placed over the top. Liquid cat. He could slosh him around like a giant furry shot of cognac.

I lost track of Allison for a few years and then by chance ran into Mary-k in Austin. She put me back in touch. Jim was living in Houston with his new lady, Judy Zekowski. We had independently discovered and were using some of the same music for our shows. I refer to it as graphic music, music that begs to be augmented visually. Jean Michel Jarre and Mike Oldfield for example.

Again I lost touch for a few years. I don't recall how but we reconnected again in the late eighties or early nineties and collaborated on a show with Judy's son, Greg Zekowski who had taken up the Crystalume himself at the White Rock art facility, The Bath House.

Three Crystalumes! It was kind of a mess but it was cool to perform as a peer with my once mentor! Greg's sister, Jeane Z Champion has her own Crystalume and still performs today!

I need to drag out my Crystalume and clean her up. I may have been intimidated by the amazing visuals possible with digital technology today, but thinking more about it, I can make impressive music in the studio with only my computer but it will never replace the satisfaction and the purity of sitting and playing my guitar.

Jim is living somewhere in a small town called Onalaska, Texas I have connected again and have dusted off my Crystalume and am honing up on my Vusical chops!

DESOLATION!..............................CREATION!!!

Here is an interesting incident that happened:

One time, Mr. Lott and Allison were together at a Piccadilly Cafeteria in Houston. Mr. Lott, being uber wealthy was dressed in the finest hand-taylored suit. Impeccable!

Allison being a Hippy type had shoulder length hair, and a beard. He was dressed in a black turtleneck sweater, black denim shirt and slacks, a buffalo-hide fringed coat, which had a brass temple bell at the end of each fringe strand, and matching fringed boots. He “chingged” when he walked.

In the middle of their meal, three really foxy hippy chick groupies types showed up at their table, and one of them said: “You're AllisonWonderland, aren't you?”. Allison nodded yes. Another one asked if they could get autographs. “Of course.” replied Allison. With that they each unbuttoned their blouses, and presented a bare shoulder for Allison to sign.

Everyone in the restaurant had stopped eating, and were watching this.

The three cute little chicks thanked Allison profusely, and left. Allison looked over at Mr. Lott, who gave him a slight smile, and just shook his head. Mr. Lott enjoyed this kind of thing, he WAS, after all, a key player behind the AllisonWonderland.

Here is story about how Allison met Jeane Z Champion, Gerry and Judy Zekowski.

There's a special story about how AllisonWonderland met one of his best students, Jeane Z. Champion who does the Eyedream of Jeane Concert Lightshow using a Crystalume.

Her father, Gerry Zekowski was the vice president of Lightolier, one of the world's largest producers of lighting equipment. This part of the story is about how Gerry, and Allison happened to meet.

Allison was living in a big old mansion in the Montrose, in Houston. Each evening, Allison would rehearse with his Crystalume. His fans and followers were welcome to come watch, and every evening there were new comers accompanying Allison's friends, fans and followers.

One evening, a new guest had left Allison's phone number on her answering machine for her boyfriend to call. He called and wanted to come be with her at Allison's place. He showed up and watched the rehearsal.

There was another fan, who worked for Bechtal Corp as an engineer whose job included the specifying of lighting equipment. Both the boyfriend, and the engineer knew Gerry Zekowski, and the next time that they met with him, they told him of Allison, and his Crystalume, and both gave him Allison's phone number.

Gerry called, and made an appointment to come see what this was all about. He showed up, and saw the Crystalume on the stage, and his response was that Lightolier had a piece of lighting equipment that was about 12 inches square and about 6 inches thick, that would do what the Crystalume did.

He had one of these wondrous units in his station wagon and wanted to demonstrate it. He brought it in, and set it up, told Allison to put on some music, and he turned on the device. It projected a slide image that would rotate, and change color.

After the demonstration, Allison made sure that Gerry was sitting comfortably, and did a performance to a Moody Blues album. When he finished, he turned off the Crystalume, and sound system, and turned on the lights.

Gerry was sitting there entranced! He was nonplussed. He had been zapped! He recovered from the synaesthetic magic spell, and his first words were: You're the Messiah! Allison assured him that he wasn't, but was rather an artist who used light as his artistic medium. Gerry replied: You can't tell me who my Messiah is!

The next day, about mid-morning, there came a knock on the door. Allison answered, and there stood a lady with a toddler in diapers. This lady asked: Who is Allison? Allison replied that he was Allison. The lady asked: What have you done to my husband?

Allison asked: Who is your husband?, to which the lady replied: Gerry Zekowski! Allison replied, he had done a lightshow for him the previous evening.

The lady said: He says you're the Messiah. Allison assured her that he was not any kind of Messiah. Allison showed her the Crystalume sitting on the stage. They talked for a while, and the Lady and the toddler left.

That toddler was Jeane Z Champion.

Allison remembers meeting Jeane Z Champion for the first time. Jeane doesn't remember meeting Allison, and doesn't remember a time when there was not a Crystalume in her life. She and Allison are life long friends.

Jeane Z Champion married, and is still playing Crystalume.

A note about the AllisonWonderland Logo/Trademark : It is a synaesthetic symbol. It is a stylized A (for Allison) and a stylized W (for Wonderland) and is pronounced Awe, or Ahhh.

Now for the synaesthetic part:
If one uses a gutteral tone and says "Awe", or "Ahhh", while using one's finger to make the shape of the Logo/Trademark, the intonation of the voice and the motion of the finger become an aural/visual unit that is synaesthetic.

Try it! See if it doesn't work for you!

Submitted by Jim C Allison - August 2020

 

Video Links:

Sensatiation Television show that was done in 1972 in Houston, Texas. It was a simulcast that linked
Channel 26, and KLOL Radio. It aired on Saturday Night at Midnight.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCP8RtOEQGDmgrAzPvrDbUPg/videos?disable_polymer=1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UThdhkxlFVM

These Videos were made on the Crystalume, which I invented in 1967, and uses the aforementioned Spindler Sauppe Selectroslide Ultra Bright Projector.

Nothing was automatic or electronic.

The Crystalume is a Vusic (Visual Music) Instrument that has to be "played" as a Guitar, or a Piano is "played".

 
 
AllisonWonderland Concert Lightshow

JC Allison

 
AllisonWonderland Concert Lightshow
 
 
AllisonWonderland Concert Lightshow
 
 
AllisonWonderland Concert Lightshow
 
 
AllisonWonderland Concert Lightshow
 
 
AllisonWonderland Concert Lightshow
 
 
AllisonWonderland Concert Lightshow
 
 
AllisonWonderland Concert Lightshow
 
 
AllisonWonderland Concert Lightshow
 
 
AllisonWonderland Concert Lightshow

Jeane Z Champion and JC Allison

 
AllisonWonderland Lightshow

Crystalume

 
AllisonWonderland Lightshow

Crystalume

 
AllisonWonderland Lightshow
 
 
Spindler Sauppe 1200 SLR SelectroSlide

Spindler Sauppe SLR1200 UltraBright SelectroSlide

 
Spindler Sauppe 1200 SLR SelectroSlide

Spindler Sauppe SLR1200 UltraBright SelectroSlide

 
AllisonWonderland Concert Lightshow

JC Allison