Jacques Dutronc – L’Opportuniste – Scopitone 1969

This could serve well as the anthem of a global corporation!

Lyrics (use the translation bar at the right if you can’t read French)


Je suis pour le communisme, je suis pour le socialisme
Et pour le capitalisme parce que je suis opportuniste.

Il y en a qui contestent, qui revendiquent et qui protestent.
Moi je ne fais qu’un seul geste, je retourne ma veste
Je retourne ma veste toujours du bon côté.

Je n’ai pas peur des profiteurs ni même des agitateurs
J’fais confiance aux électeurs et j’en profite pour faire mon beurre.

Il y en a qui contestent, qui revendiquent et qui protestent.
Moi je ne fais qu’un seul geste, je retourne ma veste
Je retourne ma veste toujours du bon côté.

Je suis de tous les partis, je suis de toutes les partys
Je suis de toutes les cauteries, je suis le roi des convertis.

Il y en a qui contestent, qui revendiquent et qui protestent.
Moi je ne fais qu’un seul geste, je retourne ma veste
Je retourne ma veste toujours du bon côté.

Je crie vive la révolution, je crie vive les institutions
Je crie vive les manifestations, je crie vive la collaboration

Non jamais je ne conteste ni revendique ni ne proteste
Je ne sais faire qu’un seul geste, celui de retourner ma veste
De retourner ma veste toujours du bon côté

Je l’ai tellement retournée qu’elle craque de tous côtés.
A la prochaine révolution, je retourne mon pantalon.

Cinejukebox (1966)

The above image has been on my mind since I first chanced on it a few days ago. The retro-futuristic Ferrari-red semi-egg shaped oddity in this dance club is the Cinejukebox, a deluxe version of the Cinebox, an Italian coin-operated jukebox that played short colour 16mm musical films. The Cinebox, invented in Rome in the late 1950’s and mass-manufactured in Milan during the 1960’s is less well known than the French-produced Scopitone. A recently published book, Canzoni da guardare/Songs to See: Cinebox & Scopitone [1] by Michele Bovi provides evidence the Cinebox has precedence.

Several things fascinate me about the image, taken from a promotional brochure for the Cinejukebox. What initially caught my attention is the kaleidoscopic display on the monitor, the blue sub-title, Color Dance, and the injunctive Look at Rhythm, followed by the claim:

The Cinejukebox brings you to a completely new idea because it transforms the musical rhythm into a moving, continuously changing color design on the screen.

Naturally the first question on my mind was the mechanism behind this feature.
Fortunately some materials are available on the web pages of Michele Bovi, linked above, as well as the Scopitone Archive maintained by Bob Orlowsky, a lawyer who researches the history of the music video as an amateur. Orlowsky’s archive contained two pages of a Cinejukebox technical brochure including the following sketch (click for larger size on original site):

It seems that the Cinejukebox contained a caleidoscopic [sic] projection unit, with separate 12V 100W quartz-iodine lamp. The box also contained separate lamps for the 16mm projector and an optional still projector for showing promotional slides when neither musical films nor records are selected. From the technical brochure:

The amplifier also is equipped with a section for excitation of the visualizer of music during the playing of records, with action which is independent of the volume level generated by the sound control system.

In other words, this is a music visualization system functioning, not acoustically, but most likely via an electro-mechanical actuator driven by the electrical audio waveform. The Cinejukebox was a mid-1960’s version of the earlier Cinebox,with functionality added to allow playing (vinyl) records, like a jukebox. The kaleidoscopic visualizer added graphical activity to the Cinejukebox screen when using jukebox mode.

An aesthetic aspect of the Cinejukebox interests me. While I have not yet been able to see what it looked like in action, the kaleidoscopic visual display is reminiscent of some of John and James Whitney‘s films from the same era (early to mid-1960’s). See, for example, James Whitney’s 1966 16mm short film Lapis. The Whitneys’ experimental animations were (and are) considered to be the height of avant-garde cinema for the day. By contrast, the Scopitone and Cinebox were used to circulate some of the most kitsch visual media humanity has ever seen (more about this in future post). Susan Sontag’s famous essay Notes on Camp [2] described Scopitones as part of a camp canon. How did it come to pass that what was aesthetically experimental media, for its time, made it contemporaneously into technology aimed at mass consumption? In brief, the Cinejukebox appears to be Scopitones and the Whitneys in the same screaming red box. Could this reflect the futuristic techno-utopianism current during the early 1960’s? Was the kaleidoscopic music visualizer evaluated positively by viewers and what impact has it had, if any, on later soni-graphical experiments and technologies? Were there precedents for this kind of audio driven kaleidoscopic display? Further research would be necessary to provide answers for these questions.

Finally, the kaleidoscopic visualizer seems to be related, in concept at least, to an interactive system, the Iamascope, developed by my colleague Prof. Sidney Fels, in the late 1990’s and shown in the Millenium Dome in London during the festivities for the year 2000-2001. It was also demonstrated at NIME-01 held at the Experience Music Project, Seattle.

The pessimist might conclude nothing under the sun is new, while the optimist might answer interesting ideas never die.

[1] Michele Bovi, Canzoni da Guardare/Songs to See: Cinebox & Scopitone (2007). (Accessed 15.02.2012.)

[2] Susan Sontag, Notes on Camp, In: Against Interpretation and Other Essays. New York, Dell (1967).