Alvin Lucier

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Alvin Lucier

Alvin Lucier (born May 14, 1931) is an American composer of music and sound installations exploring acoustic phenomena, especially resonance, as well as a former member of the Sonic Arts Union along with Robert Ashley, David Behrman, and Gordon Mumma. As a self-acknowledged composer of experimental music, Lucier's compositions generally deal with some element of indeterminacy.

Lucier was born in Nashua, New Hampshire and studied at Yale and Brandeis University and spent two years in Rome on a Fulbright Fellowship.

His pieces include Music On A Long Thin Wire in which a piano wire is strung across a room with magnets on either end, producing changing overtones and sounds, Crossings, in which tones played across a steadily rising sine wave produce interference beats, Still and Moving Lines of Silence in Families of Hyperbolas in which the interference tones between sine waves create "troughs" and "valleys" of sound and silence, Music For Solo Performer, the first piece to use brain waves to produce sound, and Clocker, which uses biofeedback and reverberation.

One of Lucier's best known works is I am sitting in a room, in which Lucier records himself narrating a text, and then plays the recording back into the room, re-recording it. The new recording is then played back and re-recorded, and this process is repeated. Since all rooms have a characteristic resonance (eg. different between a large hall and a small room), the effect is that certain frequencies are emphasised as they resonate in the room, until eventually the words become unintelligible, replaced by the pure resonant harmonies and tones of the room itself. The recited text describes this process in action - it begins "I am sitting in a room, different from the one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking voice...", and concludes with, "I regard this activity not so much as a demonstration of a physical fact, but more as a way to smooth out any irregularities my speech might have," referring to his own stuttering.

Lucier had also specified that this performance may not follow his text, and the performance may be recorded in any room.

Lucier's composition students include Nicolas Collins, Ron Kuivila, Arnold Dreyblatt, Daniel James Wolf, and Mladen Milosevic.

External links


  • Music for Piano with One or More Snare Drums ( (1990) by Alvin Lucier, performed by Hildegard Kleeb
  • UbuWeb: Alvin Lucier ( including the 1969 original recording of I Am Sitting in a Room and an interview/documentary A Sounds Waves Artist
  • Island (1998) ( performed by The Other Minds Ensemble at the Other Minds Music Festival in 1999 at Cowell Theater in San Francisco.
  • Nothing Is Real (Strawberry Fields Forever) (1990) ( performed by Margaret Leng Tan at the Other Minds Music Festival in 1999 at the Cowell Theater in San Francisco.

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