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Alvin Lucier

Alvin Lucier

Alvin Lucier (born May 14, 1931) is an American composer of experimental music and sound installations that explore acoustic phenomena and auditory perception. A long-time music professor at Wesleyan University, Lucier was a member of the influential Sonic Arts Union, which included Robert Ashley, David Behrman, and Gordon Mumma. Much of his work is influenced by science and explores the physical properties of sound itself: resonance of spaces, phase interference between closely tuned pitches, and the transmission of sound through physical media. (Wikipedia)

Featured releases

"Premier recordings of two recent works by legendary American experimental composer Alvin Lucier. A friend and contemporary of pioneers like Robert Ashley, David Behrman, Gordon Mumma, and Christian Wolff, Lucier has been crafting elegant explorations of the behavior of sound in physical space since the 1960s. Lucier is perhaps best known for I Am Sitting in a Room (1970), in which he repeatedly re-recorded his own speaking voice being played back into a room until the room’s resonant frequencies entirely obscure the spoken text. Beginning in the early 1970s, he has written a remarkable catalogue of instrumental works that focus on phenomena produced by the interference between closely tuned pitches, such as audible beating, often using pure electronic tones produced by oscillators in combination with single instruments. Demonstrating the restless creative drive of an artist now in his 80s, the two recent works presented here both feature the electric guitar, an instrument Lucier has just recently begun to explore. In Criss-Cross, Lucier’s first composition for electric guitars, two guitarists using e-bows sweep slowly up and down a single semitone, beginning at opposite ends of the pitch range. The piece is a model of simplicity, exemplifying Lucier’s desire not to ‘compose’ in the conventional sense, but rather to eliminate everything that ‘distracts from the acoustical unfolding of the idea’. In this immaculately controlled performance of Criss-Cross by Oren Ambarchi and Stephen O’Malley, (for whom the piece was written in 2013), a seemingly simple idea creates a rich array of sonic effects – not simply beating patterns, which gradually slow down as the two tones reach unison and accelerate as they move further apart, but also the remarkable phenomenon of sound waves spinning in elliptical patterns through space between the two guitar amps. In the comparatively lush Hanover, Lucier draws inspiration from the beautiful photograph that provides the LP with its cover, an image of the Dartmouth Jazz Band taken in 1918 featuring Lucier’s father on violin. Using the instrumentation present in the photograph, Lucier creates an unearthly sound world of sliding tones from violin, alto and tenor saxophones, piano, vibraphone (bowed) and three electric guitars (which take the place of the banjos present in the photograph). Waves of slow glissandi create thick, complex beating patterns, gently punctuated by repeated single notes from the piano. The result is a piece that, like much of Lucier’s instrumental music, is simultaneously both unperturbably calm and constantly in motion." Design by Stephen O’Malley. Mastered by Rashad Becker at D&M Belin. “Criss-Cross” recorded at Studios Ina GRM, Paris by Francois Bonnet and mixed by Alvin Lucier. “Hanover” recorded in Zurich and mixed by Alvin Lucier.

Alvin Lucier – Criss Cross / Hanover

"The recently composed Ricochet Lady (2016) is the only work for solo acoustic glockenspiel by the American experimental composer Alvin Lucier. Following in the manner of his pieces I am sitting in a room and Vespers, Ricochet Lady embodies Lucier’s approach toward sound’s individual function and mobility within space. This recording defines this approach through four realizations recorded in four dissimilar spaces, ranging from the standard to extraordinary: a university rehearsal hall with walls of drywall and glass, a chapel made of oak and stone, an empty forge and foundry warehouse for steel railway wheels, and a 36-meter tall dilapidated cement grain elevator. Never one to shy away from convention, Lucier intensifies each performance by instructing that the glockenspiel be placed against a wall or other reflective surface where the soloist systematically traverses the entire range of the instrument in rapid, repetitive patterns, actively disseminating the glockenspiel’s sustain, clicks, and interferences throughout the space. In doing so, the glockenspiel maps the unique acoustical characters of each space as each space helps to compose the piece. Created in close collaboration with Trevor Saint, a rare (if not the only) specialist of experimental music for glockenspiel, Lucier has further enhanced the sophistication of this re-imagined instrument while maintaining his devotion to letting spaces speak. Mixed and mastered by Matt Sargent at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. (For an optimal listening experience it is recommended that these recordings be played at high volume)."

Alvin Lucier – Ricochet Lady

Continuing Black Truffle’s series of releases documenting the recent work of legendary American experimental composer Alvin Lucier, String Noise presents three major works for violin solo and duo composed between 2004 and 2019. Lucier has developed his compositions in close collaboration with many instrumentalists over the years; the three works presented here are performed by the violinists for whom they were originally written, Conrad Harris and Pauline Kim Harris, who together make up the innovative violin duo String Noise, and have premiered works by a plethora of major figures in contemporary music. The long-form compositions presented here continue Lucier’s life-long exploration of acoustic phenomena, drawing on aspects of some of his most well-known compositions and extending them into new instrumentation. Tapper (2004) extends the experiments with echolocation – gathering information about an environment by listening to the echoes of sounds produced within it – that Lucier began with his classic 1969 work Vespers, where performers explore a space equipped with hand-held pulse oscillators. Here, the same principle is put into practice for solo violin, the body of which the performer taps repeatedly with the butt end of the bow while moving around the performance space. The result is a subtly shifting web of echoes and resonances produced by the reflection of the sharp tap off the surfaces of the room (in this case, the Drawing Center in New York). In Love Song (2016), two violinists are connected by a long wire stretched between the bridges of their instruments, causing the sounds played on one violin to also be heard through the other. As the two violinists play long tones using only the open E string, they move in a circular motion around the performance space, thus changing the tension of the wire, which creates a remarkable array of variations in pitch and timbre ranging from ghostly wavering pitches reminiscent of a singing saw to near-electronic tones. In Halo (2019), one or more violinists walk slowly through the performance space in a zig-zag pattern while sustaining long tones. As in Tapper, the consistent sound production reveals the sonic properties of the environment. As the title of the piece suggests, the outcome is a shimmering halo of sound produced by the reflection of the violin’s extended tones off the walls and ceiling of the performance space (in this case, Alvin's home).  

Alvin Lucier – String Noise

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