Alvin Lucier

Legendary composer blurs the lines between experiment, composition and art installation

As part of the 2014 Symposium, “Seeing/Sounding/Sensing,” hosted by the Center for Art, Science & Technology, Alvin Lucier performed his iconic piece I am Sitting in a Room. The performance was the culmination of the symposium and included Evan Ziporyn performing Lucier’s In Memoriam Jon Higgins and Arnold Dreyblatt performing Spin Ensemble.

Lucier’s work is central to the discussion of resonance that took place in the “Sounding” panel of the CAST Symposium. For the panel discussion, Lucier joined Stefan Helmreich, Elting E. Morison Professor of Anthropology, MIT; Evan Ziporyn, Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Music, MIT; Arnold Dreyblatt, MIT Visiting Artist and a Professor of Media Art at the Muthesius Academy of Art and Design in Kiel, Germany; Mara Mills, Assistant Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication, New York University; Josh McDermott, Assistant Professor, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT; and Alex Rehding, Fanny Peabody Professor of Music, Harvard University. Building on the previous day’s session on color, which asked about the relation between the subjective, objective, mathematical and intersubjective apprehension of color, the “Sounding” session asked about the quality of sound as experience. What is the relationship between auditory perception and hallucination? What are the boundaries of hearing? Why does it matter, and to whom? Engaging music and noise, artists and live musicians, installations and recordings, computation and human sensory capacities, acousmata and precise directional signals, this session explored the ethical and aesthetic components of sound, and why “noise” of many kinds is so central to scientific exploration and the human arts.

Presented by the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST).

Alvin Lucier has pioneered many areas of music composition and performance, including the notation of performers’ physical gestures, the use of brain waves in live performance, the generation of visual imagery by sound in vibrating media and the evocation of room acoustics for musical purposes. His recent works include a series of sound installations and works for solo instruments, chamber ensembles and orchestra in which, by means of close tunings with pure tones, sound waves are caused to spin through space.

Alvin Lucier is the John Spencer Camp Professor of Music at Wesleyan University, where he has taught since 1970. Lucier performs, lectures and exhibits his sound installations extensively in the United States, Europe and Asia. His book, Chambers, written in collaboration with Douglas Simon, was published by the Wesleyan University Press. In addition, several of his works are available on Cramps (Italy), Disques Montaigne, Source, Mainstream, CBS Odyssey, Nonesuch and Lovely Music Records.

More at the artist’s website: Alvin Lucier.

Presented by the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST) and MIT Sounding performance series.

Past Events

Panel: “Sounding – Resonance” Discussion as part of CAST symposium “Seeing / Sounding / Sensing”
September 27, 2014 / 9:30am–1:00pm
Media Lab E14-674 (6th Floor)
75 Amherst St, Cambridge MA

Concert: Alvin Lucier, I am sitting in a room (Live) (Boston premiere)
CAST symposium “Seeing / Sounding / Sensing”
September 27, 2014
MIT Media Lab, E14 (6th Floor)
75 Amherst Street, Cambridge, MA

The Guardian, Sitting in a room with Alvin Lucier

New York Times, Concert: Alvin Lucier

Los Angeles Review of Books, A Master Class in the Avant-Garde: Alvin Lucier’s “Music 109”

Stefan Helmreich, Elting E. Morison Professor of Anthropology, MIT

Evan Ziporyn, Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Music, MIT

Arnold Dreyblatt, MIT Visiting Artist and a Professor of Media Art at the Muthesius Academy of Art and Design in Kiel, Germany

Mara Mills, Assistant Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication, New York University

Josh McDermott, Assistant Professor, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT

Alex Rehding, Fanny Peabody Professor of Music, Harvard University

'Alvin Lucier' (1999). Photograph by Michael Schroeater.
Alvin Lucier. Credit: Michael Schroeater.