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(Credit: Mary Lucier)

Music

Avant-garde composer Alvin Lucier dies aged 90

@SamWKemp

The daughter of Alvin Lucier has confirmed that the experimental composer has died at his home in Middletown, Connecticut, at the age of 90. Mary Lucier, the composer’s former wife and collaborator initially shared the news on Facebook. Lucier’s daughter, Amanda has since clarified that the cause of her father’s death was complications following a fall.

Lucier was best known for his avant-garde and experimental compositions and sound installations, many of which involved the utilisation of room acoustics, brain waves, and other unfamiliar sound sources. He is best known for his 1969 work, ‘I Am Sitting In A Room’.

The piece sees Lucier recite the words: “I am sitting in a room different from the one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking voice and I am going to play it back into the room again and again until the resonant frequencies of the room reinforce themselves so that any semblance of my speech, with perhaps the exception of rhythm, is destroyed.” The recording of the speech is then played back and re-recorded multiple times to create the illusion that the original recording is emanating from within, not just one room, but countless rooms – all nestled within one another.

Born in 1931 in Nashua, New Hampshire, Alvin Lucier studied music theory and composition at Yale University, continuing his studies at Brandeis University. Then, in 1960, he set off for Rome, where he met fellow experimental composers such as John Cage (famous for his silent work, ‘4’33’), David Tudor, and Merce Cunningham.

Following his studies abroad, Lucier became the conductor of the Brandeis University Chamber Chorus in 1962, remaining at his post until 1970, at which point he was hired as a professor of music at Wesleyan University. Lucier’s work went on to form what is often referred to as ‘post-Cage’ music, compositions that blurred the lines between ambient sound and classical, pushing the boundaries of what the establishment deemed to be musical.

Lucier continued releasing work right up to his death. Indeed, earlier this year, he issued Music for Piano XL in collaboration with the French pianist Nicolas Horvath. Lucier’s impact on the world of experimental sound cannot be understated, and his work stands alongside that of Cage, Philip Glass, and Steve Reich in its influence on the landscape of contemporary classical music.