Alvin Lucier, American avant-garde composer, dies at the age of 90 | Music


Alvin Lucier, the composer whose explorations of the physical properties of sound made him an important figure in the American avant-garde, has died at the age of 90.

Her daughter said the cause was complications after a fall, according to The New York Times. His ex-wife Mary Lucier wrote: “The great Alvin Lucier has passed away. Long live Alvin Lucier.

Born in New Hampshire in 1931, Lucier received prestigious musical training at Yale and then Brandeis universities, before leaving for Rome on a Fulbright scholarship. His classical training diversified after he attended a concert there in 1960 with John Cage, David Tudor and Merce Cunningham who explored the creative possibilities of chance.

This helped shape a very progressive style of composition, with Lucier using technologies such as brain sensors and echolocation to generate sound outputs. He explored the intensity of the sound waves themselves and their placement next to each other, and allowed the acoustics and architecture of the performance space to inform his work.

Important works include I Am Sitting in a Room (1969), a piece that begins with Lucier saying, “I am sitting in a different room than the one you are in now. I record the sound of my speaking voice and play it back over and over in the room until the resonant frequencies of the room build up so that any semblance of my speech, except perhaps the rhythm, be destroyed. “A recording of the speech is then played back and re-recorded, with the process repeated until the words become blurry in these resonant frequencies.

Another famous piece is 1977’s Music on a Long Thin Wire, where a wire is stretched across a space, with contact microphones and other equipment picking up vibrations and generating sound. Lucier left the almost sculptural setup alone after it was installed, including a five-day performance at an Albuquerque strip mall. “Fatigue, drafts, heating and cooling, even human proximity, can lead to huge changes in the wire,” he observed, illustrating how rooted his music was. unpredictable changes in the immediate environment.

He continued to compose works while teaching at Wesleyan University, joining the faculty in 1970.

These exploratory works had an influence on leftist music globally – contemporary musicians such as Holly Herndon, Clipping, David Grubbs and Richard Youngs were among those who paid tribute to Lucier on social media.

Lucier is survived by his daughter Amanda and his wife Wendy Stokes.

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