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Alvin Lucier

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  • Born: Nashua, NH
  • Years Active: 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s


Biography All Music Guide

All Music Guide:

A trailblazing force in psycho-acoustic music, avant-garde composer and performer Alvin Lucier was born in Nashua, New Hampshire in 1931; educated at Yale and Brandeis, he also spent two years in Rome on a Fulbright Scholarship before returning to Brandeis in 1962 to teach and conduct the university's chamber chorus. His breakthrough composition, Music for Solo Performer (1964-65) for Enormously Amplified Brain Waves and Percussion, was the first work to feature sounds generated by brain waves in live performance; biological stimuli played an increasing role in Lucier's subsequent work as well, most notably through his notation of performers' physical movements. Acoustical phenomena, meanwhile, was the subject of 1970's landmark I Am Sitting in a Room, in which several sentences of recorded speech were simultaneously played back into a room and re-recorded there dozens of times over, the space gradually filtering the speech into pure sound. 1980's Music on a Long Thin Wire was a further extension of Lucier's fascination with the physics of sound -- a conceptual piece featuring a taut 50-foot wire passed through the poles of a large magnet and driven by an oscillator, the amplified vibrations yielded beautifully ethereal results. A professor at Wesleyan University from 1970 onward, Lucier's later works additionally included a number of sound installations as well as works for solo instruments, chamber ensembles, and orchestra.