Chambers: Scores by Alvin Lucier

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Wesleyan University Press, 1980 - Music - 177 pages
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Chambers is a virtually complete collection of composer Alvin Lucier’s major works from 1965 to 1977, interspersed with twelve interviews with the composer by Douglas Simon. Each score is written in prose and may be read by musicians as instructions for performance or by general readers as descriptions of imaginary musical activities. In response to Simon’s searching questions, Lucier expands on each composition, not only explaining its genesis and development but also revealing its importance to the vigorously experimental American tradition to which Alvin Lucier belongs.

Many of his compositions jolt conventional notions of the role of composer, performer, and listener, and the spaces in which they play and listen. His works are scored for an astonishing range of instruments: seashells, subway stations, toy crickets, sonar guns, violins, synthesizers, bird calls, and Bunsen burners. All are unique explorations of acoustic phenomena – echoes, brain waves, room resonances – and radically transform the idea of music as metaphor into that of music as physical fact.

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About the author (1980)

ALVIN LUCIER was born in Nashua, NH, and attended the Portsmouth Abbey School, Yale, and Brandeis. He lived in Rome for two years on a Fulbright Scholarship. He has performed extensively in the United States and Europe in solo concerts and with the Sonic Arts Union, which he co-founded with composers Robert Ashley, David Behrman, and Gordon Mumma, and with the Viola Farber Dance Company. He has taught and lectured at Harvard, the University of California at Santa Barbara, the Center for Music Experiment at the University of California at San Diego, and from 1962 to 1969 was on the faculty of Brandeis University. He is currently professor of music and chairperson of the music department at Wesleyan University.

Lucier has pioneered in many areas of music composition and performance, including the notation of performers’ physical gestures, the use of brain waves in live musical performance, the generation of visual imagery by sound in vibrating media, and the evocation of room acoustics for musical purposes. In collaboration with electronic designer John Fullemann, he recently created a completely solar-powered sound piece in the foyer of the City Savings Bank in Middletown, Conn.

He has also made music for the theatre, including the Broadway production of John Roc’s Fire! and the American Shakespeare Festival production of Henry V. Several of his works can be heard on CBS Odyssey, Mainstream, Source, Cramps (Italy), and Lovely Music records.

DOUGLAS SIMON earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in music at Wesleyan University. He has composed music and sound for summer and off-Broadway theater productions. He owns and operates Studio Consultants, Inc., a New York City firm engaged in the acoustic and electronic design of recording studios. He conducted these interviews with Lucier during the period (1968-78) in which most of the scores included in Chambers were composed.

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