Experimental Composer/Sound Artist Alvin Lucier Passes Away at 90

by | Dec 3, 2021 | Obituary, Stories | 0 comments

Alvin Lucier, an experimental sound artist, composer, and longtime music professor at Wesleyan University, has passed away at the age of 90.

His ex-wife, Mary Lucier, delivered the news on Facebook December 1st, saying, “The great Alvin Lucier has died. Long live Alvin Lucier.” His cause of death was not given. Lucier mentioned in interviews that he suffered from Parkinson’s disease, however.

Born in New Hampshire in 1931, Lucier obtained classic training through a Fullbright Scholarship. Much of his music was based on scientific principles and explored the properties of sound. For example, in his performance Queen of the South, he amplified the voice of a chorus onto a metal plate covered in sand. The vibration of the sound caused the sand to ripple and form vibrant designs.

Perhaps his most well-known production was I Am Sitting in a Room. The piece consisted of Lucier recording himself reading a piece of text and playing it into a room. He then would re-record the recording and again play it back into the room, repeating this numerous times. The specific geometry of the room emphasized certain frequencies while others attenuated. The process would go on until the words were unintelligible and all one could hear is the resonant frequency of the room.

During his long career, Alvin Lucier also authored a book, Chambers, held numerous positions at American music institutions, and cofounded the Sonic Arts Union.

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