Lucier’s 90th Birthday Celebrated with 90 Artists Recording “I’m Sitting in a Room”

Alvin Lucier

Alvin Lucier

In honor of revolutionary composer, experimental musician, and professor emeritus Alvin Lucier‘s 90th birthday, several Wesleyan faculty, staff, and alumni participated in a 27-hour-long performance of Lucier’s paradigmatic work “I Am Sitting in a Room.” Lucier, the John Spencer Camp Professor of Music, emeritus, retired from Wesleyan in 2010 and earned a Master of Arts ad eundem gradum from Wesleyan in 1979.

Lucier personally chose 90 colleagues, friends, and former students to participate in the event, of which 15 are acquaintances from his time at Wesleyan. The concert spanned from 8 p.m. Thursday, May 13 to 11 p.m. Friday, May 14 and some segments are available for viewing online.

Wesleyan-affiliated faculty, staff, and alumni who participated include Ronald Kuivila, professor of music; Sumarsam, Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music; Paula Matthusen, associate professor of music; Mark Slobin, Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music, emeritus; Jane Alden, associate professor of music; Jennifer Thom Hadley ’84, MA ’86, World Music Archives library assistant; Alec McLane, retired music librarian; Nestor Prieto MA ’12; K.C.M. Walker MA ’12; Jessica Marino MA ’13; James Peter Falzone MA ’19; Heidi Aklaseaq Senungetuk MA ’12, PhD ’17; Douglas Simon ’69, MA ’71; Dina Maccabee MA’15; and Akiko Hatakeyama MA ’11.

Each of the guests recorded the same speech using their own voice and space: “I am sitting in a room different from the one you are in now,” they said. “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.”

Then, the guest artists would repeatedly play and rerecord their taped voice, with each recording sharing more resonant characteristics of the space.

Lucier made the original recording in 1970, and no recordings of “I’m Sitting in a Room” are alike.

Learn more about Lucier in this May 11 New York Times article.

Nestor Prieto MA '12

Nestor Prieto MA ’12, a Venezuelan-born composer, sound artist, and multi-instrumentalist living in Middletown, Conn., met Lucier in 2011 at Wesleyan. His work centers on the implementation of obsolete audio technology, improvisation, and manipulation of found sound and speech. Prieto also performed in Vespers, with the original Sondols, as part of Lucier’s 80th birthday celebration.

lucier

Paula Matthusen, associate professor of music, is a composer who writes both electroacoustic and acoustic music and realizes sound installations. Her work often considers discrepancies in musical space—real, imagined, and remembered.

KCM Walker MA '12

K.C.M. Walker MA ’12 met Lucier at Wesleyan, where he received his MA in music. As a composer and performer, his work stems from this study of instrument mechanics and the physical properties of sound, often relying on the physical behaviors of instruments to inform and generate the material for performance. He’s currently a DMA candidate at the University of California Santa Cruz.

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During her performance, Nina Katchadourian wished Alvin Lucier a happy 90th birthday. Katchadourian is an interdisciplinary artist whose work includes video, performance, sound, sculpture, photography, and public projects.

Ronald Kuivila '77, professor of music, is a former student and colleague of Alvin Lucier. He is a composer and sound artist whose music and installations center on physical and technologically mediated relationships to sound. Kuivila has performed and exhibited in the Americas, Europe, and Asia.

Ronald Kuivila ’77, professor of music, is a former student and colleague of Alvin Lucier. He is a composer and sound artist whose music and installations center on physical and technologically mediated relationships to sound. Kuivila has performed and exhibited in the Americas, Europe, and Asia.

Mark Slobin, Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music, emeritus

Mark Slobin, Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music, emeritus, is the author or editor of many books on Afghanistan and Central Asia, Eastern European Jewish music, film music, American music, and ethnomusicology theory. He is the past president of the Society for Ethnomusicology and the Society for Asian Music.