Alvin Lucier, Avant-Garde Composer, Dead At 90

Instagram / @cerionimusic / c/o ALVIN LUCIER

Alvin Lucier, Avant-Garde Composer, Dead At 90

Instagram / @cerionimusic / c/o ALVIN LUCIER

Experimental composer Alvin Lucier has died at the age of 90, NPR has confirmed. He died at his home in Middletown, Connecticut, where he was a long-time professor at Wesleyan University. Lucier’s daughter told the New York Times her father had died following complications from a fall.

Born in 1931 in New Hampshire, Lucier was initially interested in jazz before growing more interested in contemporary classical music. He studied composition and music theory at Yale University and earned his master’s at Brandeis University, where he also taught later in his career.

Lucier’s interest in experimental music was born in Rome, where he studied for two years as a Fulbright scholar. Attending a 1960 show where the composers John Cage and David Tudor were performing with choreographer Merce Cunningham, Lucier would go on to use physicist Edmond Dewan’s brain wave amplifier in his breakthrough work, 1965’s “Music for Solo Performer.” He’d continue to use gadgets as creative tools, famously using echolocation devices in his 1968 composition “Vespers.” Returning home to the States in 1962, Lucier accepted a role at Brandeis as director of the University Chamber Chorus. In 1969, he’d produce his best-known piece, “I Am Sitting In A Room.”

“I am sitting in a room different from the one you are in now,” he 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.”

In 1968, Lucier joined Wesleyan, where he taught composition all the way up until his retirement in 2011. Numerous ensembles, such as the Bang On A Can All-Stars, Alter Ego, Ensemble Pamplemousse, and ICE have commissioned works from him over the decades, beginning in the mid-’80s.

In an interview with the New York Times earlier this year, Lucier said, “One of my fondest compliments was when our plumber, as he was leaving my house after having finished a job at my home, remarked as he was walking out the door: ‘Are you the guy who wrote the piece about sitting in a room? My kids love it. You are ahead of your time.'”

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