Alvin Lucier – I am Sitting in a Room (1981)

The first recording of I am sitting in a room was made at the Electronic Music Studio at Brandeis University in 1969.
This recording, from October 29 and 31, 1980, was created in the living room of Lucier’s home in Middletown, Connecticut. It consists of thirty-two generations of the composer’s speech and was made expressly for this Lovely Music record.

From the album notes:
I am sitting in a room is Alvin Lucier’s idea of pure sound experiments. Through playback and recording of successive generations of his own voice the sound is washed until his talking is a pure harmonic. The album starts with a relatively bland Lucier..”I am sitting in a room” but as the generations progress everything becomes a pure ambient. As Lucier suggests in the recording, this sound is the dynamic of the room he records in. It is released in two parts on well pressed vinyl.

This record was made by the composer on October 29 and 31, 1980 in the living room of his home in Middletown, Connecticut. It consists of thirty-two generations of the composer’s speech and was made expressly for this Lovely Music record.
Photography is from the original Polaroid Image Series by Mary Lucier.

 

Here are Lucier’s instructions for the work:

ALVIN LUCIER
For voice and electromagnetic tape.

Necessary Equipment:

  • 1 microphone 2 tape recorders amplifier 1 loudspeaker

Choose a room the musical qualities of which you would like to evoke.
Attach the microphone to the input of tape recorder #1.
To the output of tape recorder #2 attach the amplifier and loudspeaker.
Use the following text or any other text of any length:

“I am sitting in a room different from the one you are in now. 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 sem- blance of my speech, with perhaps the exception of rhythm, is destroyed. What you will hear, then, are the natural resonant frequencies of the room articulated by speech. I regard this activity not so much as a demonstration of a physi- cal fact, but more as a way to smooth out any irregularities my speech might have.”

Record your voice on tape through the microphone attached to tape re- corder #1.
Rewind the tape to its beginning, transfer it to tape recorder #2, play it back into the room through the loudspeaker and record a second generation of the original recorded statement through the microphone attached to tape recorder #1.

Rewind the second generation to its beginning and splice it onto the end of the original recorded statement on tape recorder #2.

Play the second generation only back into the room through the loud speakerand record a third generation of the original recorded statement through the microphone attached to tape recorder #1.

Continue this process through many generations.

All the generations spliced together in chronological order make a composition the length of which is determined by the length of original statement and the number of generations recorded.

The versions in which one recorded statement is recycled through many rooms.

Make versions using one or more speakers of different languages and in different rooms.

Make versions in which, for each generation, the microphone is moved to different parts of the room or rooms.
Make versions that can be performed in real time.

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