Alvin Lucier: Collaborations

Center for the Arts, Wesleyan University, October 18-22 1994

Program Book Preface

Brain waves; echoes; ionospheric whistles; natural resonances of spaces, rooms, objects; interference beating between mistuned unisons; feedback: from these acoustical ephemera Alvin Lucier has fashioned a music that demands an altered attention.

Lucier's music is independent of the need to be interpreted as a language would be; it is likewise distant from the formal artifice demanded by the label "artwork". His preference is not to be "about nature", nor to "imitate nature in its mode of operation" (John Cage), rather to underline, emphasize or amplify instances of nature itself at work. He refuses the historical conventions or etiquette of tonal behavior (an analog of linguistic behavior with its own vocabulary, grammar and syntax) by promoting the rights of both sounds and their receivers to find appropriate solutions to immediate tasks rather than to reify the assumed "universals" of music production and reception.

Lucier has intuited a sacramental form of music production, becoming a composer who makes signs of the "really real". In preference to words or musical notations, he choose "images" of sounds, that is, sounds isolated as much as possible from both linguistic and conventional musical thought and returned, instead, to the immediacy of perception. His confidence in the reality of the act of perception as distinct from and preferable to both acoustic event and mental representation leads to listener to a threshold -- call it a state of grace -- between the event and and its representation. He promotes a return of the ear to an innocent, "pre-musical", state, not yet loaded with the "effective" habits of musical practice. In so doing, Lucier asserts a universal music-interpretive competence that resists the making of new musical theory but suggests wholly new musical perspectives.

Daniel Wolf