Monday, 15 January 2018

Alvin Lucier - Music On A Long Thin Wire (1980)

Double-album of minimal drone magnificence by composer and sound artist Alvin Lucier, b. 1931 in New Hampshire.  A founder member of the Sonic Arts Union collective along with David Behrman, Gordon Mumma and Robert Ashley, a lot of Lucier's work had a strong performance/installation element.  This included amplifying his brainwaves; creating feedback by moving through a performance space; most famously, sitting in a room and looping his voice; and in the late 70s, using a physics/acoustics experiment for the basis of the work in today's post.
performance instructions by Lucier (click to enlarge for readability)
The performance setup is explained by Lucier in the instructions above - so just a quick recap:  A piano wire gets clamped to two tables at either end of a long room (on this recording, the rotunda of US Customs House, Bowling Green NYC, on 10th May 1979), each connected to an amplified sine wave oscillator.  A horseshoe magnet is placed over the wire at one end like a giant eBow, and the resulting oscillations are put through speakers round the room.

On four sides of an album, each from a different part of the day, the visual and participatory aspects of this are of course missing, but the sound is still unique and immersive.  Tiny variations in the drones occur throughout, sometimes breaking into ghostly shapes a la Soliloquy For Lilith, with every slight change in the room's atmosphere and the movements of observers.  If you're in the time and place to completely lose yourself in this for 75 minutes, prepare to be transported.  Drone hypnosis doesn't get much more minimal than this.
original LP cover


  1. Thank you for posting such wonderful musics! My ears have been expanded and I am very grateful


    pw: sgtg