ALVIN LUCIER :: MUSIC ON A LONG THIN WIRE, 1980

In Alvin Lucier’s own words (1992): “Music on a Long Thin Wire is constructed as follows: the wire is extended across a large room, clamped to tables at both ends. The ends of the wire are connected to the loudspeaker terminals of a power amplifier placed under one of the tables. A sine wave oscillator is connected to the amplifier. A magnet straddles the wire at one end. Wooden bridges are inserted under the wire at both ends to which contact microphones are imbedded, routed to a stereo sound system. The microphones pick up the vibrations that the wire imparts to the bridges and are sent through the playback system. By varying the frequency and loudness of the oscillator, a rich variety of slides, frequency shifts, audible beats and other sonic phenomena may be produced.”

However, Lucier admits a long thin wire was at first only used to avoid the look of an laboratory experiment in favour of a more sculptural appearance; a short thin wire would have worked as well. He discovered that the best way to produce variation in the sonic phenomena was to pick a setting and leave the setup alone. He praised David Rosenboom for his ability to pick interesting settings.

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Alvin Lucier (born May 14, 1931) is an American composer of experimental music and sound installations that explore acoustic phenomena and auditory perception. A long-time music professor at Wesleyan University, Lucier was a member of the influential Sonic Arts Union, which included Robert Ashley, David Behrman, and Gordon Mumma. Much of his work is influenced by science and explores the physical properties of sound itself: resonance of spaces, phase interference between closely tuned pitches, and the transmission of sound through physical media.

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