May 28, 2016
98 South Austin Street
Drawing on the idea of sound as measurable wavelengths rather than high or low frequencies Lucier was able, in his words, to transform his “whole idea of music from a metaphor to a fact.” This transformation began in the late 1960s through a series of chance encounters with scientists at MIT alongside remembrances of a Judson Church dancer’s repetitive movements devoid of any overlain “artistic” or “poetic” notion. As Lucier writes in his 2012 book Music 109: Notes on Experimental Music, describing the first experience of using two Nagra tape recorders in a visiting faculty apartment at Wesleyan in Connecticut:
“I unplugged the refrigerator, turned off the heat. I waited until the radiator pipes had cooled and the room got quiet. I waited until after 11 o’clock when a nearby bar, The Three Coins, closed. It was snowing that night so it was relatively quiet outside. It was snowing that night so it was relatively quiet outside. There was not a lot of traffic going by. I went outside into the hallway, turned on one of the Nagras and, returning to the living room, read the text into the microphone…I transferred the tape to the second recorder… I wanted the copy to sound as much like my original speech as possible… I went back outside the room and played this copy into the room again, recording it on the first recorder… As the process continued more and more of the resonances of the room came form; the intelligibility of the speech disappeared. Speech became music. It was magical.”
Performed countless times since that first experience in a temporary apartment of a small town during a New England winter, I am sitting in a room allows its ever-expanding audience to encounter not just the work, but the natural resonance of the space in which they find themselves. Here, in Marfa, at a converted Feed Store for the Big Bend region, adjacent to train tracks, we experience it again.
Technical support by James Fei.