alvin lucier, i am sitting in a room: history of the voice, continuation, along with derek jarman’s, blue

one of the great works of the sixties, 1969.

January 20, 2015  |  Artists, Behind the Scenes, Collection & Exhibitions, NYMOMA

Collecting Alvin Lucier’s I Am Sitting in a Room

Posted by Martha Joseph, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Media and Performance Art

In 1969 American composer Alvin Lucier first performed his landmark work I Am Sitting in a Room, conceived for voice and electromagnetic tape. Lucier read a text into a microphone. Attempting to smooth out his stutter, he began with the lines, “I am sitting in a room, the same one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking voice.” As described in the text, his voice was recorded, then played back into the room. This process was repeated, and with each iteration Lucier’s recorded speech grew muddled, sounding distant, and specific sonic frequencies started to dominate the recorded sound. These tones that began to overwhelm the text and abstract the sonic landscape are the room’s resonant frequencies and are entirely specific to the architectural particularity of a given space. As these frequencies grew, reinforced with each playback, the result was an erasure of the human performer and the dominance of an environmental music.

[pearodox note: DeMarinis studied not only with riley, ashley, and tudor, but also with lucier. he was part of tudor’s group at Mill’s center for experimental music and helped compose, and play, tudor’s work, Rainforest, performed with Merce Cunningham’s dance of the same name, though there were several versions, and i’m not sure which Paul contributed to. but i did see him perform it as part of the ensemble at Zellerbach Hall, U of C, Berkley: i’m pretty sure it was there…]

Alvin Lucier recording I Am Sitting in a Room at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, on Saturday, December 20, 2014. Assisted by James Fei and accompanied by his wife Wendy Stokes. Photo: Amanda Lucier. © 2015 Amanda Lucier

to be sequentially experienced, optimally, in a single setting with lucier’s piece above. for several years, i taught a graduate class called, Power and Poetics: Scanning the AudioVisual Archive, at the California College of Art, in San Francisco, sometimes co-taught with my then grad student, David Goldberg, who went on to develop this course with his own students [see below]

Jarman’s Blue, 1993

Derek Jarman: no characterisation, no narrative, no poetry ...

A montage of poetry and music as Derek Jarman meditates on metaphysics and death in his contemplation of the colour blue and his own experience of living with AIDS.

The film was his last testament as a film-maker, and consists of a single shot of saturated blue colour filling the screen, as background to a soundtrack where Jarman’s and some of his long-time collaborators’ narration describes his life and vision.

On its premiere, on 19 September 1993,[1] Channel 4 and BBC Radio 3 collaborated on a simultaneous broadcast so viewers could enjoy a stereo soundtrack. not available on youtube.

Rough Syllabus David and I taught:


mark bartlett and david goldberg

Graduate Seminar


The Arch-ive

Pre-Archival Archives

Blue, Derek Jarmon, the film

Audium field trip

Derrida, “pages 1-5”, Archive Fever, plus you should get a jump                              start on the readings for the next two weeks because it’s heavy.

Vilem Flusser, Toward a Philosophy of Photography

The Poetics Archive

Poetic Knowledge I

Jarmon          Blue, text of film

Artaud              “The Theater of Cruelty (First Manifesto),” “The Theater of Cruelty                           (Second Manifesto),” Letters On Cruelty”

Valery            “Poetry and Abstract Thought, The Art of Poetry

Poetic Knowledge II

Stein               “Sentences and Paragraphs,” How to Write (Los Angeles: Sun and Moon Press, 1995), Tender Buttons, (Los Angeles: Sun and Moon Press, 1991), Stanzas in Meditation, (Los Angeles: Sun and Moon Press, 1994)

Hejinian         “The Rejection of Closure,” “Two Stein Talks,” “Line,” “Strangeness,” “A Common Sense,” all from The Language of Inquiry, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000)

Zorn                Treatment for a Film in Fifteen Scenes, Arcana

FILMWORKS III: with Marclay on some tracks, audio

The Power Archive

2.11                Power Diagram I

Artaud                        “To Have Done With the Judgement of God,” text and audio,

Foucault:       “The Eye of Power”, and “The Confession of the Flesh”

Lucier             “I am Sitting in a Room,” audio

Power Diagram II

Jabes             “At the Threshold of the Book,” “And You Shall Be in the Book,” The Book of Questions, “The Pre-Existence of the Last Book,” The Ineffaceable   The Unperceived, “The Question of Subversion,” The Little Book of Subversion Above Suspicion

Derrida,         “pages 1-5”, “Exergue”, p. 7-23, “Preamble,” pp. 25-31, Archive Fever

______                      “Outcry: the Chicago Stock Exchange”

The HipHop Archive

Hip-hop vocal archive 1

Michel de Certeau, “Story Time,” in The Practice of Everyday Life

Jacques Attali,          “Repeating,” and “Repetition, Silence and the End of Sacrifice and Repetitive Society,” in Noise: the Political Economy of Music

James A. Snead      “Repetition as a Figure of Black Culture,” The Jazz Cadence of American Culture, Robert G. O’Meally ed.

Hip-hop vocal archive 2

Paul Garon, “Blues and the Poetic Spirit,”

  1. Appendix: “Surrealism and Black Music,”
  2. “Notes on the Psychology of Enjoyment,”
  3. “Work,”

Norman Stolzoff       Wake the Town and Tell the People: Dancehall Culture in Jamaica

  1. Talking Blues: The Rise of the Sound System,”
  2. “Run Come Inna the Dance: the Dancehall Performance,”

Tricia Rose,              “Soul Sonic Forces,” in Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America

Digital Archive I

Chris Brown             “Pidgen Musics,” and presentation


Delueze         “Cinema, body and brain, thought,” , Ch. 8, pp. 189- 215 Cinema 2

“The components of the image,” Ch. 9, 225-261, Cinema 2

Steven Feld, “From Schizophonia to Schismogeniesis: On the Discourses and Commodification Practices of ‘World Music’ and ‘World Beat,’” in Music Groves, Feld and Keil

Leary, T.         “L.S.D., Dr. Timothy Leary PH. D.,” audio

DeMarinas    The Edison Effect: A Listener’s Companion, audio

Digital Archive II

Interview with Pamela Z, by mark bartlett and john roloff

Pamela Z      parts of speech, audio


Hark               “Time and Tide”

Deleuze         “The Crystals of Time, Ch. 4, pp. 68-83, Cinema 2

“Thought and Cinema,” pp. 156-168, Ch. 7, Cinema

20th Century Time Capsule, Buddha Records, 1999


Presentations at Betalounge: David Goldberg’s Studio/Lab/Experimental Exhibition Space

Betalounge A/V Archive student presentations : the students were expected to create their own A/V Archive for their final project, and present them at David’s venue.




alvin lucier, i am sitting in a room: history of the voice, continuation, along with derek jarman’s, blue

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