‘I Am Sitting in a Room’ by Alvin Lucier, performed by Nick Pollard

That is a photograph of me sitting in a room, different from the one you are in now. I’m not sure why I was smiling, because a few minutes beforehand, I had given myself a bit of a headache due to abrasive squeaking. In 2013, I wrote a my dissertation on the concepts of experimental music, in the context of Kid A by Radiohead, and the first chapter was used to find definitions of ‘experimental’ by using famous experimental works and techniques. For example, Brian Eno’s ‘Oblique Strategies’ cards and John Cage’s infamous 4’33”. However, there was one that intrigued me enough that it was my method of procrastinating for a few hours – lying to myself, telling myself that this counted as research.

The piece was Alvin Lucier’s I Am Sitting in a Room (1969), which consists of a recording of one’s voice, explaining the concept: “I am sitting in a room different from the one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking voice and I am going to play it back into the room again and again until the resonant frequencies of the room reinforce themselves so that any semblance of my speech, with perhaps the exception of rhythm, is destroyed. What you will hear, then, are the natural resonant frequencies of the room articulated by speech. I regard this activity not so much as a demonstration of a physical fact, but more as a way to smooth out any irregularities my speech might have.”

With my desktop computer, and a borrowed laptop, I decided to give this pioneering piece a good for myself. I recorded my voice onto the desktop, and recorded that recording onto the laptop, back and forth, thirty-eight times. This was the result.

As you might be able to see from the waveform, it’s quite obvious when each recording begins, as one microphone’s sensitivity was slightly higher than the other. However, I feel guiltless considering the variables that Lucier mentioned personally, such as moving the microphone, using instruments aside from the human voice etc.


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