International Contemporary Ensemble with Alvin Lucier | Museum of Contemporary Art | Experimental | Chicago Reader
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International Contemporary Ensemble with Alvin Lucier 

When: Sun., March 23, 7:30 p.m. 2014
Few composers have altered the worlds of contemporary classical music and sound art like Alvin Lucier. Now 82 years old, the lifelong New Englander embraced the imperatives of John Cage in the early 60s and used them to chart his own distinctive path—he'd become the artist the world knows with his 1965 work Music for Solo Performer, using electrical signals generated by the alpha waves of his own brain to control an armada of percussion instruments. Most of Lucier's work has explored the physical properties of sound, whether experimenting with sound waves or by exploring the resonance of spaces. At the request of performers, in the 1980s he began composing pieces that addressed those interests via conventional acoustic instruments—though he'd often pit them against electronics, including pure-wave oscillators, prerecorded tape, and piezo transducers. For this three-night Lucier retrospective, International Contemporary Ensemble will perform compositions from as early as 1969 and as late as last year. Lucier will perform the earliest work, his famous I Am Sitting in a Room: he'll recite its simple text into a microphone, record it, play it back, record the playback, and so on until the words dissolve into distorted abstraction, transformed by the frequencies that the performance space emphasizes, blurs, and diminishes with each pass. Silver Street Car for the Orchestra (1988), by contrast, is a study of the effects that controlled damping and muffling can produce on an instrument as simple as the triangle. This is undoubtedly the most comprehensive overview of Lucier's work ever presented in Chicago; all three concerts will be held in the Museum of Contemporary Art's resonant fourth-floor atrium. Tonight’s program consists of Music for Pure Waves, Bass Drums, and Acoustic Pendulums (1980), Nothing Is Real (Strawberry Fields Forever) (1990), Charles Curtis (2002), Still Lives (1995), Carbon Copies (1989), and Silver Street Car for the Orchestra (1988). —Peter Margasak Lucier also performs on Fri 3/21 and Sat 3/22.

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