Department of Music

Remembering Alvin Lucier

Alvin Lucier works in the BEAMS studio in 1966

Alvin Lucier at Brandeis, February 1966

Brandeis memorializes pioneering composer, alumnus and former faculty member Alvin Lucier, who passed away on December 1, 2021 at the age of 90.

An excerpt from Eric Chasalow's program notes for Sound Workshop and Concert in the Rose Art Museum on December 15, 2021:
My piece, and today’s program are both dedicated to the memory of the field-changing composer and sound artist, Alvin Lucier, who passed away on December 1st. Alvin came to Brandeis to study music composition, graduated with the MFA and joined the faculty, conducting the university chorus and directing the electronic music studio. Alvin Lucier was an artist who thought beyond any boundaries and definitions of music. When he visited in 2003 and 2005, he recounted that it was his relationship with Brandeis physicist, Edmond Dewan that led him to create two of his best known and truly revolutionary pieces, I Am Sitting In a Room and Music for Solo Performer. He produced a famous 1965 concert in the Rose featuring the premieres of Music for Solo Performer, Rozart Mix by Cage, and For One, Two, or Three People, by Christian Wolff. In 2005, with sponsorship of Rose Director, the late Joe Ketner, we recreated this historic concert with Lucier and Wolff performing.
Robert D. Farber University Archives and Special Collections Biography:

American composer Alvin Lucier was educated at Yale (BA 1954) and Brandeis (MFA 1960) universities, where his teachers included Boatwright, Arthur Berger, Irving Fine, and Shapiro; he also studied under Copland and Foss at the Berkshire Music Center (1958, 1959). After two years in Rome on a Fulbright fellowship, Lucier joined the Brandeis faculty in 1963 as director of the choral union; later he was head of the electronic music studio. In 1970 he moved to Wesleyan University, where he was later appointed John Spencer Camp Professor of Music. He was a co-founder of the Sonic Arts Union, music director of the Viola Farber Dance Company (1972–7) and a fellow of the DAAD Kunstlerprogramm in Berlin (1990). In the mid-1960s Lucier began to explore sonic environments, particularly sounds that ‘would never – in ordinary circumstances – reach our ears’. Using performers, electronics, instruments, architecture and found objects, he devises open-ended processes specifically adapted to the phenomena he chooses to investigate or reveal. Some works exploit unusual sound sources such as brain waves (Music for Solo Performer) or radio frequency emissions in the ionosphere (Sferics), while others focus on the physical characteristics of sound waves. Check out the Electronic Music at Brandeis online exhibit.