I Am Sitting in a Room

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I Am Sitting in a Room
by Alvin Lucier, Mary Lucier
Composed1969 (1969): Brandeis University
Performed1970 (1970): Guggenheim Museum
Recorded1969 (1969): Electronic Music Studio at Brandeis

I Am Sitting in a Room is a multi media piece created in 1969/1970 by Mary[1] and Alvin Lucier and in its solo sound version is one of composer Alvin Lucier's best known works.

The audio section of the piece features Alvin Lucier recording himself narrating a text, and then playing the tape recording back into the room, re-recording it. The new recording is then played back and re-recorded, and this process is repeated. Since all rooms have characteristic resonance or formant frequencies (e.g. different between a large hall and a small room), the effect is that certain frequencies are emphasized as they resonate in the room, until eventually the words become unintelligible, replaced by the pure resonant harmonies and tones of the room itself.[2]. Alan Blumlein also experimented with the effect of room acoustics on the voice during his development of stereo / binaural sound and Micheal Gerzon during development of early 'sound field' / ambisonic microphones. The visual element of the first full collaborative performance (1970) features Mary Lucier's polaroid images degraded by repeated copying.

In the book of scores 'Chambers' Alvin Lucier states "When Mary did the visual part, she took a Polaroid snapshot of the chair that I sat in when I made the tape and subjected it to a copying process in which she copied the original, copied that copy, and so on"

In his book on the origins of minimalism, Edward Strickland wrote that "In its repetition and limited means, I am sitting in a room ranks with the finest achievements of Minimal tape music. Furthermore, in its ambient conversion of speech modules into drone frequencies, it unites the two principal structural components of Minimal music in general."[2]

History and performances[edit]

Lucier states that he was originally inspired to create I Am Sitting in a Room after a colleague mentioned attending a lecture at MIT in which Amar Bose described how he tested characteristics of the loudspeakers he was developing by feeding back audio into them that they had produced in the first place and then was picked up via microphones.[3][4]

The first test of what became I Am Sitting in a Room was made at the Electronic Music Studio at Brandeis University in 1969. The second recording took place the apartment shared by Alvin and Mary and it was this version that was used for the 1970 premiere and for the 1st album release of the audio. The album release however also included aspects of Mary Lucier's part, by way of the front album Artwork featuring a set of her degraded polaroid images from the original collaborative performance[5][6][7]

The first collaborative installation was in 1970 at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.[7] With Mary Lucier, the performance featured projections of Polaroid images that had been degraded like the voice.[8]

A second, higher fidelity recording of the audio only version I Am Sitting in a Room lasting over 40 minutes was released in 1981.[9][10]

Lucier performed the piece during the 2012 Venice Biennale Musica at the Teatro alle Tese, and a recording of this performance was commercially released on the 2016 album Alvin Lucier / Alter Ego: Two Circles.[11]

More recent performances include one at MIT's "Seeing/Sounding/Sensing" symposium in September 2014.[3][12][13] In 2019 the full collaborative piece was performed for the first time in over 50 years as part of the New Ear Festival at the Fridman Gallery in New York.

Full text[edit]

The text spoken by Lucier describes the process of the work, concluding with a reference to his own stuttering:

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.[14]

In popular culture[edit]

In 2010, YouTube user Patrick Liddell created an homage to I Am Sitting in a Room entitled VIDEO ROOM 1000, in which he uploaded a video of himself speaking text similar to Lucier's original to YouTube, then manually downloaded and re-uploaded it 1,000 times in sequence over the course of a year, in order to demonstrate the resulting digital artifacting of audio and video analogously to Lucier's original demonstration of analog artifacting of audio.[15][16]

In 2013, filmmakers Viola Rusche and Hauke Harder decided to use I Am Sitting in a Room as the "main structuring element" of the documentary "No Ideas but In Things" (2013). According to the filmmakers' notes, "the various process steps of the piece [I am sitting in a room] divide the film into chapters so that this work serves as an integral part of the film."[17]

In 2018, the YouTube user Tim Blais created a live streaming version of this experiment titled I Am Streaming in a Room. He livestreamed himself speaking, and then had software capture the original livestream and rebroadcast it to the stream. The segment repeated for approximately 1,170 iterations.[18]

In 2019, Youtuber MKBHD also created a similar video, titled This Is What Happens When You Re-Upload a YouTube Video 1000 Times repeating the same process with footage recorded from an Red Epic 8K Camera.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Mary Lucier by Alex Klein - BOMB Magazine". bombmagazine.org. Retrieved 2020-08-08.
  2. ^ a b Edward Strickland (1993). Minimalism—origins. Indiana University Press. pp. 281–. ISBN 0-253-21388-6.
  3. ^ a b Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2014-11-04). "Alvin Lucier on 'I am sitting in a room' – YouTube". Retrieved 2016-09-22.
  4. ^ Alvin Lucier (1995). Reflexionen. Ed. MusikTexte. ISBN 978-3-9803151-2-8.
  5. ^ Lucier, Alvin. I am sitting in a room. Lovely Music, Ltd., 1990. CD.
  6. ^ "DRAM: Notes for "Alvin Lucier: I am sitting in a room"". Dramonline.org. Retrieved 2010-03-02.
  7. ^ a b Andrea Miller-Keller (15 January 2012). Alvin Lucier: A Celebration. Wesleyan University Press. pp. 43–. ISBN 978-0-8195-7280-6.
  8. ^ "Mary Lucier by Alex Klein – BOMB Magazine". bombmagazine.org. Retrieved 2020-03-23.
  9. ^ Lucier, Alvin; Scholnick, Daniel (2015-07-20). "Alvin Lucier – Discography". wesleyan.edu. Retrieved 2017-04-13. I AM SITTING IN A ROOM: Lovely Music, Ltd. LP/CD 1013, 1981/1990.
  10. ^ "I am sitting in a room". lovely.com. 2016-01-01. Retrieved 2017-04-13. in the course of 40 minutes and 32 repetitions" ... "This recording was made by Alvin Lucier on October 29th and 31st, 1980, in the living room of his home in Middletown, CT. The material was recorded on a Nagra tape recorder with an Electro-Voice 635 dynamic microphone and played back on one channel of a Revox A77 tape recorder, Dynaco amplifier and a KLH Model Six loudspeaker.
  11. ^ "Alvin Lucier, Alter Ego (9) – Two Circles". Discogs. Retrieved 2019-06-05.
  12. ^ Patterson, David. "Intrigue, Lure & Lucier Sounding". The Boston Musical Intelligencer. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  13. ^ "Seeing/Sounding/Sensing – Arts at MIT". Retrieved 2016-09-22.
  14. ^ Collins, Nicolas. ""I Am Sitting in a Room" Album notes". Archived from the original on 18 August 2017.
  15. ^ "VIDEO ROOM 1000 COMPLETE MIX – All 1000 videos seen in sequential order! – YouTube". 2010-06-09. Retrieved 2016-03-18.
  16. ^ "Ontologist: Music, Video, and Meaning | VIDEO ROOM 1000 FAQ". 2010-06-02. Retrieved 2016-03-18.
  17. ^ "FILMMAKERS' NOTES". Retrieved 24 November 2018.
  18. ^ "I Am Streaming In A Room". 2018-07-24. Retrieved 2018-07-24.
  19. ^ This Is What Happens When You Re-Upload a YouTube Video 1000 Times!, retrieved 2019-10-11

External Links[edit]