I Am Sitting in a Room

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I am sitting in a room
by Alvin Lucier
Genre Process
Language English
Composed 1969 (1969): Brandeis University
Performed 1970 (1970): Guggenheim Museum
Recorded 1969 (1969): Electronic Music Studio at Brandeis

I am sitting in a room (1969) is one of composer Alvin Lucier's best known sound art works.

The piece features 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.[1]

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."[1]

History and performances[edit]

Lucier 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.[2][3]

The first recording of I am sitting in a room was made at the Electronic Music Studio at Brandeis University in 1969.[4][5][6]

The first performance of the work was in 1970 at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.[6]

A second, higher fidelity recording of I am sitting in a room lasting over 40 minutes was released in 1981.[7][8]

More recent performances include one at MIT's "Seeing/Sounding/Sensing" symposium in September 2014.[2][9][10]

Lucier said that a performance need not use his text, and that the performance may be recorded in any room.[citation needed]

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.[11]

In popular culture[edit]

In 2010, a YouTube user 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.[12][13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Edward Strickland (1993). Minimalism--origins. Indiana University Press. pp. 281–. ISBN 0-253-21388-6. 
  2. ^ a b Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2014-11-04). "Alvin Lucier on 'I am sitting in a room' - YouTube". Retrieved 2016-09-22. 
  3. ^ Alvin Lucier (1995). Reflexionen. Ed. MusikTexte. ISBN 978-3-9803151-2-8. 
  4. ^ Lucier, Alvin. I am sitting in a room. Lovely Music, Ltd., 1990. CD.
  5. ^ "DRAM: Notes for "Alvin Lucier: I am sitting in a room"". Dramonline.org. Retrieved 2010-03-02. 
  6. ^ a b Andrea Miller-Keller (15 January 2012). Alvin Lucier: A Celebration. Wesleyan University Press. pp. 43–. ISBN 978-0-8195-7280-6. 
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ "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. 
  9. ^ Patterson, David. "Intrigue, Lure & Lucier Sounding". The Boston Musical Intelligencer. Retrieved 28 February 2017. 
  10. ^ "Seeing/Sounding/Sensing - Arts at MIT". Retrieved 2016-09-22. 
  11. ^ Collins, Nicolas. ""I Am Sitting in a Room" Album notes". 
  12. ^ "VIDEO ROOM 1000 COMPLETE MIX -- All 1000 videos seen in sequential order! - YouTube". 2010-06-09. Retrieved 2016-03-18. 
  13. ^ "Ontologist: Music, Video, and Meaning | VIDEO ROOM 1000 FAQ". 2010-06-02. Retrieved 2016-03-18.