I am going to play it back into the room again and again...
July 14, 2006 5:58 AM   Subscribe

"I am sitting in a room (mp3), different from the one you are in now." is the opening phrase from Alvin Lucier's (Wikipedia) best known work, simply titled 'I am sitting in a room'. The piece involves playing a recording of a short speech back into the room and re-recording the result. This is done again and again, with the resonant frequencies of the room reinforced each time, until all that is left are the characteristics and resonances of the room. (Interview and documentary also available at ubu.com
posted by TwoWordReview (28 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Anyone who wants to hear DJ Food's "Raiding the 20th Century" (a 60 minute mix exploring the roots of cut-up music, including Alvin Lucier), go looking... or lemme know a good place to post it!
posted by anthill at 6:21 AM on July 14, 2006

I wish I could listen to this, but alas, I am at work sans headphones.

The final sound was probably influenced as much by the recording media as by the room. I don't really see how this is novel in any way... this is how reverb was done in recording studios for a long time, he is just increasing the feedback level and processing long chunks at a time. I hope it was automated.

Audio-engineer wankery aside, excellent post.
posted by phrontist at 6:21 AM on July 14, 2006

The high-pitched squeak which makes the whole thing extremely painful to listen to can't be caused by the room resonating, can it? A frequency like that is something like a few centimeters in wavelength.
posted by ikalliom at 7:14 AM on July 14, 2006

Wow, sounds like Star Trek.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:17 AM on July 14, 2006

phrontist, that work is from 1969. That wasn't the stone age of audio engineering, but no one is making a claim for novelty.
posted by arialblack at 7:25 AM on July 14, 2006

Cheers phrontist, the actual process he used is described in the 'score' for the piece. It was all done with good old fashioned rewinding and splicing on tape.

My guess about the squeaks is that they are the harmonics of the primary room modes, which would also resonate.
posted by TwoWordReview at 7:28 AM on July 14, 2006

Anthill! Post it here and it would make my friday afternoon.
posted by verisimilitude at 7:36 AM on July 14, 2006


MeFi thread for DJ Food's "Raiding the 20th...." Jan 2004

MeFi thread from matt linking a new version incorporating 2005 audio. Note the link in that thread now suggests a 2006 version is being created.

Google Search incorporating DJ Food and "Raiding the 20th Century"'s first links is DJ Food, the next link is an UBU.com entry -- carrying a full download of the mp3.
posted by cavalier at 7:46 AM on July 14, 2006

Excellent first post, TwoWordReview! Format and content should be studied by all to learn how to do it right.

The mp3 "I am sitting in a room" is beautiful on several levels. I was reminded of whale singing towards the end. The obvious "any semblance of my speech will be destroyed" referring to the obliteration of his stuttering, and the 'fixing' of his speech impediment: "...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". And even though the physical facts were claimed as not intentional, the science of the recording is interesting as well.

Although it will take some time to explore all the links, it's well worth it. Here's an interview from a link provided from the post which is quite telling. I describe it (with no intention of offence to anyone and with humility) as a conversation with "articulate schizophrenics".
posted by sluglicker at 8:18 AM on July 14, 2006

I studder too...

Interesting that it meshes well with the experiment.
posted by LoopSouth at 8:38 AM on July 14, 2006

Thanks for posting this! I was looking to buy it on iTunes just last week. Alas: it's not in there. (They did have an album of Steve Reich's early tape manipulation pieces, though, which is just great).
posted by mr_roboto at 8:45 AM on July 14, 2006

posted by dobbs at 9:15 AM on July 14, 2006

Does anyone have a working link for the Raiding... 2005 version? The download link in the original MeFi post is dead now.
posted by PantsOfSCIENCE at 9:16 AM on July 14, 2006

Thanks, TwoWordReview - I've long loved Lucier's work, but I'd not happened upon the interview/documentary (ubu is so bloody vast nowadays!)
posted by jack_mo at 9:21 AM on July 14, 2006

I've had this album for a couple of years and only just recently got up the gumption to listen to it on headphones. It was an awe-inspiring experience and I love how his voice sounds like gamelan bells by the end.
posted by joseph_elmhurst at 9:30 AM on July 14, 2006

I remember this being played in a sound recording class I took at SAIC back in 1994. Brought back a lot of memories. Still haunting to hear the voice dissappear. It was always presented as part of the sound-art movement rather than just studio wonkery.
posted by djseafood at 9:30 AM on July 14, 2006

DJ Food's "Raiding the 20th Century" 2005 'words and music' remix or via cavalier

Contains "sitting in a room" amongst others.
posted by anthill at 9:39 AM on July 14, 2006

Thank you for posting this. I had recently heard the 'I Am Sitting In A Room' piece on local radio a while back and was intrigued, but since it wasn't introduced, just dropped in the lineup without any explanation or attribution, I was pulling my hair out trying to find a reference item for it.
posted by Vaska at 9:50 AM on July 14, 2006

I always wanted to do a version using the same process, but recorded in a bathroom instead -- it would be called "I am shitting in a room".

(hmmm, perhaps in poor taste though...)
posted by xil at 9:51 AM on July 14, 2006

I remember listening to this in an Intro to Experimental Music class taught by Alvin Lucier at Wesleyan.
posted by damehex at 9:55 AM on July 14, 2006

This is pretty nifty... feedback deconstructed, or rather, constructed :)
posted by Foosnark at 10:09 AM on July 14, 2006

I have always loved this piece, especially how it sounds like bells at the end.
posted by unknowncommand at 10:15 AM on July 14, 2006

"I am shitting in a room... hopefully different from the one you are in now"
posted by anthill at 10:22 AM on July 14, 2006

Creepy. iTunes just put on "Experimental Music Love" by The Magnetic Fields, which is a quicker version of this same idea.
posted by sixacross at 11:03 AM on July 14, 2006

Also, it's probably already mentioned in one of the links, but "Music on a Long Thin wire" is pretty cool too. (the title is the process, pretty straightforward really)
posted by milovoo at 1:03 PM on July 14, 2006

I'm tempted to agree with phrontist - with the fidelity at which he was recording, it's pretty much a tossup between any "resonant frequencies" of the room - its acoustic profile - and any shortcomings of the audio equipment. The post doesn't suck by any means, but I don't really like this at all. $0.02
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 3:48 PM on July 14, 2006

Paul Morley has a lot to answer for.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 4:23 PM on July 14, 2006

inpHilltr8r said 'Paul Morley has a lot to answer for.'

Blimey - that books sounds bonkers. Awful, probably, but I'm tempted to check it out.
posted by jack_mo at 8:19 AM on July 15, 2006

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