I am sitting in a room and I think my ears might be bleeding. The “resonant frequencies of the room” have reinforced themselves into my eardrums and I am aching for release from this room. The mere sight of the walls evoke the feeling of repetition 10 of Alvin Lucier’s “I am Sitting in a Room” and the bile in my throat starts to rise up again. The smooth, even rhythm with which Lucier began is nowhere to be heard by the fifth or so repetition of his recording of a recording of a recording…
I think Lucier composed this piece of music as a mode of therapy. Maybe the teasing he endured as a child because of his stutter was just too much to bear. Now the composer has decided to take out his wrath on the unsuspecting listeners of his piece “I am Sitting In a Room,” which, however, would not work as well if he did not have a stutter. His stutter allows for the room to give Lucier’s voice an echo. The windows of the room amplify the “o” sounds in the words that Lucier strings together as his score into a kind of oceanic whale-like noise. The “s” sound carves out space along the walls as it lilts up slightly. The floor in the room has taken on Lucier’s stutter—it no longer belongs to him. The stutter in “rrrrrrhythm,” as well as the one in “sssssmooth” have been smoothed out by the flooring and now form the underlying tapestry for the rest of his score.
Lucier’s composition is comprised of alien metallics around repetition 7 and then shift towards footsteps on the moon in the following one. The air is the room begins to fill it in a visceral way and my chest hurts as I strain to breathe in the strains of music. Lucier’s larynx is his instrument and I am considering buying this recording and using it to scare away trick-or-treaters who will use their larynxes to express displeasure at hearing these noises emanating from my doorstep. I am distancing myself from the recording. I have begun to notice the sounds in this room: the click of a keyboard, flip of a notebook page, and the squeaky swivel of a chair. The music pulls me back into its cacophony of sounds. Each recording is no longer separate; it sounds like vocal taffy pulling. There is no air between each phrase. The room acts as an accordion—sounds vibrate between the parallel walls.
I hear a child playing an organ softly with some measure of skill. The sounds begin to move around corners and consider the glass in the windows. Demonic childhood toys come to life underwater. The sound of a tuning fork lingers and I have a headache that lives in my left estuation tube. I cannot remember Lucier’s original words. I begin to wonder if you can ring a bell underwater because this is what I am hearing and I do not think it is possible. Only the room can do it.
The deathly-still silence feels so good after the approximately 35 repetitions of Alvin Lucier’s hellish voice-as-music construction and I am relieved to leave this room.