Networked_Music_Review

Net_Music_Weekly: “Vespers” by Alvin Lucier

bat.jpgApropos the Bat House Project I posted on Networked Performance yesterday, here’s Alvin Lucier’s Vespers. It was published on a Sonic Arts Union LP (Electric Sound, Mainstream) in 1971. In the Liner Notes, Lucier wrote:

“I would like to pay my respects to all living creatures who inhabit dark places and who, over the years, have developed the art of echolocation (sounds sent out into an environment returning as messengers with information as to shape, size and substance of the environment and the objects in it). I am envious of the astonishing acuity of such creatures — dolphins, certain species of nocturnal birds, and bats, particularly those of the family Vespertilionidae, the common bat of Europe and North America.

Vespers was composed in 1968 and is performed in darkness. Each performer is supplied with a Sondol (sonar-dolphin), a hand-held echolocation device which emits a fast, sharp, narrow-beamed click whose repetition rate can be varied manually, and is given the task of orienting himself in the dark by means of scanning the environment and monitoring the relationship between the outgoing and returning pulses. When the pulse repetition rate is adjusted so that the returning echo is half-way between the outgoing pulses, an object appears to emit sound, the quality of which depends upon the material of the object itself.

Moving from place to place the performer discovers clear pathways, avoids obstacles and takes slow sound photographs of his surroundings.

This recording was made with the Environ-Ears Recording System, an integrated acoustical labyrinth and microphone assembly which duplicates the localization and noise-reducing functions of the human ear. The system consists of a pair of ears mounted on a tube containing two miniature high quality microphones which record the actual physical positions of sounds in three dimensions.

Both the Sondols and the Environ-Ears System were designed by Listening, Incorporated, Arlington, Massachusetts.”

Alvin Lucier was born in 1931 in Nashua, New Hampshire . He studied music at Yale and Brandeis and spent two years in Rome on a Fulbright scholarship. He was formerly conductor of the Brandeis University Chamber Chorus and now teaches electronic music at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. His recent works include Music for Solo Performer (live brainwaves) 1965, Whistlers (ionospheric disturbances) 1966, Shelter (sounds filtering through walls and floors) 1967, North American Time Capsule (humans talking to aliens) 1967, and Chambers (moving small and large resonant environments) 1968.

The Sonic Arts Union formed in 1966 when Robert Ashley, David Behrman, Alvin Lucier, and Gordon Mumma decided to pool their resources and help one another with the performance and staging of their music. Since that time the group has performed extensively in the United States and has completed three tours of Europe. Thanks to UbuWeb.


Feb 20, 2008
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  1. Von Flugfingern und Echoorten . Oder : Better be a Bat than a Blogger ? at in|ad|ae|qu|at:

    […] and substance of the environment and the objects in it” . Die Aufführungsumstände sind bei Networked Music bzw im UbuWeb nachzulesen . – Man rufe sich noch einmal kurz das Klangbeispiel der bat calls in […]


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Networked_Music_Review (NMR) is a research blog that focuses on emerging networked musical explorations.

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