Eclectic I

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Forum week 9

Tristan Louth-Robins

Alvin Lucier

Alvin Lucier has been the basis for Tristan's masters’ work. Lucier is an insightful man who shied away from formal musical traditions under the influence of people such as John Cage and Merce Cunningham and chose to take a different approach to music. In fact he chose to disregard what is typically classified as music all together, and instead chose to focus on sound and the behavior of sound.

'I am sitting in a small room' is a very interesting piece. For me the nature of the piece is that the first listen is quite interesting to hear progress. The layers of harmonics that develop over time have brilliant timbre qualities. Upon future listens however the 'mystery' of the piece vanishes and is not nearly quite so captivating.

Tristan's piece 'tea-pot' was quite clever adaptation of Alvin Luciers ‘I am sitting in a room.’ Although the composer in me couldn't help but want to place order upon what was occurring. I had the idea of discovering the particular frequencies of multiple teapots, and organising them in a particular scale. Then use a MIDI device to control the volume level from each of the teapots so that essentially a musical instrument was created and you could play the tea pots like a piano for instance. Seb also suggested the possibility of having objects designed to have particular resonant frequencies so an exact scale could be constructed. My interest in this idea is due to the inherent issues of timbre limitations of synthesised sounds compared to natural acoustics.

I was also highly fascinated by the Tristan’s use of vibrating salad bowls to create various harmonics. Tristan’s experiments with creating various shapes through the use of frequencies ties into another branch in this area which highly fascinates me called Cymatics, which indecently is accredited to influencing Alvin Lucier.


Although put rather crudely, the suggestion of looking into human resonance was interesting but more because it reminded me of another theory which seems to tie in with all of Tristan’s research. An idea in Quantum physics which on a very basic level equates to “all matter is energy condensed to a slow vibration.” This idea has fascinated me ever since I discovered it in high school.

Overall Tristan’s research closely ties in with a lot of personal interests of mine and I look forward to discovering more from him as he continues.


Tristan Louth-Robins. “Music Technology Forum – Week 9 – Tristan's Masters' study - Alvin Lucier” Student Talk presented at EMU Space, Level 5, Schultz building, University of Adelaide, 3rd May, 2007.

Pic References

Makanna, Phil. 1965. 'Music for a Solo Performer.' (10 March 2007).

Jenny,Hans. 1963 'Cymatics' (10 March 2007).


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