Alvin Lucier was born in 1931 in Nashua, New Hampshire. He was educated in Nashua public and parochial schools, the Portsmouth Abbey School, Yale, and Brandeis and spent two years in Rome on a Fulbright Scholarship. From 1962 to 1970 he taught at Brandeis, where he conducted the Brandeis University Chamber Chorus which devoted much of its time to the performance of new music. Since 1970 he has taught at Wesleyan University where he is John Spencer Camp Professor of Music.
Lucier has been a pioneer in several areas of music composition and performance, including the notation of performers’ physical gestures, the use of brain waves in live performance, the generation of visual imagery by sound in vibrating media, and the evocation of room acoustics for musical purposes. His recent works include a series of sound installations and works for solo instruments, chamber ensembles, and orchestra in which, by rhythms and spatial phenomena are created by means of close tunings.
Mr. Lucier performs, lectures and exhibits his sound installations extensively in the United States, Europe and Asia. He has visited Japan twice: in 1988 he performed at the Abiko Festival, Tokyo, and installed Music on a Long Thin Wire in Kyoto; in 1992 he toured with pianist Aki Takahashi, performing in Kawasaki, Yamaguchi and Yokohama. In 1990-91 he was a guest of the DAAD Kunstler Program in Berlin. In January 1992, he performed in Delhi, Madras, and Bombay, and during the summer of that year was guest composer at the Time of Music Festival in Vitaasari, Finland. He regularly contributes articles to books and periodicals. His own book, Chambers, written in collaboration with Douglas Simon, was published by the Wesleyan University Press. In addition, several of his works are available on Cramps (Italy), Disques Montaigne, Source, Mainstream, Mode, New World, CBS Odyssey, Lovely Music, Nonesuch and Wergo. In 1995, Reflections/Reflexionen, a bi-lingual edition of Lucier’s scores, interviews and writings, was published by MusikTexte, Köln.
In October, 1994, Wesleyan University honored Alvin Lucier with a five-day festival, Alvin Lucier: Collaborations, for which he composed twelve new works, including Theme, based on a poem by John Ashbery and Skin, Meat, Bone, a collaborative theater work with Robert Wilson. In April, 1997, Lucier presented a concert of his works on the Making Music Series at Carnegie Hall and in October of the same year his most recent sound installation, Empty Vessels, was exhibited at the Donaueschinger Musiktage.
In May of 1999, Diamonds for three orchestras, commissioned by Petr Kotik for the S. E. M. Ensemble of New York, was premiered at the Prague Spring Festival. In January, 2000, Music for Pure Waves, Bass Drums and Acoustic Pendulums was exhibited at the Temps, Vite show at the Pompidou Center in Paris. In August, 2001, Mr. Lucier was Guest Composer at the New Music Days in Ostrava, Czech Republic and in November of that year his Ovals was premiered at Donaueschingen by the Hilversum Radio Orchestra, Peter Eötvös, conductor. In March, 2002, Just Before Dark for chamber orchestra was performed in Vienna, by the Soloists of the Tehran Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Nader Mashayekhi.
Alvin Lucier recently completed Ever Present, for flute, alto saxophone and piano, commissioned by the Drescher-Okabe-Armbruster trio, premiered in June, 2002, Freiburg; Almost New York, for solo flutist Carin Levine; and Charles Curtis for solo cello with slow sweep pure wave oscillators. Lucier is currently working on a work for baritone voice and French horn, in collaboration with sculptor Alain Kirili, commissioned by Thomas Buckner.
Lucier died on Wednesday December 1, 2021 at his home in Middletown, Conn. from complications after a fall. He was 90.