MBZ

Radical orientation

The recently deceased American avant-garde and experiment-friendly composer, Alvin Lucier (1941-2021) has had his works performed at the Music Biennale twice. In 1989, the entire concert was dedicated to his opus, but he visited once before that, as a member of the Sonic Arts Union, in 1969. The band was formed together with Robert Ashley, David Behrman and Gordon Mumm at Brandeis University in 1966 and later he added: “...it was great. Most of the time we didn't know what we were doing, it was exciting, messy touring. ” Lucier recounted musician John Olson for Artnews that they were confusing European audiences, using electrodes, or electronic music with the french horn. As an example of their particularly intense performance, he cited the one in Zagreb: Before going on stage, they played a recording of his I Am Sitting in a Room and the audience, Lucier recalled, began to stomp dissatisfied, even before the live performance began. Still, Olson and Lucier concluded, it was a great environment for creating radical art.
 
He also remembered his first performance in Zagreb in a conversation with composer Douglas Simon. Asked if there will come a time when the situations he creates at concerts will not cause anxiety in the audience, because they will understand that it is a shared experience and that no one is left aside, he said he thinks there will, and that it helps if he explains to the audience what will happen; but he remembers the performance in Zagreb in which Mary Ashley performed blindfolded and completely lost her bearings and got stuck in a corner of the room. Lucier added, "If the audience understands what's going on, they'll be worried." And I would like that to stay in action. "
 
At the MBZ in 1989, Lucier had a concert at the Small Hall of Vatroslav Lisinski. The program included his works Vespers, In Memoriam John Higgins and Music For Solo Performer. Lucier also had helpers, including composers Darko Hajsek and Branko Okmaca. Hajsek told us that he remembers Lucier as a great professional, and Branko Okmaca remembers Lucier's project, in which he participated 32 years ago, "even if a little hazy":
 
"If I remember correctly, it was a composition inspired by bats. As the composer himself explained to us, one night he dreamed of bats and came up with the idea to construct some electronic devices that produced sounds, and we had to orient ourselves blindfolded (like bats), using those sounds that bounced off walls and individual items in the hall. I mean, if I remember correctly, that performance took place at the small hall of KD Vatroslav Lisinski. The four of us took turns turning these devices on and off while walking around the hall and trying to orient ourselves. Of course, on occasions, we would collide with the rows and seats in the hall, as well as with the members of the audience sitting in the hall, etc. "
 
In a commentary on the song, Lucier spoke about the "envy" he felt toward bats because of the possibility of echolocation, as well as the echolocation devices he used for this piece, which Okmaca mentioned. Lucier concluded that for this work it is necessary to avoid "all conventional musical gestures" and "leave the performer to the environment". In Memoriam Jon Higgins combined clarinet sound and electronic, sinusoidal tones, and Music For Solo Performer was inspired by Edmund Dewan's brainwave research - a theme he often returned to. Lucier dedicated the composition to another Bienniale acquaintance, John Cage, whom he thanked "for his encouragement."