Alvin Lucier: Navigations for Strings; Small Waves


Alvin Lucier: Navigations for Strings; Small Waves

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  • Navigations for Strings (1991)

  • Small Waves (1997)

Navigations for Strings (1991) was commissioned by the Hessischer Rundfunk (German Radio). Musically it consists of four tones, for which a long stream of continually changing melodic and instrumental combinations occur. As the players move through the combinations, they raise and lower the pitches in imperceptibly small increments, some smaller than the human ear can hear. As the size of the interval contracts, the players gradually lower the dynamic level and slow down the tempo, allowing the sounds to lengthen like shadows and recede into the ambiance of the room. Because of the closeness of the tunings, audible beats are heard at speeds determined by the distances between the pitches.

In Small Waves (1997), six glass vessels, some partially filled with water, are mounted on pedestals scattered around the performance space. Microphones are inserted into the mouths of the vessels, then routed through compressor-limiters to amplifiers and monitor speakers. During the course of the performance, the volume levels of the amplifiers are raised and lowered, causing feedback at pitches determined by the size and shape of the containers and their proximity to the loudspeakers. Following a sequence notated in the score, the players closely tune with the feedback strands causing interference patterns. At times, two water pourers empty water from one container to another, raising and lowering the pitches of the sounds from those containers.

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