Ricochet Lady by Alvin Lucier


Alvin Lucier | Ricochet Lady
Black Truffle (CD)

Alvin Lucier’s I am Sitting in a Room is one of his most associated works, the concept of which uses the room itself to process and reform sounds.  The notion of different spaces impacting on the quality of the sounds inside has been explored often in the world of experimental composition since that piece, for example in Jacob Kirkegaard’s 4 Rooms, where he fed audio into abandoned spaces in Chernobyl’s “Zone of Alienation”.

Here we find Lucier, the idea’s originator, again using various environments as aesthetic qualifiers on a composition for glockenspiel. Ricochet Lady instructs players to hammer tirelessly at the glockenspiel in four different locations, and the varying results are presented on this release.  The glockenspiel itself is placed directly against the wall, for maximum audio reflection.


The four places chosen for recording include a rehearsal hall, a chapel, a warehouse and a grain elevator.  These different spaces provide a range of resonances and reflections.  First piece is Ricochet Lady (Blum Hall), which sounds bright and full of high end frequencies, but fairly standard and I think acts as the default state, so as to compare the following three tracks.  Ricochet Lady (Chapel of the Holy Innocents) differs immediately, the tones swimming in loose reverb tails so individual notes are less prominent. 

Ricochet Lady (Basilica Hudson) finds the actual played notes varying more, the hammering a little harder and little slips and clicks being produced. The room itself lends this piece even more high frequencies, almost a tad piercing at times.  The final piece is Ricochet Lady (Marine A Grain Elevator) and to my ears is the most interesting departure, as the tones are stretched into silvery drones and echoes rebound endlessly.  There are also other room tones, especially noticeable at the start of this final version, the sounds of the elevator itself, which are warm and woody, until the introduction of the glockenspiel.

With this new take on his most famous idea, Lucier achieves fresh results that supersede the initial concept and are pleasing to hear.

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