ALVIN LUCIER – Criss Cross / Hanover

Black Truffle

Alvin Lucier turns 87 this year and I honestly wish him to arrive at least at 110, given the level of the materials generated by his prescience to this day. Reiterated kudos also go to Oren Ambarchi, who’s doing a big favor to the responsive segments of humanity by publishing such kind of substance on his own imprint. The LP contains 35+ minutes of prodigious sonorities; I haven’t been listening to anything else for days. Make that “anything and anyone else”. Indeed, when you are so lucky to find that juncture with that quiver, the rest of the world can go to hell.

Let’s start with “Criss Cross”, performed by the label honcho himself and Stephen O’Malley on two eBowed electric guitars reciprocally courting within a semitone interval. You surely noticed how Lucier’s experiments with adjacent pitches introduce the listeners who are not just sitting in a room (sorry, I could not resist) to acoustic phenomena which may vary according to their orientation in that environment. This one goes even further, in that both types of auditory equipment – speakers and headphones – induce an obliteration of the vehicles of conventional perception, letting us (involuntarily) “focus” almost exclusively on the uneven metre of the oscillation inherent to the neighbouring tones. When this happens, all that remains is relishing the illusory sonic occurrences emerging from the smothered throb that swallows the whole frequency spectrum. Never the unspoken truths of psychoacoustics have appeared so indispensable for a being’s survival.

In real necessity of hurting yourselves, head straight for the record’s actual showpiece. “Hanover” was engineered around an ensemble comprising three saxophones, three electric guitars, violin, piano and vibraphone (go here to see who plays what). The sporadic surfacing of a handful of piano notes is the lone stable constituent in a composition whose remaining parts shift unhurriedly in a chain of sustained glissandos. I don’t know if Lucier was somehow predicting the repercussions of the ensuing synchrony, nor if he would ever imagine that a fairly withdrawn man would be stricken so profoundly by it. However, every time the instruments meet across selected point of resonance – instants shaping a fugitive union – I am rendered capable of reliving the entirety of my existence in a few seconds, including the decisive fallacies. The upsetting awareness of a future that will blank everybody’s worthless chattering reaffirms the inevitability of dissipation for mortals and preaching messengers alike.

Foolishness and arrogance die; vibrating waves don’t. It’s those waves we must conform to.

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