“Alvin Lucier’s I Am Sitting In A Room was written over 50 years ago, and it’s about time somebody figured out what to do with it. Sure, you could upload and re-upload the same video until it washes out into a gurgle, and people have. But the result is always just less video and not more of something else. There’s no space, no Room, inside a digital stream to come forth.
Here’s why: Lucier’s piece famously provides more thrills and chills the more patience you bring to it. And it works that way because music chops up time. It’s something you have to do. It requires a listener, sitting there, realizing how a pattern has been laid out. To bring that energy to the digital realm, you have to flip Lucier sideways and inside out. And that’s what Marc Matter has done here.
Matter first came around as part of Institut für Feinmotorik in the late 1990s, and he’s been politely shoving vocal recordings through various sorts of blenders ever since. He currently teaches people about sound poetry and makes radio plays in Germany.
As this piece begins, you’ll notice how little audio material is really needed for your brain to start turning things into things. The merest slice of a plosive becomes a beat. The notes buried in every vowel are a bass line that nobody’s fingers can reach. And of course the lyrics are the music. Sometimes you’ll catch one of the English newscaster phrases Marc picked out, or the robot voice he chose to read stuff to you. But if you give your brain permission to not understand, then in the middle of all those fades, wipes, and scissor cuts, a flickering and drunk Jim Morrison will arise, spouting nonsense phrases like ‘back no match around the worm’. Will your ears follow Jim into his meaningless twilight, or won’t they?
If you do take the ride with Marc’s GPS to the center of your mind, there’s a particular reward. Because even after the rhythm of speech is pulverized to the point of nothing, even once you can no longer tell whether the cut-and-paste is coming from the end or the beginning or the middle, there is a synthetic voice, stripped of its humanity, that will relentlessly call to your brain like a siren and beg you to make sense of what doesn’t. This piece isolates your perceptive abilities in the audio realm the way an optical illusion works on your eyes. Its melody is the amount you’ll struggle to turn sound into sense. That’s the Room that opens up after the speech is gone. On top of that, it’s delightfully fucking annoying.”
– Angela Sawyer