Electronic book text
September 10, 2012
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$15.99 USD, £11.95 GBP
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August 28, 2014
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.7 Pounds (US)
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v2.1 Reference

Music 109

Notes on Experimental Music

An engaging inside view of experimental music

Composer and performer Alvin Lucier brings clarity to the world of experimental music as he takes the reader through more than a hundred groundbreaking musical works, including those of Robert Ashley, John Cage, Charles Ives, Morton Feldman, Philip Glass, Pauline Oliveros, Steve Reich, Christian Wolff, and La Monte Young. Lucier explains in detail how each piece is made, unlocking secrets of the composers' style and technique. The book as a whole charts the progress of American experimental music from the 1950s to the present, covering such topics as indeterminacy, electronics, and minimalism, as well as radical innovations in music for the piano, string quartet, and opera. Clear, approachable and lively, Music 109 is Lucier's indispensable guide to late 20th-century composition. No previous musical knowledge is required, and all readers are welcome.

About the Authors

ALVIN LUCIER is the John Spencer Camp Professor of Music emeritus at Wesleyan University. Since the mid-1960s, he has explored the natural characteristics of sound and the spaces in which they are heard. He is the author of Reflections/Reflexionen and coauthor, with Douglas Simon, of Chambers.


"Plain and direct-spoken and with an uncluttered prose style, Lucier easily blends analysis, anecdote and digression into a reader-friendly first-person account of some of the most interesting music to come out of the postwar period."—Daniel Barbiaro, Avant Music News

"I love Lucier's music and find his writing spare, friendly, but intelligent. For anyone who is exploring this period of music history for the first time—or wants to remember what it felt like to live thru such an interesting time—Lucier's Music 109 is an indispensable source."—Haskins, American Record Guide

"Though the book has much to offer relative experts on the topic, it's also the perfect introduction — breezy, but not dumbed-down — to the head-spinning innovations and intellectual breakthroughs that took place in the world of contemporary classical music from the 1940s to the 1980s, explained largely through stories and firsthand accounts. (Lucier even tosses in some basic and easily understood music theory.) For those already acquainted with this music, Lucier's descriptions of how it came to be reveal details of discovery and development that a non-insider could never know. With his unaffected but engaging tone, Lucier is simply writing, from an insider's singularly informed perspective, about the experiences of an extended group of friends: one that just happens to have changed the face of music."—Dave Mandl, Los Angeles Review of Books

"Alvin Lucier, in addition to being a groundbreaking composer of experimental music, is also a professor at Wesleyan University, and if this book is any indication, he is a uniquely gifted educator. (This book) compiles the best of his teaching on experimental music from the 1950s onward, with the kind of deep insight and fascinating personal stories that could only come from someone who lived through it."—Kevin Erickson, Future of Music

"A book that says what it needs to say and to which very little can be added. Its author takes up the task in a manner that more writers could stand to emulate.Lucier persuades you quietly with his point rather than bludgeoning you with the sturm und drang techniques of a lesser writer and a lesser mind."—Jedd Beaudoin, PopMatters

"In looking for a guide to the world of American experimental music, it would be hard to think of a better one than Alvin Lucier."—David Revill, Times Higher Education

"Plain and direct-spoken and with an uncluttered prose style, Lucier easily blends analysis, anecdote and digression into a reader-friendly first-person account of some of the most interesting music to come out of the postwar period."—Daniel Barbiaro, Avant Music News

"For those with the ears to hear, Lucier's warm prose will sound a few notes of welcome clarity."—J. Bryan Lower, Slate


"Alvin Lucier sat in a room and created extraordinary music from the confluence of resonance and technology. This is his brilliant and lucid account of the experimental strand of late twentieth-century contemporary music, by one of its great visionaries."—David Rothenberg, ECM recording artist, author of Survival of the Beautiful and Thousand Mile Song

"Alvin Lucier is an enormously important experimental composer whose reputation has grown considerably over the past decade. Written in Lucier's characteristically laconic, deadpan style, Music 109 mixes biography, history, anecdote, and musicology to offer a personal account of experimental musical practice and analyses of many of its key works. It is tremendously valuable for its first-hand, insider's view of the field and for Lucier's intelligent and engaging examinations of musical works.""—Christoph Cox, professor of philosophy, Hampshire College
Wesleyan University Press

9780819572981 : music-109-lucier-ashley
Electronic book text
232 Pages
$15.99 USD
9780819574923 : music-109-lucier-ashley
Paperback / softback
232 Pages
$21.95 USD

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Eight Lectures on Experimental Music

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