April 26, 2018
Synth is short for synthesizer – a useful tool for making electronic music. But synth also comes up in synthesis, when theorists talk about dialectics, and in synthesizing, when brand managers talk about messaging or when chemists talk about molecules. Synth is lodged within sound, ideas, image, bodies, and so much more.

The synth, the synthetic, and the synthesized point to how everything that is processed is always already re-processed.

Visiting from Mills College, a place that has been working with sound and its many synths for decades, the composer and sound artist James Fei presents a live performance of two works:

In Alvin Lucier's I am Sitting in a Room (1969), sound is processed and re-processed: a voice reads a short text that describes the piece; a recording of the reading is played back into the room, again and again and again; with each iteration of the recording, the resonant qualities of the space increasingly distort the sound of the words; eventually, language is completely dissolved and transformed.

In James Fei’s The Nerve Meter (2004), microphones distributed in a space are connected to two frequency shifters and feedback through four speakers. The acoustic properties of the space, along with the surfaces and bodies within it, determine what happens next: the output of the frequency shifters increasingly modulate each other, creating shifting patterns of sound.

In both works, invisible sound waves pile on top of each other like heavy stacks of wet clay.

James Fei is the John and Martha Davidson Associate Professor of Electronic Arts at Mills College in Oakland. He is a composer and performer on saxophones and live electronics. Over the past twenty years, Fei has often collaborated and performed with Alvin Lucier.

This is the eighth event in our year-long season about and around the work of Seth Price.

James Fei performs I am Sitting in a Room (by Alvin Lucier) and The Nerve Meter (by James Fei)

Dena Beard performs the voice for I am Sitting in a Room

Live performance begins at 6:30pm

James Fei
James Fei


Alvin Lucier
Alvin Lucier