I’m not the first person to cover Alvin Lucier’s “I am Sitting in a Room,” and not even the first to do it with audio compression codecs in mind, but that’s sort of the point.
For my version, I recorded myself reading the text below. I then ran the recording into an mp3 encoder, and ran the result through an mp3 encoder, and so on, to produce a work over 50 minutes long. It’s a big file (since it has to start out as a lossless file to work its magic) and may take awhile to download. Be patient.
I am Sitting in a Room, Compressing
I am sitting in a room, compressing, running this recording through an mp3 encoder again and again. With each iteration of the loop, you will hear the artifacts of the encoding process compound upon one another until my voice is submerged beneath them. This exercise is not a critique of imperfect sound technology, for we are all imperfect. It is merely an occasion for the format to reveal itself.
I made the piece after sending out my manuscript for MP3 in the summer of 2010. It is one of the last recordings of my “old” voice before my right vocal cord was paralyzed.
Lucier made his classic piece by sitting in a room with a tape recorder, and reading the following text:
I am sitting in a room different from the one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking voice and I am going to play it back into the room again and again until the resonant frequencies of the room reinforce themselves so that any semblance of my speech, with perhaps the exception of rhythm, is destroyed. What you will hear, then, are the natural resonant frequencies of the room articulated by speech. I regard this activity not so much as a demonstration of a physical fact, but more as a way to smooth out any irregularities my speech might have.
The original version can be heard here.
Although there now considered to be definitive recorded version, Lucier originally planned a range of versions:
All the generations spliced together in chronological order make a tape composition the length of which is determined by the length of the original statement and the number of generations recorded. Make versions in which one recorded statement is recycled trough many rooms. Make versions using one or more speakers of different languages in different rooms. Make versions in which, for each generation, the microphone is moved to different parts of the room or rooms. Make versions that can be performed in real time.
In recent years, it has been subject to many different covers.
Cory Arcangel compressed Iron Maiden’s “Number of the Beast” 666 times and posted the final result on his site.
In “Alvin Lucier plays Lucien L’Allier,” Charles Stankievech played back the Lucier recording in a Montreal metro station.
“I am sitting in a video room” by canzona:
“I am sitting in a room” by Residuum
Untitled piece by David Tinapple and Joel Kraut
Harold Schellinx has recently automated the process and applied it to Beethoven.