I’m going to talk a bit about “Music on a Long Thin Wire”. I made it in 1977. It was my first sound installation. We know that Max Neuhaus was the first composer to have made sound installations, at least he coined the term. I think it’s fair to say that. I first imagined it to be played on a stage. I was co-teaching a musical acoustics class with a physicist at Wesleyan. I didn’t know much about physics but wanted to learn something about acoustics. Our first demonstration was the Pythagorean monochord. I remember we set it up on a laboratory table. We attached a wire to an amplifier, and placed an electromagnet over one end of it, so we could change the flux field. I didn’t understand all this so well but I watched, you know. The wire would vibrate and make beautiful sounds. It was only a meter or so long. Being an artist I thought immediately that this would be a wonderful performance piece, to have a wire on a stage, a performer playing either with the amplifier or the oscillator that drives the wire, or varying the magnetic field. All those variables would change the mode of vibration of the wire. It could be an interesting piece. I found some wire in a hardware store. It was called music wire but it really wasn’t. It was stainless steel wire used in industry to cut materials – fish, foam, things of that kind. I didn’t know much about amplifiers, impedances, resistance, things of that kind, but through trial and error I set it up so I could get the wire to vibrate. I experimented with changing the frequency of the oscillator at the input. I put a microphone on each end of the wire, embedded in little homemade bridges. The sounds were very nice. One night I went home and dreamed of a very long wire. I think it went to the moon and back. I thought of the American West where we have those barbed wire fences that go on for miles. The next thing I did was to put tables on a concert stage and string a length of wire between them. I did not know what to input the wire with. That’s a problem for all of us, I think. We have these systems and don’t know what to put into them.

Alvin Lucier on “Music on a long thin wire”, quoted from kunstradio.at