Although Alvin Lucier is known primarily for his work with waveforms and spatial acoustics, Almost New York features compositions written for conventional musical instruments. In these pieces, he adapts some of his explorations in reverberation, providing a different way of approaching his long-term fascinations.
On the first CD of this two-CD set, three different compositions explore the audible beats of harmonic disruption. Twonings pits a cellist playing just intonation harmonics against a pianist playing in equal temperament. The title piece, Almost New York finds a flutist playing notes consecutively on five different types of flutes against the frequency patterns caused by two wave oscillators. Broken Line finds the flute playing glissandi against which the vibraphones and piano play fixed pitches.
All three compositions develop slowly, so that the audible beats created by different frequency clashes can fully register. The air feels constantly palpable as the reverberations create beautiful fluttering patterns. In these pieces, Lucier creates interesting composed corollaries to his more famous wired pieces.
In contrast, Coda Variations, the long solo tuba piece on disc two, continues the stately pace as it permutates through eight tones drawn from a Morton Feldman piece. Whereas the other pieces allowed for plenty of audible action in the in-between spaces as sound waves clashed, this piece is very slow and spare and, frankly, much more difficult to appreciate.