“I Am Sitting in a Room” is a very famous piece of experimental music which composer Alvin Lucier created in 1969. What Lucier did was to record himself reciting a short text. He then broadcast that text in a room and re-recorded it over and over again. As he did so, the resonance frequencies of the room came to replace the sound of his voice, and by the end of the “song,” one can no longer hear the sound of Lucier’s voice. One only hears the resonance frequencies of the room.
It struck me that this is a good illustration of how nationalist ideas work. It is often the case that nationalist ideas are not actually true, but instead, or ideas that certain people want others to believe.
How do you get people to believe those ideas? Well one way is to repeat them over and over and over and over, and eventually not only will people end up believing those ideas, but they will come to like them as well, and even feel that those ideas define who they are.
This is somewhat like what I remember experiencing the first time I listened to “I Am Sitting in a Room.” Initially, listening to someone talk did not seem like “music” to me, but after hearing the same words over and over and over, it started to make sense, and when the words disappeared and all that was left was the sound of the resonance frequencies of the room, then Lucier’s “music” indeed started to sound nice and I began to appreciate it.
Having made this connection between Lucier’s “I Am Sitting in a Room” and nationalist ideas, I decided to make my own version of a piece of music like Lucier’s, but to do so using words that are clearly nationalist. To do so, I took a clip from a Vietnamese news broadcast about a book which claims that the Kinh Dịch (Yijing) was created by the Lạc Việt, the ancestors of the Vietnamese, and repeated the words from that clip over and over.
The end result is not as nice as Lucier’s piece, but in trying to show how nationalist ideas take hold, I think it still gets its point across.