Deep Listening: Pauline Oliveros

Pauline Oliveros was an American composer and an early pioneer in the development of post-war electronic music. I don’t know about you, but listening to this album above (a collaboration with Stuart Dempster and Panaiotis) sends chills down my spine and calls to something deep within.

In developing a new musical theory of “sonic awareness”, Oliveros also coined the term “deep listening”. According to Wikipedia:

In 1988 as a result of descending 14 feet into an underground cistern to make a recording Oliveros coined the term “Deep Listening”, a pun that has blossomed into, “an aesthetic based upon principles of improvisation, electronic music, ritual, teaching and meditation. This aesthetic is designed to inspire both trained and untrained performers to practice the art of listening and responding to environmental conditions in solo and ensemble situations.”

The Deep Listening Band, which included Oliveros, David Gamper (1947–2011) and Stuart Dempster, specialized in performing and recording in resonant or reverberant spaces such as caves, cathedrals and huge underground cisterns.

And “sonic awareness”:

Practice of the theory creates “complex sound masses possessing a strong tonal center”, as focal attention creates tonality and the global attention creates masses of sound, flexible timbre, attack, duration, intensity, and sometimes pitch, as well as untraditional times and spaces for performance such as requiring extended hours or environmental settings. The theory promotes easily created sounds such as vocal ones, and “says that music should be for everyone anywhere.”

It’s intriguing how upon hearing something layered deep, resonant and powerful, that all your senses expand to encompass this new experience, and your whole being seems — for the moment — to become that which you hear.

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