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Photo by Elise Ryerson
[[ May 31 - June 3, Meridian Gallery, San Francisco ]]
Happy Birthday Pauline Oliveros
Composer, performer, accordion player, electronic music pioneer, educator, Deep Listener. On the occasion of her 70th birthday this month, the Meridian Gallery in San Francisco will present a three-day retrospective of her music.
It was there in San Francisco in the early '60s that she worked with Morton Subotnick, Ramon Sender, and others at the San Francisco Tape Music Center, one of the country's first centers for experimental music.
In fact, Oliveros, Subotnick, and Sender supported the San Francisco Tape Music Center with funds from their own pockets. They divided the work so each would handle the administrative duties for a one-third of the time, as Subotnick recalls. "Then it was her turn to take over, and it was like," he pauses and lets out an audible sigh, chuckling at the memory, "it was like we'd been hit by a cyclone. I mean the next thing we knew we had a Cage / Tudor festival, and the local news came out and interviewed us, and we had standing room only!"
'Tudorfest', as the six-day festival was called, featured the work of John Cage along with collaborations between David Tudor and Oliveros, with performances by Tudor, Alvin Lucier, and Toshi Ichiyanagi . "Probably the festival that she did was the biggest single thing that we ever did," says Subotnick.
In the mid-'60s, with a Rockefeller Foundation grant, the Tape Center moved across the bay to Mills College, in Oakland. Oliveros stayed on a for year as director of the new center and then moved on to a faculty position at the University of California at San Diego, where she remained for fourteen years before moving to upstate New York. Since then, she's taught at Oberlin College, Mills College (again), and she is now Research Professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in Troy, New York.
What does she teach? Music. Living. Interacting. She developed a concept that she calls 'Deep Listening'. She has written:
"Deep Listening is a practice that I have created and taught over many years of exploration and discovery ... Listening is the heart of my profession as a musician and composer. Listening connects me with the vital spirit of being ... Hearing is an involuntary physical act that happens through our primary sense organ when sound waves impinge upon the ear. Everyone with healthy ears can hear. Listening takes cultivation and evolves through one's lifetime."
In 1988, she formed the Deep Listening Band with Stuart Dempster, trombone, and David Gamper, keyboards, after recording 'Deep Listening', a New Albion CD, in a two-million gallon underground rainwater tank on an old Washington state military base. The Deep Listening Band has since released seven CDs, often with guest artists, always with unusual instruments and the Expanded Instrument System, an electronic processing system that expands and processes the sounds of the instruments.
Performing concerts, at different times solo, or with the Deep Listening Band, or with a wide variety of musicians, is a continual activity. She teaches Deep Listening at a retreat every summer. She runs the Pauline Oliveros Foundation, based in Kingston, New York, which supports the work of other composers. She explores the use of new technologies in music. But it's not just that she has contributed to people's careers. She has contributed to people's lives. As Morton Subotnick says, "Her presence, her persona, is really very unique and very unusual ... It's not just the music. There's nobody like Pauline."