Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pauline Oliveros (1932)

(Huston, May 30th, 1932)

Pauline Oliveros was born in Texas surrounded by natural environment's sounds; when listening to the radio, she loved the static whistle emitted by the device while changing station. Her mother and grandmother were piano teachers; in 1942 they offered her an accordion, that will follow her all her life, and a hunting horn.In 1953 she gets her first tape recorder and composes some tracks with it:

“I would record acoustic sounds using cardboard tubes as filters. I’d put a microphone at one end of a cardboard tube and a sound source at the other. I used different sized tubes to get different filter characteristics. Sometimes I’d clamp a sound source to the wall so the wall would act as a resonator and then record it at 3 1/2 or 7 1/2 inches per second and use the hand winding to vary the speed. I used a bathtub as a reverberation chamber”

At the end of the Fifties she moves from Houston to San Francisco where she enrolls in State University. In California she meets Terry Riley and Loren Rush, fellows at Berkeley, with whom she realizes some improvising sessions. San Francisco's atmosphere in the Sixties really was electric: with Morton Subotnik, Ramon Sender and Riley she organizes "Sonics", a series of concerts based on improvisation held in the conservatory's garret. In 1962 the group changes location: the San Francisco Tape Center opens its doors and Pauline will direct it from 1966 to 1967. The Tape Center, at the beginning equipped with modest tools (tape recorders and a tape-loop and delay system prototype created by Pauline), soon becomes the meeting point for all artists and technicians interested in electronic music's expression. Here, Don Buchla will develop his Buchla Box.
Considered one of the pioneers of tape delay and sequencer, Pauline always aimed her research to the possibility of being in contact with the sound, move it and control it live. Performance, audience and environment involvement are a part of Pauline's musical research.
In the Eighties she creates her instrument, the EIS (Expanded Instrument System) and realizes numerous drone experiments: at New York's Guggenheim Museum she places 100 singers on the museum's internal spiral giving them very little instructions on how they should sing. The architecture of the building influenced the performance. In 1982 she hires a philharmonic orchestra (23 elements) and voices: she reaches the rhythmic and minimalist result popularized by Philip Glass and Steve Reich. In 1988, equipped with trombone, didjeridoo, accordion, shells, voices and steel pieces she spends five hours in a huge dismissed and buried cistern with Stuart Dempster and Panaiotist. In Fort Worden's Cistern Chapel, with it's 45 seconds of reverberation, the legendary Deep Listening Band is born: their subterranean soundscapes are truly influenced by spaces. From these experiences the Deep Listening is born: this is a new musical theory, developed by Pauline Oliveiros in the Nineties and contemplating the integration of environmental sounds in the musical performance. The main objective of Deep Listening is to listen to the sound as it is, nothing more and nothing less. Deep Listening and Sonic Meditation (already famous in the Seventies) owe a lot to Zen philosophy: when perceived and perceiver are separated, the ego goes on in its differentiating role forbidding to full perception's creativity to emerge. The non-differentiation principle, already used by Cage, influences Oliveros' performances and attempts to break the distinction between perceived and perceiver. The merged interpretation of the two subjects-objects will generate harmony and creativity.
A key concept of Pauline Oliveros' mentality is the idea of creativity as necessary and fundamental for human dignity. Help others to be creative is one of the fundamental roles of the artist: aiming to help young artists she creates the Pauline Oiveiros Foundation.
Through the years she taught in several american universities (today she is a researcher and professor at Mills College), wrote numerous books on sound perception and on her artistic theories. She ceaselessly realizes concerts and performs.

"I have listened to many refrigerators. There is often a flickering between the sixth and seventh harmonic. Once, while in the process of drinking ouzo ... a refrigerator sent its harmonics out to surround my head with circles, ellipses and figure-eights". Pauline Oliveros

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