Sunday, April 18, 2010

Pauline Oliveros/ Stewart Dempster/ Panaiotis - Deep Listening

New Albion, 1989

Pauline Oliveros is an incredible talented musician who seeks to redefine music theory with her theories of "deep listening" and "sonic awareness" From wikipedia:

Oliveros coined the term "Deep Listening" in 1991,[1] a term which she then applied to her group The Deep Listening Band and to the Deep Listening program of Deep Listening Institute, Ltd. (formerly The Pauline Oliveros Foundation, founded in 1985). The Deep Listening program includes annual listening retreats in Europe, New Mexico and in upstate New York, as well as apprenticeship and certification programs. The Deep Listening Band, which includes Oliveros, David Gamper, and Stuart Dempster, specializes in performing and recording in resonant or reverberant spaces such as caves, cathedrals and huge underground cisterns. They have collaborated with Ellen Fullman and her Long String Instrument, as well as countless other musicians, dancers, and performers.


Von Gunden (1983, p.105-107) describes and names a new musical theory, developed by Oliveros in the "Introductions" to her Sonic Meditations and in articles, called "sonic awareness." Sonic awareness is the ability to consciously focus attention upon environmental and musical sound, requiring continual alertness and an inclination towards always listening, and comparable to John Berger's concept of visual consciousness (as in his Ways of Seeing). "Sonic awareness is a synthesis of the psychology of consciousness, the physiology of the martial arts, and the sociology of the feminist movement" and describes two ways of processing information, focal attention and global attention, which may be represented by the dot and circle, respectively, of the mandala Oliveros commonly employs in composition. Later this representation was expanded, with the mandala quartered and the quarters representing actively making sound, imagining sound, listening to present sound, and remembering past sound. This model was used in the composition of her Sonic Meditations. 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."

Beyond such theoretical loftiness, Oliveros, on this album with Dempster, one the original (and continuing) members of the Deep Listening Band and an artist I know little about, Panaiotis, succeeds at creating deeply centered, meditative music that creates evocative, powerful, dynamic, and highly tonal drones that have perhaps been explored from non-academic standpoints by the drone underground of years past. Her music reminds me highly of Organum, and the solo and collaborative work of Barn Owl distinctly echoes her/their approach. Theoretically grounded but always engaging, the recording space, a cistern, creates a wholly organic reverb which to these ears is greatly distinguished from the electronic tools of basement droners, it is reverberation on another level, where the spirits of the acoustic space are revealed not unlike in Alvin Lucier's I Am Sitting In A Room, only these are more than experiments or if they are they are to be treated as successful at creating deep soulful music, rather than as sonic artifacts fit for a museum. Academic music which works in experience.


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