19 Oliveros

Pauline Oliveros (b. 1932) is an innovator of electronic and experimental music, particularly with tape music. She is well known for compositions involving the use of analog electronics and tape delay such as Alien Bog and Bye Bye Butterfly. She is an advocate for women composers and for "Deep Listening," which she views as part of a holistic conception of human existence.

"Some Sound Observations" is a stream-of-consciousness documentation of Oliveros's relationship with sound. She describes the sounds she hears, often describing them as bodily sensations. She claims to feel low frequency vibrations in her stomach and sympathetic vibrations in her arm which is leaning on the desk. She explains that some insects have ears in their legs or abdomen. She describes her ears after hearing Bob Ashley's Wolfman as feeling "like caves," and after performing John Cage's Atlas Eclipticalis as feeling "like canyons."

She explains that certain people can become attuned to hearing minute sounds. She tells of a young man working with jet engines who began to hear small tinklings within the engines, certain people who can hear air molecules colliding at 3000 Hz (where the human ear is most sensitive), and how her accordion teacher taught her to hear combination tones. She wonders what microbes can hear.

The article is more an experience than something that can be summarized. In some ways it is helpful to read about the experiences of someone whose listening experiences are an integral part of her life, but at the same time the article provides little advice on how to have similar experiences. It would be more interesting if Oliveros described her experience and then told the reader how to have similar experiences so that we could better understand listening as part of a holistic conception of our existence.


The Deep Listening Institute

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