‘I love you, I thank you and I hear you’ – Pauline Oliveros (and Daniel Weintraub)

Whilst researching for a piece, I came across the journey of this documentary about Pauline Oliveros (May 30, 1932 – November 24, 2016) which has been slowly fundraising and gestating into existence, directed by Daniel Weintraub.

The quote above in title of this piece is something said by Steve Buscemi at the end of his brief introduction to a live-streamed fundraising event from December 2021 (2nd embedded video below) which features some excellent live performances not least wonderful playing of an Oliveros piece ‘Thirteen Changes’ from her students Claire Chase, Susie Ibarra and Sanem Pirlar (Describing themselves as the musical daughters of Oliveros).

Above is a clip which I found in this interview from Ravelin Magazine about Weintraub’s making of the film and of course, about Pauline Oliveros herself and her journey in life and sound – and crucially – through her exploration of perception and sound which was the collected meditative and practical approach of ‘Deep Listening’ (and latterly developed by Pauline as ‘Quantum Listening‘) described also as being practises of ‘healing and transformation…‘.

Weintraub had completed 90% of the filming for the documentary when Oliveros passed in 2016 and in the interview explains he is still processing how it has impacted. At one point he states ‘Since Pauline passed, I have witnessed a worldwide effort by artists and institutions to keep Pauline’s spirit alive. The world needs her wisdom right now, and this film will be my contribution to that effort as well as a vehicle to help introduce many more people to Pauline and her work’. Its a fascinating interview that gives insight into her impact, as a composer, as an experimenter and thinker, mentioning among other things her early compositional work Sound Patterns (1961) which influenced Lygeti’s profound piece Lux Aeterna (1966).

As an explorer, Oliveros was courageous and driven by a need to expand and share worlds of discovery, reaching those often excluded or marginalised. As Weintraub relays some of the astounding things she pioneered (including he claims the earliest recorded free improvisations in 1957 and the first modular synthesiser built with Don Buchla). Yet that openness and willingness to build and be a bridge for others shines out as he explains ‘In AUMI, Pauline pioneered software that allows people with limited movement to perform music. Pauline’s final composition involved special instruments for the hearing impaired and included performers and a conductor who was deaf.’

Details for how to donate towards the completion of the film can be found here. I’ve written about Oliveros before, not least in the 3 part ‘From the Lightning Side‘ about women’s voices in music. The Deep Listening concept was a key strand of the essay ‘Engines of Transformation‘ which I wrote some time ago.

As per the section of ‘From the Lightning Side’ that engaged with Oliveros:

There is a depth to the space itself of ‘A Love Song’ as bodies of sound merge into the remnant echo of spaces and become each other, For anyone unaware, Pauline oliveros has uniquely shaped and impacted amazing spaces in human music, resonating in the cavernous and folding/unfolding the intricate shifting kaleidoscope of human voices.  For me, Oliveros’ contribution to music and its understanding is paramount, she has created and produced some of the most important avant garde pieces of music from the time the ‘minimalists’ were coming into prominence (La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Philip Glass et al).  Her work on Deep Listening (and latterly Quantum listening) is an available modulation to the activity of perceiving sound, an opening, a widening, a deepening of the availability of sonic material to be transformative.  She has also honed work on the drone to spectacular effect.  The piece ‘Lear’ is an unmissable drift through altered space.

Pauline’s brilliant 2005 essay Deep Listening A Composer’s Practise is available here, though of course, its always better to have the book.

It’s also noticeable that there was a vinyl re-issue of the original 1989 Deep Listening album with Oliveros stalwarts Stuart Dempster and Panaiotis in 2020, featuring extraordinarily-spaced improvisations (from which came Lear, referenced above. As well as a forthcoming reissue of another classic by Oliveros, more of which I am sure will inevitably follow. Watch this space, listen to this space, expand this space… as perception, as realisation, as (to quote Jodorowsky) ‘A lucidity without walls’.


Oliveros (Image from Ravelin Magazine attributed Daniel Weintraub).

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