Oliveros, Pauline

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Oliveros, Pauline

Pauline Oliveros, 1932–2016, American composer and musician, b. Houston, Tex., studied Univ. of Houston, San Francisco State College (B.A., 1957). She began playing the accordion as a child, and it remained her primary instrument. In the 1960s she experimented with electronic music and improvisation, creating such works as Bye Bye Butterfly (1965). She also was a founder (1962) of the San Francisco Tape Music Center, becoming its director when it moved (1966) to Mills College. Focusing more on improvisation in the 1970s, she sought to engage a wider variety of listeners, incorporated elements from Native American rituals and Eastern religions in her music, and held retreats to share her philosophy. She taught at the Univ. of California, San Diego, from 1967 to 1981, when she moved to Kingston, N.Y., and established (1985) a foundation; it eventually became part of the Center for Deep Listening at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where she was a professor from 2001. In 1988 Oliveros, a trombonist, and a vocalist created drone-based improvisations in a deep cistern with extraordinary resonance. The performance, released as Deep Listening (1989), contributed to her "Deep Listening" theory, in which the listener hears both the music and sounds around and within, mingling hearing and listening in a more profound experience. She subsequently formed a trio, the Deep Listening Band, and later gave lectures, workshops, and retreats worldwide; she continued to compose, perform, and lecture into her 80s. The Nubian Word for Flowers, an opera nearly finished when she died, debuted (2017) after collaborators completed it; it explores Nubian culture's interaction with colonialism and features acoustic and electronic sound, improvisation, and singing.

See her The Roots of the Moment: Collected Writings 1980–1996 (1998), Deep Listening: A Composer's Sound Practice (2005), and Sounding the Margins: Collected Writings 1992–2009 (2010); studies by H. Von Gunden (1983), M. Mockus (2007), D. W. Bernstein, ed. (2008), and M. Buzzarte and T. Bickley, ed. (2012).

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