in 1957, Pauline Oliveros (B.A., '57) put
her newfangled tape recorder in her apartment window and began recording.
What she heard on the playback astounded her—so much sound that
she had missed.
Today at 75, Oliveros is famed for her "Deep Listening" philosophy,
which turns composing into an improvisational, meditative experience.
The lessons she gathered with SF State College Professor Robert Erickson
are never far from her mind.
"The first session I had with him, I was ecstatic," says Oliveros,
who heads the Deep Listening Foundation in Kingston, New York, and teaches
at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. "You could feel the support,
and he understood how to move you along without interfering with what
you were doing. He told us to improvise our way forward to get unstuck.
And that was good advice."
Oliveros has been piled with laurels, including a retrospective at Washington,
D.C.'s, Kennedy Center. But her career shows no signs of slowing: Her
1987 work "Lion's Tale" has just been reissued, and a box
set of her 1950's electronic music is in the works.
The SF State community that supported those early works is still present
in Oliveros' life. She bonded with fellow avant-garde musicians Terry
Riley (B.A., '57) and Stuart Dempster
(B.A., '58; M.A., '67) in Wendell Otey's Composers' Workshop, where
Oliveros was one of just two women.
"Women simply weren't viewed as composers then," Oliveros
remembers, "but Dr. Otey was supportive." Oliveros, Riley
and others continued to experiment with taped sound, eventually founding
the San Francisco Tape Music Center at the SF Music Conservatory, which
became the Center for Contemporary Music at Mills College.
Oliveros' latest investigations are more computer-age. She's been working
with Internet connections that allow her ensemble at the Rensselaer
Polytechnic Institute and musicians on the West Coast to occupy the
same "sonic space" from afar.
The rapid pace of technology doesn't trouble Oliveros. "I just
have to keep learning," she says. "And I just keep listening.
I try to practice what I preach, which is listening to everything all
To listen: www.newalbion.com/artists/oliverosp