Thursday, May 31, 2012

Oliveros at 80

A moment, on her birthday, to recognize the breadth of Pauline Oliveros's work and the seriousness of her challenges to the received practice of composition:

from the early work in the studio, in particular that extraordinary series of works realized in real time to the life-long advocacy for the appropriate uses of technologies, both archaic and new, a composer as comfortable with the latest digital sound enhancers as with a conch shell;

the theatre pieces, which range from the vaudevillian to the ritual (and often making no distinction between the two: usefully reminding us that many clowns are sacred and many rituals are, usefully, hilarious);

the use of physical spaces as instruments and the exploration of those spaces as a composed task to performers (In Memoriam Nikola Tesla, Cosmic Engineer); 

the ease of her negotiation between composition and improvisation, working with trained musicians and with heretofore non-musicians, as well as an ease with the format of a performance, not only in a concert hall, but out of doors, not only in a concert format, but in workshops and street festivals;

her fundamental challenge to the notion of a score as form and function, indeed to the entire masterpiece conception of scored composition, posed through the sonic meditation, her use of images (among them mandalas, electronic circuitry diagrams, and I Ching hexagrams) which do not resolve to linear presentations conventional to musical scores, and her advocacy for oral (in addition to written) transmission (I believe that the feminist dimension here is not negligible);

her invention of an alternative career path for the contemporary composer, negotiating institutions, often inventing her own:  first in a cooperative studio and then her rise, with only modest traveling papers, to tenure and full professorship in one of the more crusty and conspiratorial of musical-academic establishments, only to take the risk of giving it up for a life as an independent composer, creating her own foundation, coming back to the academy from time to time, but only on her own terms;

and yes, her life-long love affair with the accordion, an instrument which has too often faced music-institutional prejudice and has become an evolving technology for Oliveros, first getting re-tuned, in a gentle just intonation, and more recently digitized, and often fiercely so.

I'm prepared to be astonished by Pauline's music for the next 80 years!


Kalvos said...

I posted the link to this on Facebook. It's doubtless the very best birthday celebration of Pauline that I've read. We first met when she gave a lecture or seminar at Douglass College ... I can't remember what it was called, but I remember being transformed. We've crossed paths many times over the years. Her generosity is extraordinary, which many people miss.

Thanks agian for this.


Charles Shere said...

One of my favorite memories: Stumbling while getting out of a bus, in New York City, a number of years ago, on a rare visit to that city, and falling into Pauline's arms.

Pauline: Charles! What a surprise! How nice to see you!

I hadn't seen her in years.