Pauline Oliveros

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In memoriam: In addition to being an internationally acclaimed composer, performer, humanitarian and a leading pioneer in American music, Pauline Oliveros was lab founder Doug Van Nort’s mentor, friend and collaborator. As such she had a profound impact on the activities and focus of the DisPerSion Lab.

For decades Pauline explored sound — forging new ground for herself and others. Through improvisation, electronic music, ritual, teaching and meditation shecreated a body of work with such breadth of vision that it profoundly effects those who experience it and eludes many who try to write about it. “On some level, music, sound consciousness and religion are all one, and she would seem to be very close to that level,” stated John Rockwell.

Oliveros was honored with awards, grants and concerts internationally. Whether performing at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., in an underground cavern or in the studios of a West German radio station, Oliveros’ commitment to interaction with the moment was unchanged. She could make the sound of a sweeping siren into another instrument of the ensemble.

Through Deep Listening Pieces and earlier Sonic Meditations, Oliveros introduced the concept of incorporating all environmental sounds into musical performance. To make a pleasurable experience of this requires focused concentration, skilled musicianship and strong improvisational skills, which were the hallmarks of Oliveros’ form.

In performance, Oliveros used an accordion which had been re-tuned in two different systems of her just intonation in addition to electronics to alter the sound of the accordion and to explore the individual characteristics of each room.

Pauline Oliveros built a loyal following through her concerts, recordings, publications and musical compositions that she had written for soloists and ensembles in music, dance, theater and inter-arts companies. She also provided leadership within the music community from her early years as the first director of the San Francisco Tape Music Center  (now the Center for Contemporary Music at Mills College), director of the Center for Music Experiment during her 14 year tenure as professor of music at the University of California at San Diego to acting in an advisory capacity for organizations such as The National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council for the Arts and many private foundations. She last served as Distinguished Research Professor of Music at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Darius Milhaud Composer in Residence at Mills College. Oliveros was vocal about representing the needs of individual artists, about the need for diversity and experimentation in the arts, and promoting cooperation and good will among people.


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