Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Deep Listening

Pauline Oliveros: Deep Listening. Posted by Hello

Women's History Month continues at HurdAudio with a deep listen to Pauline Oliveros' 1988 work with Stuart Dempster and Panaiotis recorded inside an empty cistern in Washington state that once held two million gallons of water. The compositions on Deep Listening for accordion, voice, conch shell, metal pieces, trombone, didjeridu, garden hose, whistling and metal pipes explore the 45-second reverb time found within this incredible space.

"Lear" is, in my mind, the most astonishing Pauline Oliveros composition/experience I've ever heard. For nearly half an hour this fantastic drone texture unfolds as these long, sustained tones fold back in on themselves. One can feel the awe of this enormous space as sound waves reflect into a rich, resonant sonic bath. You can almost trace the trajectory of a single trombone note as it travels and transforms into a space-filling entity. Each instrument's utterance seems to grow into something large before one's ears. Experiencing "Lear" is like soaking in the amplification of physical sound properties.

"Suiren" opens with a vocal tone accompanied by a mysterious high pitch (probably originating from a whistled tone). New tones and sound events are added slowly and carefully to keep the overall sound from growing too quickly. Unexpected interactions between events initiated almost 45-seconds apart illuminate some surprising harmonic qualities. Sometimes these sound like a slowed down version of Tuvan throat singing as different overtones sweep in and out of focus. The image of Pauline Oliveros gently singing into a vast abyss forms in my imagination.

"Ione" begins with a low trombone tone and an even lower accordion tone that soon follows it into this other-worldly environment. As each uttered sonic event takes on a long lifespan notes are carefully selected and sparingly offered. Melodic lines are rarely more than three notes and even those are given plenty of room to roll around for a few minutes. Listening is equally stretched and spaced out.

"Nike" explores unpitched, percussive events within this space. Plosives transform into a wind texture as an enharmonic white noise drone begins to form like a haze. Singing tones eventually introduce harmony into the fog. Then some loud trombone utterances all but burn off the fog as clanging metal pipes maintain overall compositional continuity within this texture. As the loud tones fade out the sound of scraping metal on metal are accompanied by short whistled lines. The blasting trombone texture then returns to build up the sound for the long reverb tail that forms the coda of this composition.

Deep Listening is an incredible listening experience. The rich textures invite one to hear and experience some fundamental properties of sound. It's a set of improvisations/compositions that draws my ears into a primal, active listening state and suggests new ways to listen to and experience other musics.

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