Pauline Oliveros: Creating, Performing And Listening

Pauline Oliveros: Creating, Performing And Listening

1. Defining a Legacy

FRANK J. OTERI: First of all, thanks so much for taking time from your extraordinarily busy schedule of performing and teaching to meet with me. This is a great honor. As I said before we started recording, I feel you are one of the major figures in contemporary American music. I know that’s somewhat of a loaded statement, because it raises a lot of questions like "What is important?” and “What is a legacy?" And so where I’d to begin with this is to ask you what you feel your most important contribution to music has been. And you can even tell me if you think that’s not a valid question.

PAULINE OLIVEROS: Well, I’m not terrifically interested in leaving so-called masterpieces, but I think that more important is the work that I have done to facilitate creativity in others as well as in myself. What I think about legacy is leaving behind ways of listening and ways of responding which leads to making music. So probably the work that I began in 1970 called Sonic Meditations is that direction.

FRANK J. OTERI: And do you feel that there is any one work that is somehow a summation of what you have done. A musical composition…- If people wanted an introduction to the music of Pauline Oliveros, what should they listen to first?

PAULINE OLIVEROS: Oh boy, that’s a hard one. That’s a difficult question because I’ve been around for a while. I have 5 decades of making music. Right now, for example, there are something like 4 or 5 CDs of my old electronic music from 1966 and 1967 reissued, and these are pieces that were never released before.

FRANK J. OTERI: Right, there’s a great disc on Pogus.

PAULINE OLIVEROS: Right, Pogus is one, and there’s another one coming out soon, and there’s one on Sub Rosa, and one on our own Deep Listening label which is coming out. That’s not old electronic music, that’s newer. So there’s a lot of action, there’s one on Paradigm, so there are several. Then there’s some MP3 stuff floating around too.

FRANK J. OTERI: Oh really? I didn’t find any of those yet.

PAULINE OLIVEROS: Well, go to and you’ll probably find it.

FRANK J. OTERI: O.K., I’ll do that. For years I’ve had an old LP on Columbia Odyssey featuring an early electronic work of yours. And there’s also a wonderful LP on Lovely Music for accordion and voice that they still haven’t put out on CD.

PAULINE OLIVEROS: Yeah, they haven’t reissued that.

FRANK J. OTERI: It’s a very nice record.

PAULINE OLIVEROS: I sent a message to them about that fairly recently, but I haven’t heard back.

FRANK J. OTERI: Well, maybe when we get this thing up on the Web they’ll do something about it.

PAULINE OLIVEROS: (laughs) Well, maybe so.

FRANK J. OTERI: Then of course, there’s been lots of stuff on CD now on all different of labels: New Albion, Mode, and Lovely Music.

PAULINE OLIVEROS: So what I would suggest to answer your question best I can is I have a Web site, and on my Web site there’s a discography. A lot of these records are out of print now, of course, but there’s stuff that keeps being renewed on new labels. Maybe looking into the discography to see what’s there, and also to tour around my Web site a bit. And then that would be a good introduction.

FRANK J. OTERI: Hopefully this interview will also serve for people as a means in. You mentioned the Sonic Meditations. We actually have a copy of the score of it in the American Music Center‘s library. To the best of my knowledge, there isn’t a recording.

PAULINE OLIVEROS: Not really. They are not necessarily recordable because there’s a whole experience that goes along with doing them. They are not necessarily intended to be concert pieces, even though I come from making concert music. But I turned the paradigm around by saying, “O.K., you make the music.”

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