Saturday: Ars Subtilior #8

I first became aware of Pauline Oliveros my first year in college (way back in 1993!). The music library at the university I attended my freshman year (U of I in Champaign-Urbana) had an extensive collection of LPs and scores by contemporary composers. This was the first time I had unlimited access to that kind of music. I don’t know how I came across her record. I think I was just flipping through the school’s massive collection and was struck by there being a woman on the cover and that she played accordion. To me, neither of these things were in line with classical music, and being the self-proclaimed black sheep wherever I go, I naturally gravitated to it. Unfortunately, I had so much studying and practicing of “standard repertoire” to do for the remainder of my education, I was unable to explore more of her music, but she was always in the back of my musical mind. It wasn’t until a decade later that I got to see her perform live as part of a sound installation in a parking garage in Santa Monica, California. She was already 72 years old at the time, eyes closed, playing accordion intently, drawing in everyone awkwardly standing around her. I was too shy to talk to her then but almost another decade later I was able to see her speak on a panel at the 80th birthday celebration of Alvin Lucier at Wesleyan University. I made a point of approaching her afterwards and telling her how much I appreciated her work. I had planned to take a trip to Troy, NY to visit her where she taught and hopefully play for her, but it never happened and sadly, Pauline Oliveros passed away at age 84 last November.

So what was so amazing about Pauline you might ask? Well, not only was she a pioneer in experimental electronic music, she coined the term “Deep Listening,” which is almost a lifestyle for some people.  She even developed a new musical theory of “sonic awareness.” This awareness is described as “the ability to consciously focus attention upon environmental and musical sound”, requiring “continual alertness and an inclination to be always listening.” This is something that I have continually practiced through my improvisations and performances of experimental music and what I’ve strived to bring to events I curate. I’m not sure running across Pauline’s LP back in 1993 planted that seed, but I’d like to think that it did. 

Saturday’s concert will begin with Oliveros’ Sonic Meditation, “Sonic Rorschach” followed by a performance by the MusicWorks Collective of Catherine Lamb’s “noise/tone (emergence patterns).” Oliveros’ work will draw listeners’ attention to a finite point after being deluged (or aurally massaged) by white noise for 30 minutes and then Cat’s piece will wallow in the overtones of 60 hz, the fundamental frequency of the ever present electronic hum of the modern world. A performance by my duo, Mem1, will bring these elements to a culmination with an improvisation with cello and electronics, steeped in a practice of intimate listening that we have developed over the last 13 years together.

–Laura Cetilia is a CMW resident musician and curator of the Ars Subtilior series

Please join us for this performance:
Saturday, February 4 at 8pm
159 Sutton Street, Providence