Tribute to Pauline Oliveros
On September 13, 1970, a young composer named Pauline Oliveros (1932-2016) published in The New York Times an article entitled “And Don't Call Them 'Lady' Composers”, Ms. Oliveros addressed an unasked yet (tellingly so) critical question: “Why have there been no ‘great’ women composers?” Her argument is guided by a questioning of critical, historiographic and technical discourse. Oliveros explained how the cult of innovation constructs figures of "greatness," and to what extent society promotes the virilization of these discursive models.
By Susan Campos - Fonseca
The legacy of Pauline Oliveros is underlined by non-normativity, her work at the Tape Music Center in San Francisco, and the consolidation of her "deep listening" composition method materialized in the Deep Listening Institute of New York. How, based on these terms, is a method of composition of experimental sounds possible? There are several texts of the author, organized by Deep Listening publications, available: "1. All Four "(1998)," 2. Breaking Boundaries "(1996)," 3. Dissolving Your Ear Plugs "(2006)," 4. Ear Rings "(1995)," 5. Earth Ears: A Sonic Ritual "(1989)," 6. The Inner / Outer Sound Matrix "(2007)," 7. The Witness "(1989)," 8. Wind Horse "(1989). Other texts, such as Deep Listening: A Composer's Sound Practice are like seeds that composers saw on their path: not will grow, path unfollowed, and perhaps spontaneously sprouting seeds and laying tracks of their own, leading to new pastures or forests, paths opened by Pauline Oliveros.
This invitation of Pauline Oliveros was undertaken by a group of composers who set out to explore this forest path, responding the III Encuentro sobre estudios sonoros y creación experimental call (III Encounter on sound studies and experimental creation) of the University of Costa Rica. The result is an EP produced in collaboration with the Brooklyn based, independent record label Irreverence Group Music under my curatorship.
The curatorship of the album was realized studying how these composers thought about the sound experimentation, the deep listening proposed by Pauline Oliveros. Technology, crafts, space architecture, sound design, digital and analog were thought from feminism, in their proposals of electronic music, electroacoustic, ambient, soundscape and sound art, weaving a dialogue with the possibility of deep listening.
Finally, the question, our first question, “where are the great women composers?” proves another provocation: why we need women composers in the terms of greatness built by/for the patriarchy and the western canon? Terms based on the colonizing system of listening that is "music," as a model imposed by nineteenth-century "universalisms" and their methods of disciplining the body, time and space. Terms based on the hierarchy of the normative institutions of the national states, their discourses on great neoliberal leaders, dictators, and presidents, whose sound counterparts are the "great composers.”
Susan Campos-Fonseca, PhD.
Musicologist & composer