Rest In Peace, Pauline Oliveros

It seems like there could be no more 2016 of a way to discover the career of a past artist than through an obituary. But also from this year that has felt to have more unprecedented deaths within the music industry than any of memory, I don’t even need to begin to list them all, finding something beautiful from within the darkness seems like the best way to honor the memory of those who have left us. On November 24, Pauline Oliveros passed away aged 84 at her home in upstate New York, and, other than an extensive obituary in the New York Times (to which Oliveros was an occasional contributor), and a few tweets from figures within the electronic music world who realize the influence of her work on their own (i.e. not enough), her passing went mostly un-noticed by the music media at large. It was one of these tweets led me to the discovery of Oliveros’ body of work. Oliveros was a pioneering electronic musician who began working with prototype synthesizers during the very early 1960s. Oliveros is single-handedly credited for the invention of ‘Deep Listening’, long droning compositions designed to tap a listener into a heightened state for their senses. Her magnum opus, Bye, Bye, Butterfly, is extremely primitive by today’s standards, the piece sounds mostly like sound effects from early science-fiction in comparison to the electronic music of today, but was extremely forward thinking when it was recorded in 1965. Oliveros later career was focused on improvisation, touring with a show that incorporated a band of music playing electronic instrument and Oliveros improvising with her instrument of choice the Accordion. Oliveros was also responsible for the formation of the Deep Listening Institute in her later years, who focused on providing research and development of software for improvising music, including most prominently a piece of software to help children with disabilities learn to express themselves through improvisation. Pauline Oliveros was an extraordinary human and musician, and it is that beautiful/horrible double-edged sword that you learn about these artists in the worst way possible.

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