Queer, Tejana Electronic Music Pioneer Pauline Oliveros Profiled In New Doc


The feature-length documentary Deep Listening: The Story of Pauline Oliveros by filmmaker Daniel Weintraub is currently being crowdfunded—the campaign ends December 17—for the post-production phase of the project. Oliveros was at first a friend and mentor to Weintraub before the relationship turned collaborative with the Deep Listening film, the production of which began three years ago.

Oliveros, who passed away last fall at the age of 84, was an esteemed avant-garde composer and a pioneering figure in electronic music. An openly queer tejana born in Houston, she developed the concept of Deep Listening, which focuses on the healing, meditative facets of sound.

Coming from a musical lineage—with instruction from the matriarchs in her family—Oliveros was a genius accordionist who would eventually absorb her fascination with ambient nature sounds into her work. She studied composition at San Francisco State College in the 1950s, and became the first director of the Tape Music Center at Mills College in the 1960s.

Oliveros counted John Cage and Terry Riley as both influences and peers, initially collaborating with Riley during her college years. She first came to notice within contemporary music for Sonic Meditations, a body of work incorporating environmental sounds into music production—like bouncing balls against the wall and recording it on a microphone for Bye Bye, Butterfly, an electronic music piece first conceived in the 1950s! This paved the way for her Deep Listening achievements, which is exemplified in 30 compositions realized from 1971 to 1990. Although the Center for Deep Listening at Rensselaer (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where she served as Distinguished Research Professor of Music in Arts) ensures that Oliveros’ legacy remains alive, hopefully the funding for Weintraub’s documentary will be fulfilled, allowing the world to better itself by learning about Oliveros and embracing her philosophy of Deep Listening.


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