It would be remiss of me to go much further in my ‘Friday Favourites’ segment without talking about Pauline Oliveros and her Deep Listening practice. I discovered Oliveros’ work relatively recently at an ~exchange concert. At the end of the concert, all the performers came together to play Sound Fishes…it was wonderful. I felt so immersed in the sounds around me; the air felt like it was buzzing.
The majority of Oliveros’ works are not written with conventional notation. Instead, she writes text scores with sets of instructions aimed at getting everyone involved to listen. Really listen. Listen deeply.
Deep Listening is the core idea of her work. It means to listen with attention, rather than just listen in our normal way where we hear everything but don’t really listen to anything. For example, I think most people would say that the room I’m in right now is very quiet. But if I stop, close my eyes and listen (really listen) I can hear the soft, pulsing hum and quiet clicks of my laptop mixing with the drone of the bathroom fan, the bass glissandi of cars driving past and the sudden rhythmic sounds of the family next door talking, a child coughing, a dog barking… When you really allow yourself to listen, the sounds around you come alive and it can be a meditative experience. If you’d like, you could close your eyes, give it a go now and share what you experience in the comments …
When you’ve done that, have a listen to Oliveros talking about the origin of her Deep Listening practice:
This has only been a brief discussion of Deep Listening. I could talk about it for much, much longer (my Masters essay was on this subject) and you will probably hear me discuss Oliveros and her Deep Listening practice again. I find her way of engaging with sound incredibly inspiring and it informs much of my composition process. If you’re interested, I’d encourage you to have a look around and listen to some of her pieces (and remember, really listen). A good starting point would be this version of Tuning Meditation.
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