A Sounding Happens: Pauline Oliveros, Expanded Consciousness and Healing

Research —

‘A Sounding Happens: Pauline Oliveros, Expanded Consciousness and Healing’ in Soundscape: The Journal of Acoustic Ecology, Vol 16 2017, co-authored with Edward Shanken. Read introductory excerpt below:

“A sounding happens. The sound continues or is followed or joined by another sound. The trajectory of sounding gradually constitutes a long line of soundings that is perceived as a shape or form that is music. Within that trajectory are myriad decisions that are intuited and join to refer back to the initial sounding and forward to the ending sound.” – Pauline Oliveros

Our essay is written with the deepest (pun intended) respect for the life and work of Pauline Oliveros. We draw on her performances, recordings and writings, those of her numerous collaborators and others who write so well about her, and on our own experiences. By writing together, by generating a dialogue, or, perhaps better, by performing an improvisation around Pauline’s influence “a sounding happens.” Our metalogue of multiple voices, fragments of situations, and historical resonances parallels and reveals the subjective, experiential and embodied modes of knowing and healing that Oliveros’ work ultimately achieves and teaches. As in publications by Oliveros and her collaborator Ione, we blend methods of analysis and intuition through different modes of writing. This format is designed to encourage the reader to allow connections and continuities to emerge. Mirroring the participa- tory role of the audience in many of Oliveros’ compositions, your performance as a reader plays an integral role in producing meaning out of our words. Please listen and sound with us!

“Listening to this space I sound the space. Listening to the energy of all who are present I sound this energy. Listening to my listening and your listening I make music here and now with the assistance of all that there is. I dedicate this music to a world where peace is more exciting than war.” –Pauline Oliveros

Our process led us repeatedly to Oliveros’ goal of expanding consciousness. Our meditations converged on exploring what that actually means and where it may take us in the future. It is no small feat to bridge such apparently contradictory worlds as technology and intuition, what we call “techno-intuition”. Allowing rational and supra-rational forms of knowledge to occupy the same space is by its very nature open to criticism from one side or the other. Yet, as a musician, Oliveros grounds these ideas and apparent contradictions in practical work, the practice of making music in the moment and the importance of the body in this process. She writes:

“I consider my task to be to increase my conscious aware- ness as much as possible each day of my life and respect what the body signals to me through sensations and feelings just as much as what my verbal mind tells me through thoughts and intuitions. Synthesis and integration of all of these modes of perception and knowing empowers my musical being in the world.” –Pauline Oliveros

Following her lead, we embrace her synthetic and integrated model of creating knowledge. Doing so provoked us to seriously investigate the following topics: altered states of consciousness, telepathy and telematics, the artist as shaman, healing, and deep listening for environmental transformation.