Sounding the Margins: Program Notes

Concert 2

Sound Fishes (1992)

"Listening for what has not yet sounded, like a fisherman waiting for a nibble or a bite. Pull the sound out of the air like a fisherman catching a fish, sensing its size and energy – when you hear. When you hear the sound, play it. Move to another location if there are no nibbles or bites. There are sounds in the air like sounds in the water. When the water is clear, you might hear the sounds."

Trio for Flute, Piano and Page Turner

Like the Variations for Sextet, Oliveros' Trio for Flute, Piano and Page Turner is a conventionally notated "traditional" work which explores various aspects of timbre and gesture. However, the Trio is also a pivotal work in Oliveros' style: it is her last composition in which pitch remained "tightly notated," while introducing theatrical elements by including the page turner as an active ensemble participant. Musically, Oliveros was "concerned with the flute and piano mixtures, hoping at times to fool the ear as to which was the predominant timbre and to alter timbres by masking attacks and figurations." The role of the page turner is also uniquely expanded in this composition: besides turning pages, the page turner silently depresses keys for the pianist in order to form resulting harmonics. Also, in one visually remarkable moment, the pianist and page turner exchange roles.

Quintuplets Play Pen: Homage to Ruth Crawford Seeger (2001)

Quintuplets Play Pen: Homage to Ruth Crawford was commissioned by Sarah Cahill in 2001. It is very unique in recent works of Oliveros' in that it abandons her "usual meditative" style. Instead she emulates some of the interesting polyrhythmic ideas that were employed by Ruth Crawford.

Portrait of Tom Bickley (2000)

Portrait of Tom Bickley is one specific version of the "Portrait of" series. Oliveros enters the performer's astrological and instrument or voice information into a computer program (developed in 1987 with the assistance of Peter Ward and funded by the National Endowment for the Arts). The software generates sets of pitches for that performer. The performer renders a self-portrait using the pitch sets and a Portrait mandala. The mandala guides the performer through performing about aspects of life such as "dream" and "birth." Each performance begins and ends with "Stillness/Listen." The performer worked closely with Les Stuck at Mills College to create accompaniment and processing for sections of the mandala using Max/MSP software. Portraits have been created for many soloists and ensembles, including Malcolm Goldstein, Tom Buckner, and the Quintet of the Americas.

"Jaga Warrior's Tribute" fromNjinga the Queen King; The Return a Warrior (1993)

Terry Baruti, an instructor of Kongolese drumming at Mills College and director of the noted Capoeira Angola group Adigun Sipho; and Lorraine Bowser, director of the Kongolese dance organization Bana Ya Kongo will perform "Jaga Warrior's Tribute" from Njinga The Queen King; The Return of a Warrior, recreating their performance with members of their companies at Mills College in December of 1998. Njinga the Queen King, a play with Music and Pageantry, written and directed by Ione with sound design and original music by Pauline Oliveros and traditional music by the Njinga Players, premiered in 1993 at BAM'S Next Wave Festival. Njinga Mbandi was the 17th Century ruler of Ndongo – the country that is now Angola – for 40 years and is now considered to be that country's primary freedom fighter.

13 changes (1986)

13 changes was composed for violinist Malcolm Goldstein. One of Oliveros' numerous intuitive scores; the directions provide a series of images, some of them rather whimsical (for example the eighth change, "Rollicking monkeys landing on mars"), for the musicians to explore sonically.

Tuning Meditation (1971, 1980)

The Tuning Meditation is stylistically similar to Oliveros' seminal Sonic Meditations (1971, 1973). These meditation works characteristically do not require any special performance preparations or special musical training, and are intended to be performed over a long period of time. The "Tuning Meditation" exists in several versions: published versions exist online as the second movement in Four Meditations for Orchestra, and in printed form in the Deep Listening Pieces collection. Briefly, the performance directions consist of participants singing a long tone from imagination and tuning to someone else's long tone. Crow's Nest (1980), a variation on the "Tuning Meditation," was a particularly remarkable performance of the "Tuning Meditation" as it was presented in the spiraled galleries of the Guggenheim Museum with a complement of one hundred singers.

Sonic Meditations (1971, 1973)

The Sonic Meditations are the earliest examples of Oliveros' most significant and original contributions to music literature – the meditation pieces. Oliveros' aesthetic emphasizes total freedom from such traditional compositional parameters as pitch, rhythm, style, technique, form, or the composer's "craft." Instead, each performance is allowed to evolve through a commitment to attention and a philosophy she terms "listening," first described in the preface to the Sonic Meditations collection. Among the most progressive aspects of "listening" within these works include the perception of acoustic phenomena, the verbal expression of subjective impressions, and the perception of how sounds affect the body.

The first Sonic Meditations were developed in 1970 in conjunction with the [women's] group, an association of women at the University of California at San Diego who shared an interest in free improvisation.

Concert 1 | Concert 3 | Potluck Picnic

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