Pauline Oliveros — Media

PDF

Save texts as PDFs and create your own custom mini-publication to download and print.

Generate Reader Download Reader

Pauline Oliveros

Pauline Oliveros, a pioneering electronic composer and accordionist, developed the theory and practice of “deep listening,” merging music, art, meditation, and technology.

Time Perspectives was my first tape piece, made in 1961 in my home studio for four-channel playback.1 Until then I had used the tape recorder only for recording. I pushed the stereo medium to quadraphonic; at the time that meant that two tapes had to be synchronized by hand and played back on two stereo tape machines with the outputs distributed to four speakers in the performance space.

The word media had not occurred to me yet. Marshall McLuhan’s “the medium is the message” was not stated until 1964.2 But to me stereo was already an old medium.

A community of friends in the 1960s that included Steve Reich, Terry Riley, Ramon Sender, Morton Subotnick, La Monte Young, myself, and others began repurposing devices like tape machines, oscillators, patch bays (mixers were not available), amplifiers, and so on to make tape and electronic music. None of these devices were originally intended to be instruments for making music. Art and music practices constantly redefine devices and ways of using them to create new mediums.

Our work in the new mediums of tape and electronic music needed a place where we could pool resources and work together. First there were donated spaces and equipment; then, in 1963, a rented former labor hall became the San Francisco Tape Music Center (SFTMC).3 By this time we were combining live projected visuals with our electronic music in shows presented there. The visual artist Tony Martin combined inks and oils in a petri dish on an overhead projector to create abstract images that flowed with the music.4 He also combined slide and film projections with live images. Additionally he used gobos or cutouts to direct light and image in specific ways to create foreground and background.5 He too was pushing the medium.

Tony was invited to present his work at the Fillmore Auditorium by the rock music promoter Bill Graham. Few know that Tony Martin had such a strong influence on the popular visual language that persists now in the age of digital media.

The arts scene in San Francisco found us living the transition from acoustic to electronic music. There was a great cultural division. There was no place to experiment with the then new medium of electronic music. Rather than working individually, it was necessary to collaborate. A community effort produced new uses of media and new makers of devices for artistic purposes.

Rock musicians from such bands as Big Brother and the Holding Company, Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and others visited the SFTMC to learn more about electronic music and to incorporate processing into their music.

It takes a great community of effort to produce art in a new medium. I consider myself an analog native and a digital immigrant. Immigration is not so easy. Code is the new medium. Today I work with expert programmers to translate and implement the data structures that I conceptualize for my music.

From the SFTMC days in the 1960s I have evolved a system called Expanded Instrument System (EIS) that I use for performing as well as composing and recording.6 Since 1965 EIS has been under continual development from analog beginnings to digital technology (1991) and continuing on today (2014) to become a smart system using artificial intelligence.

Another medium for my work is space. From Time Perspectives, my first tape piece, to the present, distribution of sound and movement in space is a principal concern.7 The EIS technology allows for live and algorithmic performing of spatial movement and distribution in real time.

Currently programming is under way that will make EIS smarter. From the beginning I knew that as a soloist I would like to handle more musical information than a single acoustic instrument allows. With delay processing, sounds performed in the present can return in the future and layer into the present from the past! The returning sounds can be exactly as played or modified. The time delays can be shorter or longer; modifications can be slight or exaggerated.

EIS is an improvisational environment for solo or group work. It is like an improvisational digital partner. As it gets smarter, it makes its own decisions in response to its human partner(s). So we are now dealing with intelligent media—smart media—as we go forward into the posthuman era.


  1. Pauline Oliveros, Reverberations: Tape and Electronic Music, 1961–1970, Important Records, 2012, CD (box set). 

  2. Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964). 

  3. David W. Bernstein, ed., The San Francisco Tape Music Center: 1960s Counterculture and the Avant-Garde (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008). 

  4. Camilla Padgitt Coles and Nicky Mao, eds., Tony Martin: The Variable Place (n.p.: Ab-sens, 2012). 

  5. Pauline Oliveros, “Memoirs of a Community Enterprise,” in Bernstein, San Francisco Tape Music Center, 85. 

  6. Deep Listening Institute, “Expanded Instrument System Artistic Statement,” http://deeplistening.org/site/content/expandedmusicalinstruments

  7. Pauline Oliveros, “Acoustic and Virtual Space as a Dynamic Element of Music,” in Women, Art, and Technology, ed. Judy Malloy (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003), 212–23. 


For Further Reference

Pauline Oliveros, “Time Perspectives,” 1959. Included on Four Electronic Pieces 1959–1966 (Sub Rosa), 2009.

Morton Subotnick, Silver Apples of the Moon (Nonesuch), 1967.

Terry Riley, A Rainbow in Curved Air (CBS Records), 1969.

Ramon Sender, “Desert Ambulance,” 1964. Included on Desert Ambulance (Locust Music), 2006.

La Monte Young, “The Second Dream of the High Tension Line Stepdown Transformer” from “The Four Dreams of China,” 1962. Released on Gramavision, 1991.

Steve Reich, “Come Out,” 1966. Included on Steve Reich: Works 1965–1995 (Nonesuch), 1997.

Tony Conrad, The Flicker (1966).

James Tenney, “Collage #1 (Blue Suede),” 1961. Included on James Tenney: Selected Works 1961–69 (New World Records), 2003.

The ONCE Group, formed late 1950s–early 1960s.

Stanley Shaff, AUDIUM, concept for a spatial/theatrical experience of electronic music, late 1950s–. The first AUDIUM theater was co-founded with Douglas McEachern in 1967.

Lou Reed et al., The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967).

The Beatles, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967).

See Also

Duration — Pauline Oliveros

Amateur — Malik Gaines

Score — Carlos Basualdo

Pauline Oliveros, circa 1967. Courtesy of the CCM Archive, Mills College, Oakland, CA.

Tony Martin, Silver Apples of the Moon, 1967. © Tony Martin.

AUDIUM: A Theater of Sound-Sculptured Space, San Francisco. Courtesy of AUDIUM. Photo: Mark Akamine.

Paul Chan, Waiting for Godot in New Orleans, 2007. Photo: Frank Aymami. Courtesy of Creative Time.

Andrea Fraser, Projection, 2008. Still from a 2-channel HD video projection installation. © Andrea Fraser. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Nagel Draxler.

David Levine, Bystanders, 2015. Installation view, Gallery TPW, Toronto. Performer: William Ellis. Photo: Guntar Kravis.

VALIE EXPORT, TAPP und TASTKINO (Tap and touch cinema), 1968. © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / Bildrecht, Vienna. Photo © Werner Schulz.

My Barbarian (Malik Gaines, Jade Gordon, and Alexandro Segade), Broke People’s Baroque Peoples’ Theater, 2010. Courtesy of Alexandro Segade.

Richard Maxwell, Neutral Hero, 2012. The Kitchen, New York. From left: Janet Coleman, Bob Feldman, Lakpa Bhutia, Andie Springer, Jean Ann Garrish. Photo © Paula Court.

Miguel Gutierrez and Tarek Halaby in Gutierrez's Last Meadow, 2009. Dance Theater Workshop, New York, September 2009. Photo © Ian Douglas.

Mac Wellman, Muazzez, 2014. Performer: Steve Mellor. Chocolate Factory Theater, Queens, New York (a co-presentation with PS 122). Photo: Brian Rogers.

Janine Antoni, Yours Truly, 2010. Ink on paper, 5 7/8 x 8 1/2”. © Janine Antoni. Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York.

Yvonne Rainer, score for “Trio B: Running,” from The Mind Is a Muscle, 1966–68. Graphite and ink on paper, 8 5/16 x 7 5/16". The Getty Research Institute. © Yvonne Rainer.

Susan Leigh Foster, The Ballerina’s Phallic Pointe, 2011, a performed lecture in the series Susan Foster! Susan Foster! Three Performed Lectures, produced by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage and performed at the Philadelphia Live Arts Studio, 2011. Photo: Jorge Cousineau.

Opening performance of the exhibition “Trisha Brown: So That the Audience Does Not Know Whether I Have Stopped Dancing,” Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2008. Brown improvises movements across a large piece of paper on the Medtronic Gallery floor, holding charcoal and pastel between her fingers and toes, drawing extemporarily. Photo: Gene Pittman for Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.

Allora & Calzadilla, Sediments Sentiments (Figures of Speech), 2007. Mixed-media installation with live performance and pre-recorded sound track, dimensions variable. © Allora & Calzadilla. Courtesy of Lisson Gallery.

Martha Rosler, Meta-Monumental Garage Sale, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2012. Courtesy of the artist.

Lucinda Childs, Pastime (1963), 2012, performed by Childs at Danspace as part of Platform 2012: "Judson Now." Photo © Ian Douglas.

Siobhan Davies and Helka Kaski, Manual, 2013. Photo © Alan Dimmick. Courtesy of Glasgow Life.

“Performance Now,” curated by RoseLee Goldberg. Installation view, Kraków Theatrical Reminiscences, Poland, 2014. Photo: Michal Ramus. Courtesy of Independent Curators International (ICI).

Steve Paxton, Intravenous Lecture (1970), 2012. Performed by Stephen Petronio with Nicholas Sciscione. Part of Platform 2012: “Judson Now,” curated by Judy Hussie-Taylor, Danspace, New York. Photo © Ian Douglas.

Installation view, “Dance Works I: Merce Cunningham—Robert Raschenberg,” curated by Darsie Alexander at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2011. Photo: Gene Pittman for Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.

Chief Dalcour and the Serenity Peace Birds in “Public Practice: An Anti-Violence Community Ceremony,” curated by Delaney Martin and Claire Tancons for New Orleans Airlift, October 25, 2014. Photo: Josh Brasted.

Ain Gordon and David Gordon, The Family Business, premiered 1993. Performers: David Gordon, Ain Gordon, Valda Setterfield. Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein. Courtesy of the photographer and Pick Up Performance Co(s).

Hotel Modern, Kamp, 2005. Photo: Herman Helle.

Janine Antoni, Anna Halprin, and Stephen Petronio, Rope Dance, 2015. Photo © Hugo Glendinning. Courtesy of the artists and The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia.

Sarah Michelson, Devotion Study #1—The American Dancer, 2012 Whitney Biennial, February 26, 2012. Photo © Paula Court. Performers: Eleanor Hullihan and Nicole Mannarino.

Ralph Lemon, How Can You Stay in the House All Day and Not Go Anywhere?, 2009. Archival print from original film. © Ralph Lemon.

Pope.L, The Great White Way, 22 miles, 9 years, 1 street (Whitney version), 2001. © Pope.L. Courtesy of the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York. Photo: Lydia Grey.

Iannis Xenakis, Terretektorh, Distribution of Musicians, 1965. Collection famille Xenakis. Courtesy of the Iannis Xenakis Archives. © Iannis Xenakis.

Lisa Bielawa, Chance Encounter, premiered 2007. Co-conceived with Susan Narucki. Photo: Corey Brennan, 2010, Rome.

Claudia La Rocco, 173-177 [or, Facebook Is Inescapable], 2013. Headlands Center for the Arts. Courtesy of José Carlos Teixeira.

Pina Bausch and the Tanztheater Wuppertal, Palermo, Palermo, Brooklyn Academy of Music, 1991. Photo: Maarten Vanden Abeele.

Tomás Saraceno, Observatory, Air-Port-City, 2008. In “Psycho Buildings: Artists Take on Architecture,” curated by Ralph Rugoff, Hayward Gallery, London. Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York.

Christian Marclay, Chalkboard, 2010, paint and chalk, 210 x 1,045 inches. Installation view, “Christian Marclay: Festival,” 2010, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Collection of the artist; courtesy of Paula Cooper Gallery, New York. Photo: Christian Marclay.

Steven Schick at the “Peacock” in the Paul Dresher Ensemble Production of Schick Machine, 2009, by Paul Dresher, Steven Schick, and Rinde Eckert. Mondavi Center, UC Davis, Davis, CA. Photo: Cheung Chi Wai.

Ralph Lemon in An All Day Event: The End, part of Platform 2012: “Parallels.” Danspace, New York. Photo © Ian Douglas.

Installation view, “Allison Smith: Rudiments of Fife & Drum,” The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT. Photo: Chad Kleitsch. Courtesy of The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum.

David Levine, Habit, 2012. Installation view, Luminato Festival, Toronto, 2011. Photo: David Levine.

Meredith Monk, Shards (1969–73), 2012. Part of Platform 2012: “Judson Now,” curated by Judy Hussie-Taylor, Danspace, New York. Photo © Ian Douglas.

Berlin, Bonanza, 2006. A documentary project focusing on Bonanza, Colorado, population 7. © Berlin. berlinberlin.be.

Gob Squad, Kitchen (You’ve Never Had It So Good), 2007. Photo © David Baltzer / bildbuehne.de / Agentur Zenit Berlin.

Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz, Hole in Space, 1980. On screens in front of Lincoln Center and The Broadway department store in Los Angeles, passersby could see and talk to their counterparts on the opposite coast, and many “reunions” were quickly set up, in this early example of video conferencing. Courtesy of the Sherrie Rabinowitz and Kit Galloway Archives.

Hans Haacke, News, 1969/2005. Installation view, “State of the Union,” Paula Cooper Gallery, New York, 2005. © Hans Haacke / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. Courtesy of the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.

Pauline Oliveros, circa 1967. Courtesy of the CCM Archive, Mills College, Oakland, CA.

The Builders Association, Elements of Oz, 2015. Photo: Gennadi Novash. Courtesy of Peak Performances @ Montclair State University.

Ain Gordon, A Disaster Begins, 2009. Veanne Cox. Here Arts Center, New York. Photo: Jason Gardner. Courtesy of the photographer and Pick Up Performance Co(s).

The Wooster Group, BRACE UP!, 1991. Directed by Elizabeth LeCompte. Anna Köhler (on monitor) and Willem Dafoe. Photo © Mary Gearhart.

Joanna Haigood and Charles Trapolin, The Monkey and the Devil, performance installation, 2011. Performers: Matthew Wickett, Sean Grimm, Jodi Lomask. Photo: Walter Kitundu.

Jarbas Lopes, Demolition Now, in “SPRING,” curated by Claire Tancons for the 7th Gwangju Biennale, Gwangju, 2008. Photo: Akiko Ota.

Lisa Bielawa, Crissy Broadcast (part of Airfield Broadcasts), San Francisco, 2013. Photo: James Block.

Erwin Wurm, One Minute Sculpture, 1997/2005. © Erwin Wurm. Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong.

Ethyl Eichelberger as Minnie the Maid, 1981. Photo: Peter Hujar. The Peter Hujar Archive. Courtesy of Pace MacGill and Fraenkel Galleries.

Wu Tsang with Alexandro Segade, Mishima in Mexico, 2012. Color HD video, 14:32 minutes. Courtesy of the artists, Clifton Benevento (New York), Michael Benevento (Los Angeles), and Isabella Bortolozzi (Berlin).

Young Jean Lee, Untitled Feminist Show, 2012. Baryshnikov Arts Center, New York, 2012. Hilary Clark, Regina Rocke, and Katy Pyle. Photo: Julieta Cervantes.

Romeo Castellucci, On the Concept of the Face Regarding the Son of God, 2010. Philadelphia Live Arts Festival, 2013. Photo: Kevin Monko.

Jérôme Bel, Le dernier spectacle (The last performance), 1998. Photo: Herman Sorgeloos.

Troubleyn / Jan Fabre, Mount Olympus, 2015. Performance lasts 24 hours. Photo © Wonge Bergmann for Troubleyn / Jan Fabre.

Siobhan Davies Studios, Roof Studio, London. Photo: Peter Cook.

Emily Roysdon, Sense and Sense (a project with MPA), Sergels torg, Stockholm, Sweden, 2010. Courtesy of the artist.

David Lang’s home studio. Photo © Jorge Colombo.

Marcel Duchamp, Bicycle Wheel, 1964 (replica of 1913 original). Wheel and painted wood. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Gift of the Galleria Schwarz d’Arte, Milan, 1964. © Succession Marcel Duchamp / ADAGP, Paris / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, 2016.

Historical interpreters from Freetown Living History Museum, as part of Allison Smith’s 2008 project The Donkey, The Jackass, and The Mule, with the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Photo: Allison Smith and Michelle Pemberton.

Rimini Protokoll, Situation Rooms, 2013. Photo © Ruhrtriennale / Jörg Baumann.

Jeanine Oleson and Ellen Lesperance, We Like New York and New York Likes Us, 2004. A “wry look back” at Joseph Beuys’s performance with a coyote, I Like America and America Likes Me, René Block Gallery, New York, 1974. Courtesy of the artists.

Christine Hill, Volksboutique Organizational Ventures, 2001. Mixed-media installation, Kunstverein Wolfsburg, Germany. Courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York.

Andrea Fraser, Museum Highlights: A Gallery Talk, 1989. Performance. Performance documentation: Kelly & Massa Photography. Courtesy of the artist. © Andrea Fraser.

Theaster Gates, Dorchester Projects, Chicago, 2012. © Theaster Gates. Photo © Sara Pooley. Courtesy of White Cube.

John Cage, two pages from 4'33" (original version, in proportional notation), 1952/1953. Ink on paper, 11 x 8 1/2" each sheet. Acquired by The Museum of Modern Art through the generosity of Henry Kravis in honor of Marie-Josée Kravis. © 1993 Henmar Press Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission of C. F. Peters Corporation. Photo © The Museum of Modern Art / Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY.

Yoko Ono, Painting For The Wind, summer 1961. First published in Yoko Ono: Grapefruit (Tokyo: Wunternaum Press, July 4, 1964). © Yoko Ono.

Rosemary Lee, Square Dances, 2011, commissioned by Dance Umbrella. Square Dances took place in four central London squares throughout a day, with different casts in each: 10 children in Woburn Square, 100 women in Gordon Square, 35 men in Brunswick Gardens, 25 dance students in Queen Square. Each performance involved bells, ranging from a huge church bell that struck every minute; to a handmade musical instrument using bells within its barrel structure, created and composed by Terry Mann; to tiny hand bells for the dancers. Photo: Hugo Glendinning.

Joanna Haigood and Wayne Campbell, Ghost Architecture, 2004. An aerial dance installation centering on the architectural and social history of the site. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco.

Ann Hamilton, the event of a thread, 2012–13. Park Avenue Armory, New York. Curated by Kristy Edmunds. Photo © Ian Douglas.

Robert Wilson and Marina Abramović, The Life and Death of Marina Abramović, premiered 2011. Park Avenue Armory, New York, 2013. Foreground: Willem Dafoe. Photo: Joan Marcus. Courtesy of Park Avenue Armory.

Richard Maxwell, Neutral Hero, 2012. The Kitchen, New York. From left: Janet Coleman, Bob Feldman, Lakpa Bhutia, Andie Springer, Jean Ann Garrish. Photo © Paula Court.

Ann Liv Young, The Bagwell in Me, 2008. Photo: Scott Newman, Revel in New York.

Xavier Le Roy, “Retrospective,” 2012–. Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona, 2012. Photo: Lluís Bover. © Fundació Antoni Tàpies.

Ethyl Eichelberger as Minnie the Maid, 1981. Photo: Peter Hujar. The Peter Hujar Archive. Courtesy of Pace MacGill and Fraenkel Galleries.

David Levine, Habit, 2012. Installation view, Luminato Festival, Toronto, 2011. Photo: David Levine.

Rimini Protokoll, 100% Yogyakarta, 2015. Teater Garasi, Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia. © Goethe-Institut Indonesien / KDIP Viscom.

Bebe Miller Company, A History, 2012. Angie Hauser and Darrell Jones. Photo: Michael Mazzola.