Pauline Oliveros Reverberations: Electronic and Tape Music 1961-1970

Pauline Oliveros Reverberations: Electronic and Tape Music 1961-1970
Maverick American composer Pauline Oliveros is one of the most important figures in contemporary music since Cage. Perhaps best known for her meditative "deep listening" philosophy, this set precedes this practice and focuses on an equally important facet of her legacy: her pioneering contributions to electronic music. Oliveros, even in these early recordings, has a distinct voice, one that might prove alarming depending on one's entry point into her extensive catalogue. Consisting of long duration pieces, each track unfolds in a steady yet somehow unpredictable manner. They occupy a singular and arcane soundscape, one that unquestionably comes from the era of modular synthesizers and tape splicing, yet foreshadows more recent uses of this same technology, especially within the noise community. This likely is attributable to the real-time processes employed by Oliveros, which yield vastly different results than the meticulous splicing and layering of some of her peers. The first disc, which is devoted entirely to "Time Perspectives," definitely bears a slight resemblance to musique concrète, with its processed, real-world sounds, but once one gets into the five discs devoted to her work at the University of Toronto Electronic Music Studio, you start to hear her entering into the realm of glitchy abstraction. Instead of the witty banter of concrète or the accidental sci-fi of contemporaneous synth music, the listener is treated to tufts of mysterious noise bursting through shrill, incandescent tones and curdled synth pules shredding relentless sine-wave clusters. Works like "50-50" (both the "Heads" and "Tails" version), produced at the University of California San Diego, are harsh and corrosive, with violently distorted synth whines being flung through the speakers at maximum density and velocity. Her orientation towards a proto-noise/proto-glitch aesthetic is even hinted at with titles such as "The Day Disconnected the Erase Head and Forgot to Reconnect It," "Fed Back" and "Little Noise in the System," all of which humorously reference the degree of electronic serendipity involved in the creation of these works. Elsewhere, the mood becomes vaguely more meditative, yet is still inflected with dirt, such as on the various "Bog" pieces, which evoke nature, but also a forbiddingly unnatural landscape. Although its breadth of work and rarefied aesthetic are daunting, this box is still very rewarding. (Important)