Active for over five decades, composer, accordionist, humanitarian, and educator Pauline Oliveros is a key figure in American contemporary music. Her pioneering work on deep listening has inspired legions of musicians and nourished critical scholarship in musicology and performance studies.
Hailing from Houston, Texas, Oliveros served as the first director of the storied San Francisco Tape Music Center, where she worked alongside renowned artists like Morton Subotnick, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, and John Cage to help shape electronic music in the US. She subsequently served as director for the Center for Music Experiment at the University of California San Diego, and has acted in an advisory capacity for organizations such as The National Endowment for the Arts.
A technological innovator, Oliveros performs with the Expanded Instrument System, an electronic sound-processing environment that allows improvising musicians to transform their own acoustic input in real time. "The EIS imperative (and improvisation imperative)," she has written, "is to listen and respond: spatial relationships and progressions are as important as the traditional parameters of music." She also helped develop the Adaptive Use Musical Instrument software, which enables children with severe disabilities to create music.
Another of Oliveros' most significant contributions to the fields of performance and sound studies is her "deep listening" technique: a form of highly attuned, full-body audition that she describes as her life practice. In 1985, she founded what would become the Deep Listening Institute, now the Center For Deep Listening at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York.
Oliveros' most recent album, Water Above, Sky Below Now, was released on Rabih Beaini's Morphine label in 2015 and features spoken word from the Deep Listening Institute's former artistic director, Ione. She currently holds the Distinguished Research Professor of Music post at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and was honored with a John Cage award from the Foundation of Contemporary Arts in 2012.