I first heard Pauline Oliveros sometime in the early eighties. Could it have been George Todd who dropped the needle? Darnit, I don’t remember. While in my Vermont chapter, I took in recordings by David Hykes, Meredith Monk, Terry Riley and others. Yet, I didn’t begin the deep dive until a fateful day in (probably) 1993, a year after returning to Cleveland, when I took out a copy of the Deep Listening Band’s self-titled debut recording on New Albion Records from the local library. It provided my first experience of the inversion of: music is sound into sound is music.
I was instantly entranced. A switch flipped. A new journey began. Out of this arose an instant connection with deep listening and the soundworlds and music of Pauline Oliveros, The Deep Listening Band, various offshoots, and, soon enough, all sorts of music that can be loosely described as ambient.
Now, more than fifteen years later, my own naive music is shot through and through with the influence discovered in ongoing my deep dive. That I was open to all of this didn’t surprise me because the world is, for me, sound. My resonance with the concept of sound awareness had been developed by my prior immersion in the jazz avant-garde, various ethnic folk musics, and, numerous stirring masterworks of classical music. I’m sympathetic to what I roughly term the medicinal/mystical understanding of music and sound, especially as this was articulated for me in books by, first, Joachim Berendt, second, Hazrat Inayat Khan, and in personal experiences enjoined by a variety of encounters with masterful advocates of ‘vibration’ such as Abdullah Ibrahim, Joseph Begeswitse Shabalala, Bobby McFerrin, John Cage, and others. About this I would say: I was a very lucky fool.
The entire field of sound: environmental sound, found sound, sound walks, natural sound, folk sound, everyday sound, comprises the ground for the development of the refined concept “music is sound.” Then, several years ago I began to reflect on, and later investigate, what could have music been before it was music, thus before sound was known as music.
(From this came my rhythmriver concept, my own extremely modest and nascent contribution to the deep listening ethos.)
“With the music of the Absolute, the bass, the undertone goes on continuously.” H.I. Khan, The Music of Life.
This year the winds brought me a collaboration between the duo, Paul Kikuchi and Jesse Olsen–recording as the group Open Graves–and The Deep Listening Band’s Stuart Dempster. It’s called Flightpatterns and it provides an astonishing ‘float’ in sound.
Recorded in the Dan Harpole Cistern located in Port Townsend, Washington, it is Kikuchi and Olsen’s second recording as Open Graves, and the second essayed in a naturally reverberant setting. Dempster, a unique virtuoso who plays trombone and didjeridoo, has recorded on numerous occasions in similarly cavernous, man-made yet natural vessels. Dempster has said of the environment,
“This is where you have been forever and will always be forever.”
Flightpaths is the follow-up to their superb debut recording, Hollow Lake. It’s one of my most favorite records from this year.
The discography of The Deep Listening Band and Pauline Oliveros is as deep and reverberant as a 2,000,000 gallon cistern–so to speak. The resources and links available at Pauline Oliveros‘s web site are invaluable.