Reverberations: Tape & Electronic Music 1961-1970
Groveland, USA: Important Records, 2012
12 CD box set
Edition size unknown
Released in conjunction with the composer's 80th birthday, Reverberations is a dense twelve disc collection of early and mostly previously unreleased electronic work, including Oliveros' very first piece for tape, made in 1961. The set includes extensive liner notes by Alex Chechile, Ramon Sender, David Bernstein, Corey Arcangel, Benjamin Tinker and Oliveros herself.
Available from Important Records, here, for $100 or $120 for copies signed by Oliveros.
"She was there at the San Francisco Tape Music Center — alongside Terry Riley and Morton Subotnick — in the 1960s and her pioneering studies with tape delay were critical in the advancement of American experimental music. Yet for a long time, Pauline Oliveros' name wasn't so well-known. That's changed in recent years, partially due to this 12-CD set of Oliveros' electronic and tape pieces from the 1960s. After Cage made the world safe for silence, Oliveros made it safe for noise, pushing the new electronic tools of the time to harsh extremes, as pieces such as "50-50 Heads/Tails" reveal. Unlike Stockhausen, she wasn't a prognosticator of strict new styles, instead adopting an intuitive, receptive approach to the new sounds made possible by throwing out the users' manuals. The early "Mnemonics" studies reveal Oliveros's gripping way with longform improvisation-composition; the buzzing oscillations and echoing tape-manipulations achieve a charm that feels influenced by Oliveros' curious, open-minded attitude. And these 12-plus hours of early experiments only show one side of her art; her electro-acoustic explorations and extended-technique accordion playing still transport audiences to this day."
"One advantageous thing about tape music is that the performance is also the recording, so there was no shortage of material for this retrospective, which fills a dozen discs in almost as many hours. While any massive tape music collection will have its share of desultory windshear, the vision and variety of Reverberations are incredible, and feel surprisingly untarnished by 50 years of imitation. In the music, two distinct intelligences, one human and one mechanical, circle each other cautiously but inquisitively. We hear unpredictable occurrences, captured in the moment of discovery, becoming first principles for a new generation."
"A 12-CD set definitely constitutes an "immersive experience" with any artist's music. And Pauline Oliveros is well served by Important Records' retrospective of her unreleased earlier work, coinciding with her 80th birthday celebrations being held throughout 2012. Unlike many of her contemporaries, Oliveros approached electronic music composing as an improviser. Her tape pieces for Buchla synthesizer, and sometimes tape delay, sound in-the-moment, being realized in real-time by someone whose acute sensitivity to the qualities in sound allowed her to paint intricate pictures with sine tones and filters on the fly. Denser, her work at the University of Toronto's electronic music studio came from her immersion with its 12-tone generator system, which was cutting edge for its time. While some pieces may sound dated and a bit dry (i.e., reverb-less), this extensive audio document tracks an influential artist's creative output over a decade. It's a meditation on, and in, "deep listening," being sonically aware, attuned to the characteristics, movements, placement and relationships of sounds over time. Being entirely studio-centric solo work, the set omits two significant aspects of Oliveros's canon: site-based acoustics and improvisational collaborations with other artists. Oliveros won the John Cage prize this year and the music here shows why."
"Turning eighty has been fantastic. Forty years ago, people weren’t so familiar with performance, and they certainly didn’t know my work very well. But now esteemed groups such as the International Contemporary Ensemble play my compositions, and it’s very heartening. Receiving this year’s John Cage Award was a total and welcome surprise, too. I thought this would be a relaxing time in my life —a time to retire! I was wrong."
- Pauline Oliveros
Oliveros died on Thursday in her Kingston, New York home. She was eighty-four.