Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Pauline Oliveros - 1982 - Accordion & Voice

Pauline Oliveros
Accordion & Voice

01. Horse Sings From Cloud 22:11 
02. Rattlesnake Mountain 21:58

Pauline Oliveros, composer, performer and humanitarian is an important pioneer in American Music. Acclaimed internationally, for four decades she has explored sound -- forging new ground for herself and others.

Through improvisation, electronic music, ritual, teaching and meditation she has created a body of work with such breadth of vision that it profoundly effects those who experience it and eludes many who try to write about it. "On some level, music, sound consciousness and religion are all one, and she would seem to be very close to that level," stated John Rockwell. Oliveros has been honored with awards, grants and concerts internationally. Whether performing at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., in an underground cavern or in the studios of a West German radio station, Oliveros' commitment to interaction with the moment is unchanged. She can make the sound of a sweeping siren into another instrument of the ensemble.

Through Deep Listening Pieces and earlier Sonic Meditations, Oliveros introduced the concept of incorporating all environmental sounds into musical performance. To make a pleasurable experience of this requires focused concentration, skilled musicianship and strong improvisational skills, which are the hallmarks of Oliveros' form. In performance, Oliveros uses an accordion which has been re-tuned in two different systems of her just intonation in addition to electronics to alter the sound of the accordion and to explore the individual characteristics of each room.

Pauline Oliveros has built a loyal following through her concerts, recordings, publications and musical compositions that she has written for soloists and ensembles in music, dance, theater and inter-arts companies. She has also provided leadership within the music community from her early years as the first director of the San Francisco Tape Music Center  (now known as the Center for Contemporary Music at Mills College ), director of the Center for Music Experiment during her 14 year tenure as professor of music at the University of California at San Diego to acting in an advisory capacity for organizations such as The National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council for the Arts and many private foundations. She now serves as Distinguished Research Professor of Music at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Darius Milhaud Composer in Residence at Mills College. Oliveros has been vocal about representing the needs of individual artists, about the need for diversity and experimentation in the arts, and promoting cooperation and good will among people.

Accordion & Voice is one of Pauline Oliveros' first recordings, and in it she utilizes the accordion as an instrument of meditation, in the sense that every performance is a meditation. On the recording the accordion is tuned in just intonation. This allows for microtonal playing, giving the first piece a haunting sound every time you hear a small change and giving the second very interesting tones every time she had a new impulse.

The first piece, "Horse Sings from Cloud," starts off with a single droning tone that is almost piercing at first, but every time she comes back after the accordion breathes, she adds to it. After the first few minutes the piece starts to open up and you can feel the accordion "breathe" just as Oliveros does, the more she gets into it. Eventually she introduces voice which only adds to the pulsing drones already occurring, and it becomes nearly dream-like, which certainly fits the title of the piece that apparently came to her in a dream: "A horse was supposed to sing from the clouds. I was wondering how the horse would get there, when some birds flew down with a blanket in their beaks and took the horse to the clouds to sing."

The second piece, "Rattlesnake Mountain" is more melodic in the sense that it is not just a drone. There is still the typical drone of an accordion, but much more variation in Oliveros' playing. She has said that it is an expression of the mountain, and her playing is how she feels when she sees it which is expressed in her playing. She would visualize the mountain as she played, the wind blowing through the trees and the shape of the mountain.

As an album, and a staple in drone and minimalist music, Accordion & Voice stands out as an album that isn't just listened to once, but returned to repeatedly to discover something new each time. It's amazing to recognize what Oliveros has crafted with something as simple as an accordion and her own voice.

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