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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Pauline Oliveros – Solo Concert 2001 (Deep Listening, 2012) ****½

By Tom Burris

I forgot how to listen to Pauline Oliveros.  First of all, this recording is exactly what you think it is.  It's Pauline, droning on the accordion unaccompanied.  Initially, I put it on and started making some notes.  Horrible notes.  The first thing I jotted down was “Debussy colors, Feldman spaces.”  Okay, feeling the impressionistic vibe at the beginning...  Then as I started thinking I was going with the flow, I wrote “Static in motion.  Blinking (anti-)polka dots.”  Oh, cutesy faux cleverness is so much more important than actually listening to the music you're supposed to be reviewing...  It got worse.  I'll spare you the details, but it ended with an accidental (I swear!) haiku of pretentious awfulness that said “slow moving box cars move / across the fields at night / under Rothko skies.”

I forgot how to listen to Pauline Oliveros!  I forgot for the first half of this disc – and then it happened.  Any visualization I had, any thought that could be explained with the written or spoken word, any distraction at all from the sound of notes and chords being played left my mind completely.  It was just the music.  I wasn't even there!  In that moment of ego-less samadhi, time stood still and the only thing in existence was the gently surprising music of Oliveros' lone accordion. 

The disc lasts 51 minutes.  The first 25 minutes felt like an hour.  The last 26 felt like five minutes.  Then I went back and played the entire disc again.  The second time the entire thing seemed to take about five minutes.

This music is not about the sound or the notes.  The music itself isn't the most important thing about this recording – or most of Oliveros' recordings.  It's all about the listening experience itself.  This music serves the highest purpose of any music you will likely encounter.  For 51 minutes, you cease to exist as a human being – as you become music yourself. 

Leave your thoughts at the door and give your mind a good cleaning.  Learn to receive this music as the priceless gift it is.  It's worth every ounce of effort.


Martin Schray said...

I also had this experience listening to Oliveros and I am looking forward to getting this one which has slipped off my radar so far. But even if words cannot really describe the listening experience: I like your haiku.

Tom Burris said...

Ha! Thanks Martin! I spent a long time away from her music. This album felt like getting a reprimand from a master.