Fireside Chat

Pauline Oliveros: San Francisco Tape Music Center

60 minsFirst aired 24 Nov 2017
Dan Wilton

Deep listening and humanitarian sounds: Tune in to a wide-ranging interview with the visionary composer. May she rest in peace.

Pauline Oliveros was one of electronic music’s most important early figures, a trained accordionist from Houston who found herself experimenting with new methods and technologies after arriving in San Francisco during the Beat Generation ’50s. An early member of the San Francisco Tape Music Center, she rubbed elbows with figures like Morton Subotnick, Terry Riley and Steve Reich, eventually becoming the program’s first director at Mills College. In the years that followed, she logged lengthy stints at UC San Diego and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in upstate New York, which houses her Center for Deep Listening. As a composer, her works embrace the rapture of audible sensation, and meditate on the ocean of sound that listeners can find themselves in. She conveys the message that sound and its effects are powerfully equalizers, a vital aspect of our reality. Oliveros received many awards and honors, and throughout it all, she continued to experiment and explore, guided by an aesthetic based on principles of improvisation, electronic music, ritual, teaching and meditation. During the Red Bull Music Academy Montréal in October 2016, we welcomed Pauline Oliveros for a conversation about her years in the San Francisco Tape Music Centre, a time she describes as “the time I’d go back to if time machines existed”. Pauline Oliveros passed away on November 24, 2016 in New York City.


Listen to the five-part 1957 improvisation series featuring Pauline Oliveros, Loren Rush, Terry Riley, Laurel Johnson, Robert Erickson and Bill Butler.


Here Oliveros is referring to Stockholm’s world-famous Elektronmusikstudion.


The history of recorded music is relatively brief; tape became available to the consumer for the first time in 1948.


Tape Delay Techniques for Electronic Music Composers can be found in Oliveros 1984 book Software for People.


The ONCE group was a collective of Ann Arbor, Michigan-based multimedia artists including Robert Ashley, George Cacioppo, Gordon Mumma, Roger Reynolds and Donald Scavarda. From 1961 through 1966, they held the avant-garde ONCE festival, a landmark event for new music and beyond.


Interview by Hanna Bächer
Written and engineered by Hanna Bächer
Produced by Carmen Hofmann

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