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Neither hearing nor seeing Pauline Oliveros: a review

September 18, 2007

This weekend I didn’t see Pauline Oliveros at the X Avant festival in Toronto, despite having held tickets for well over a month.  I did go to the venue, the Music Gallery, but it turned out that I was having difficulty distinguishing between Saturday night and Friday night.  I was twenty-four hours late for the concert, by which time Pauline and her collaborator Anne Bourne were now just an echo living in the halls of the church.  I was too annoyed and disgusted at my own lack of practical date-knowing skills to possibly make myself interested in the Indian percussion trio who were on instead, so that was that.


On Saturday, then, Pauline Oliveros performed neither alone, nor with people.  Her set was neither long, nor short.   It was not silent, and it was.  There was an elephant in the room, but only because there wasn’t.  The accordion wouldn’t have mattered one way or the other, and anyway nobody applauded.  Not on Saturday.

This all left me rather disappointed, or maybe just simply pointless… but then it’s probably fitting that I missed the concert.  Oliveros’s Deep Listening programme is one of the more committed of New Music’s familiar challenges to the performance space — what need for concert halls when there is Deep Listening to be performed everywhere?

So there I was, trying and failing to get into a concert by a woman whose work I value for the way it suggests the redundancy of concerts and organised performance. There is a similar story about a professor of post-globalisation culture who traveled to a conference to deliver a paper enthusing about the possiblities of a world without borders and barriers… but was prevented from entering the country where the conference was taking place. There is a great value in these experiences that upset and make us think newly about the theories that have beome habit.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. September 18, 2007 7:07 am

    Fool: on the other hand, it likely seems you have a better appreciation of the concert than anyone who was actually there. I’m still writing some sleevenotes for you, which invites the question, do you still want them?

  2. September 18, 2007 7:09 am

    Yes. I want them bad. Write them quickly before you hear any of the music. Go to bed.

  3. September 18, 2007 8:21 pm

    Get in the fridge.

  4. September 19, 2007 11:38 am

    Wonderful review!

    What if I just listened – would that have filled the hall?


  5. September 19, 2007 4:17 pm

    Pauline herself! Just how well connected are you becoming Hawkins?

  6. September 19, 2007 9:44 pm

    Eek! Sorry I missed you, Pauline!

    Funnily enough, I’m about to start investigating whether the sound of someone listening CAN be audible — it’s a question that producers of radio dramas face: how to communicate that a character in a radio play is listening to something? What’s the difference between a pause and a stop? etc…

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