Remembering Pauline Oliveros, Composer Known For 'Deep Listening' American composer Pauline Oliveros died Thursday at the age of 84. Inspired by all kinds of sound, she was a pioneer of electronic music, committed to changing the way people listen.
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Remembering Pauline Oliveros, Composer Known For 'Deep Listening'

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Remembering Pauline Oliveros, Composer Known For 'Deep Listening'

Remembering Pauline Oliveros, Composer Known For 'Deep Listening'

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LAKSHMI SINGH, HOST:

Why have there been no great women composers? Pauline Oliveros, herself a composer, posed that question in a New York Times op ed in 1970, in which she criticized the music industry for ignoring musical contributions by women. That would become part of the legacy of Pauline Oliveros, who died on Thursday at the age of 84. She was an accordionist, a teacher and a performer, as well as an early pioneer of electronic music. She dedicated her life to experimenting with sounds and changing the way that people listened to music.

(SOUNDBITE OF PAULINE OLIVEROS COMPOSITION)

STUART DEMPSTER: Her philosophy was listen to everything all the time and remind yourself when you're not. And for me, I was making certain kinds of sounds. And she said, well, how about you go study the gibbon monkey and learn to make those sounds?

SINGH: That's Stuart Dempster, Ms. Oliveros' longtime bandmate and friend.

DEMPSTER: She incorporated everything as musical possibilities - bulldozers, garbage trucks, any kinds of instruments.

SINGH: Pauline Oliveros was born in Houston, Texas in 1932. And she knew at a young age that creating music was her calling. Steve Smith, who profiled her in 2012, explained what inspired her.

STEVE SMITH: She was in a household where she was surrounded by music and surrounded by sounds. She talks about the strange and alluring sounds that she was hearing on radio serials like "Buck Rogers" and "The Shadow."

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "THE SHADOW")

FRANK READICK JR: (As The Shadow) Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? (Laughter) The Shadow knows.

SINGH: Inspired by shows like "The Shadow," she experimented, mixing up sounds. Take this classical opera, "Madama Butterfly."

(SOUNDBITE OF OPERA, "MADAMA BUTTERFLY")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #1: (Singing in Italian).

SINGH: "Madama Butterfly's" the early 20th century opera about an arranged marriage. Pauline Oliveros drew from the melodies of the opera to create this song, "Bye Bye Butterfly."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BYE BYE BUTTERFLY")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #2: (Vocalizing).

SMITH: I think you can definitely hear the sort of spacey "Buck Rogers" kinds of sounds, the sort of science fiction squeals and wobbles. And she was making her first feminist statement using a piece that ascribed the kinds of roles that women were expected to take within the classical music world and using it in a sort of radically alien kind of setting.

SINGH: But Oliveros became most famous for creating a music theory called deep listening. The idea is to be fully engaged in the sound and aware of the way nature, vibrations and manmade sounds interact. Here she is in her own words from an NPR interview in 1976.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

PAULINE OLIVEROS: I found myself listening to long sounds and becoming more interested in what the sound did themselves than what I would do with them. And as this work proceeded, I began to become interested in what the kind of listening I was doing did to me and my own internal processes.

(SOUNDBITE OF PAULINE OLIVEROS COMPOSITION)

SINGH: Move American composer Pauline Oliveros died on Thursday. She was 84 years old.

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