Celebrated composer Oliveros dies at 84
KINGSTON >> Pauline Oliveros, the internationally celebrated multi-instrumentalist, avant-garde composer, founder of the concept of ‘Deep Listening’ and a longtime city resident, died on Thursday. She was 84.
Oliveros was a pioneer in electronic music and a leader in contemporary music with a broad range of expertise, including composing, performance and teaching.
She was a constant local presence, but her influence was felt worldwide.
“Pauline loved Kingston, and was a guiding light for the arts,” Carol Ione Lewis, Oliveros’ spouse, said on Sunday. “She led the way and created a worldwide community of artists who live in Kingston.”
Oliveros performed at Bard College in September and attended the recent launch of the Midtown Arts District in late October. Some of her music was recently featured in the documentary, “Lost Rondout.”
Memorials were posted on social media from all over the musical spectrum, from friends and fans on her Facebook profile and on Twitter and Instagram, including from composer Laurie Spiegel and Moog Synthesizers.
Her death was noted by NPR, Pitchfork, Billboard, SPIN, San Francisco Gate and El Pais in Spain, among others.
In a 2005 interview with the Freeman, she described her founding concept of deep listening as “a process and practice of expanding inclusive listening and intensifying exclusive listening. Inclusive listening may extend to all wave forms that are possible to perceive in the space/time continuum. Exclusive listening is attention or focus to detail. It is possible to listen in both ways simultaneously.”
In a 1989 Freeman interview, Oliveros explained her unique view towards sound, which formed during her childhood.
“It never seemed weird to me,” she said. “I am deeply interested in what I hear. It doesn’t feel peculiar. But a lot of people have never been exposed to the notion that sound itself is interesting. We’re all too busy trying to communicate in ways that are directly understandable and acceptable.”
She also discussed the power of music.
“It certainly can bring about release; it can surprise you. That can be one of the major functions of music,” Oliveros said.
Born in Houston, she was a daughter of the late John Oliveros and Edith Gutierrez Oliveros.
She studied composition at the University of Houston, and later completed her bachelor’s degree at San Francisco State.
After graduation, Oliveros composed “Bye Bye Butterfly,” which was included in the New York Times’ Rockwell List of the 10 most significant musical works of the 1960s — a time when she intensified her interest in dance theater, literary and performance arts.
From 1967 to 1981, Oliveros taught at the University of California in San Diego, a job she left to move to the Hudson Valley. In 1987, she moved to Kingston.
It was a move, Oliveros told the Freeman in a 2002
interview, that “shocked everybody. Here I was in San Diego, a paradise, and I resigned,” she said.
Once in the Hudson Valley, she discovered “creative energy” in places like Karl Berger’s Creative Music Studio and Karma Triyana Dharmachakra, a Tibetan Buddhist center, both in Woodstock, as well as the Zen Mountain Center in Mount Tremper.
In 1985, Oliveros founded the Pauline Oliveros Foundation, which changed its name to the Deep Listening Institute in 2005.
Formerly based in Kingston’s Rondout district, it later moved to the Shirt Factory at 77 Cornell St. in Midtown Kingston. In 2015, the institute moved to the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, where it’s now known as the Center For Deep Listening.
In her 1989 Freeman interview, Oliveros said she created the foundation to support projects by artists
who challenge notions of what art and music is.
“We provide administrative and technical support for artists who are walking along the edge, trying to take some risks and chances,” she said.
Oliveros served as professor of music at RPI and as a part-time instructor at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson. At Bard, her music was honored in a concert in September that featured members of the International Contemporary Ensemble.
She also taught at Mills College in Oakland, California and Oberlin Conservatory of Music at Oberlin College in Ohio.
Oliveros is survived by three children, Alessandro Bovoso of Phoenix, Arizona, Nico Bovoso of Berkley, California, Antonio Bovoso of Acton, Massachusetts; and a brother, John Oliveros and his wife Minnie of Florida. Eight grandchildren and one niece, Daisy Nightengale, also survive.
Funeral arrangements are being handled by Simpson-Gaus Funeral Home, 411 Albany Ave., Kingston.
Pauline Oliveros in her Kingston studio in July 2002.