"I just want to say a word about this ensemble that . . . is part of the Deep Listening Institute program here. Some of the students have been with David’s class since the beginning of it, and are now beginning to teach others. I am really very, very pleased with that development. I’m very pleased with the community of listeners that has grown up here in Houston and is growing and continuing to expand.”
– PAULINE OLIVEROS
It was sometime in the late eighties, and Pauline and I had recently moved from our Tribeca loft to the Hudson Valley. As usual, we were in the midst of myriad arts activities. Most all of them were being generated by our not-for-profit arts organization, The Pauline Oliveros Foundation (soon to be renamed Deep Listening Institute, Ltd.). In addition, we were traveling quite a bit. But there was one upcoming trip that had a completely different feeling from the others. We were going down to Houston.
I’d never been to Texas–which in itself instilled a bit of awe in me–but my excitement was about more than that. After lots of telephone ‘hellos’ during Pauline’s frequent evening calls to her mother; I was going to meet Edith Gutierrez for the first time in person.
I knew from Pauline that music had been at the center of her life growing up with Edith and her grandmother, Pauline Gribbon, affectionately called, “Duda.” As a child, Pauline would listen from her room to the sounds of the many piano students who arrived at the house for lessons with the two women. She also told me that Edith sometimes played for local dance classes and would come home and continue her original improvisations on the piano.
Edith was still teaching and playing professionally and was quite active on the Houston music scene during the first of our many visits. I came to love Edith, with her wry sense of humor and her fierce intention of taking excellent care of Pauline and me during our stay at her comfortable Colquitt Avenue home.
Patience was a good trait to develop there as well. For example, Pauline and I had to stand by as Edith firmly brushed away our attempts to assist with trundling the huge amounts of groceries she’d brought from the local supermarket. This involved wheeling an overladen shopping cart into the back yard, past the studio where she taught students, and past the venerable pecan tree. Buddy Beethoven, Edith’s personality plus Jack Russel was on hand to help. As soon as possible, of course, we’d grab what we could to help stash things away in the kitchen.
Edith’s Texas hospitality included hearty breakfasts and sumptuous dinners, and she held sway in the kitchen with great authority. Pauline and I enjoyed strolling out to a fantastic nearby Mexican restaurant sometimes; and we often took Edith out to local festive spots.
When Pauline was in residence, invitations to the Colquitt home went out with alacrity. There were lots of old friends, many of whom were musicians, composers, and students. They would arrive at the door for charming evenings of conversation in Edith’s living room, sitting beneath an iconic photo of a smiling Pauline at 16, holding her first accordion. Among the visitors was a carrot topped fellow with a winning smile, named David Dove.
During Edith’s phone chats, we’d already heard of a young man who liked to crack jokes and laugh as much as she did. It turned out that Edith and young Dave had met while telemarketing for the Houston Ballet and had developed a warm friendship.
It was Pauline who introduced Dave to MECA, an organization benefitting underserved youth and adults through arts and cultural programming. A colleague Robert Avalon had invited Pauline to present a Deep Listening Workshop at the arts organization and Robert subsequently introduced Dave to MECA Founder, Alice Valdez. In 1997, Dave began volunteering there, leading improvisation workshops; and Pauline had a chance to observe these exciting sessions with community youth.
Pauline was so impressed and delighted, that when she returned to Kingston, she couldn’t stop thinking about Dave’s work with the talented kids of Houston. We entered into an easy mentorship and starting in 2001, the organization operated under our “umbrella” as Pauline Oliveros Foundation Houston, for five years before emerging to become Nameless Sound in 2006.
During this time we were facilitating yearly Deep Listening Retreats, high up in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of New Mexico at a small non-commercial retreat center owned by spiritual teacher, Andy Gold. It was during these annual retreats at pristine Rose Mountain, 8000 feet up, that Pauline’s Deep Listening philosophy grew more and more profound.
Beginning in 1991, she committed to 10 years of DL Retreats and then 10 more. We entered into a creative stream in which Pauline, Heloise Gold and I undertook 27 years of DL Retreats at Rose Mountain and throughout the world. (Heloise is Andy’s sister and a young Tai chi Master, dancer, and movement specialist and I am a Dream Facilitator and proponent of “Listening in Dreams”).
We were celebrating the turn of the century–2000–in a number of ways, and this was the year arrangements were made for two of the young participants in the Houston program to experience one of the Rose Mountain Deep Listening Retreats.
Jason Jackson and Lucas Gorham were still teenagers and they are remembered fondly for their enthusiasm and willingness to explore Deep Listening with us among the aspen groves and stunning rock formations.
Getting up the mountain to the retreat was always a major part of the adventure. The steep and pitted road was a rugged experience. Once up on the mountain, one did not easily go back down until the week-long retreat was over. The question on every passenger's mind as we ground our way upward in a couple of old tightly packed trucks was, “Would we really make it up?” We did, sometimes despite rain and mud ... with thanks to the affable Gold patriarch, Nate Gold, and Heloise as shepherding drivers.
Grown men now, and fully fledged artists, Jason is the Program Coordinator of Nameless Sound. Both he and Lucas are dedicated musicians. Dave Dove, of course, is the gifted Founding Director. Dave, who accompanied the boys up the mountain, as well as Jason and Lucas, agreed to share some of their experiences of Rose Mountain in their own words. Here goes:
DAVID DOVE: Deep Listening. Dreaming. Meditation. Intentional movement. 24 hours, all week long. All happening at all moments–while awake and while sleeping, and in the moments in-between. Off the grid and connected to the Earth. Experiencing and practicing these things with sensitivity and intention, energized by community with such a fine group of human beings. The experience of that full immersion has never left me. It has become a foundation of my practice ever since. To live this week for myself was a lot. To experience it as the chaperone of two “city-kids” from Houston (young Jason and young Lucas) only intensified the feelings and impressions. As the first official project of Deep Listening Institute’s Houston branch, it was foundational.
LUCAS GORHAM: There was a lot of emotion released on the last day and I remember receiving a tarot card and throwing it into the fire? Maybe? I remember it hit me hard that day but I can’t remember the card now. But now I’m a reader of tarot, so I know it had a lasting subconscious effect. I remember the silent periods. We camped in tents, right? I remember one of the writer dudes had this line in his piece that repeatedly said “MY SHIT IS GETTING GREENER,” which cracked me up. The vegan meals were really good. Looking back, I kind of regret my piece, which was more of a free-for-all and was not well thought out. I didn’t really have a developed sense of vision or forethought back then though. I went through life on automatic mode–almost purely on impulse and intuition. Ah youth ... I can’t remember if it was before or after the retreat, but Jason and I saw a UFO in Santa Fe. We went outside to smoke and saw three dots of lights in a triangular shape way high up in the sky. It was spinning around and flying around doing crazy turns and stuff and we were genuinely terrified.
JASON JACKSON: I have many scattered (and not-so-scattered) memories of the retreat. The bumpy ride up the mountain, sliding through mud in the jeep. Getting to the top, we were told to be careful not to over exert ourselves as our lungs got used to the elevation. I’ve never been a runner, but I couldn’t help myself, and the clean air felt so good to breath in. It felt great to run there. I remember the place smelling of roses, and thinking that it was too perfect that Rose Mountain actually held the scent of roses. That was maybe the first instance of an almost overwhelming sense of serendipity throughout the week. Like an unending loop of astounding deja-vu.
I’ve always felt awkward in situations where people are dancing, and so I would never dance. I remember the first gathering, being introduced to what we had on the agenda for the week ahead. The moment Ione talked about the 4 directions and their archetypes. We would face the east, think about the sun rising, the birth of a child, the beginning of a journey, and so on, and we would move those thoughts into our body and dance. It felt safe. I’ve never felt so comfortable dancing.
There was this moment that truly shook me. The night before I had a dream where I was standing on a clearing high in a mountain, seeing myself from behind, looking out toward a sunrise. Slowly approaching my body from behind, I entered my body, seeing through my own eyes, continuing my forward movement straight off of the mountain. I was soaring like a bird. There was a blissful feeling of divine communion. That morning, after our slow walk to where we did our morning yoga practice, we were doing our dances for the directions. Facing the east, seeing the sun, I realized I was looking at the place from my dream. Overwhelmed, I couldn’t hold it in. The bliss and divinity from my dream was making me ecstatic. We weren’t supposed to talk, but I started approaching Pauline, hardly able to mutter words to express this flood of emotions. She stopped me with a piercing gaze. She entered my brain. I could hear her voice in my head, telling me it was okay, and to calm down. "Shhhhh”.
At breakfast we were allowed to talk. I needed to talk to Pauline about what had happened. I remember being dumbfounded by Pauline talking to me without speaking aloud. She was so matter-of-fact about something that still seems so mystical to me. She told me it was “animal speak”, and she gave the impression that it could help us to communicate with anyone or anything.
So many memories.
P.S. Lucas and I totally saw UFOs. It was crazy. ️
I’ll just add that I feel that Pauline is still smiling, still listening, and still communicating in ways that continue to be profound and astonishing. Certainly, she is letting us know how proud she is of the skillful work and play, the joy, and creativity that are the hallmark’s of Nameless Sound’s stellar contributions to the world. – IONE
This origin story is about Pauline Oliveros, her mentorship, and the experimental music and community organization that she cofounded in her hometown of Houston Texas. However, much of it is about someone far less renowned - Edith Gutierrez. She was in the front row for many of our story’s key events, some of which were dedicated to her. Our story’s spaces resonated with her history, long before I ever entered them. Edith stepped into my life before I knew anything about Deep Listening or Pauline Oliveros. I didn’t even really know much about experimental music.
It was the summer that followed my high school graduation. I’d just moved out of my parents’ home and into the “Sprawl House,” my band’s crash pad and practice space located in a neglected and decaying “inner-loop” Houston nook. Facing rent for the first time in my life, I needed work. So a bandmate and I got jobs as telemarketers at the Houston Ballet. On our first day, he met his future wife, who would become the mother of his son. I met Edith Gutierrez.
“Do you want to bomb or do you want to drive?” These were the first words I heard from this sweet-faced elderly little lady.
“Pardon me ma’am?” I was certain I’d misheard her.
“Do you want to bomb or do you want to drive? We have their addresses. If they don’t buy tickets, we’re going to bomb their houses tonight.” After a short pause, a slight hint of a devilish smile crept into the sweet face.
It turned out that the sweet lady with the deviant sense of humor lived about a block-and-half away from my new digs. She offered me a ride home that night. I gratefully accepted.
Perhaps I told her that I was a musician, and that’s why she took interest and offered the ride. Maybe it was that I was a young musician. (Edith usually preferred the company of younger people to folks from her own generation, who if she didn’t like, would sometimes call “old shit-asses.”) Edith was a musician too. As was her mother and her father and her late husband and her daughter. Except for her father, they were all music teachers as well. She would tell me about each of them on that ride home.
A charter member of the Houston Music Teachers Association, Edith had taught hundreds of students. Her mother was a piano teacher in the old style, the kind that used a ruler – sometimes to keep the fingers in position and sometimes to discipline those fingers. Her mother could read any music, but was not able to play anything by ear. In contrast, her father only played by ear and couldn’t read music. He played over 30 instruments and learned hundreds of songs from Mexican shepherds in rural Texas. (Edith once showed me a cello that he had purchased off of a covered wagon.) Edith’s late husband Patricio “Pat” Gutierrez was a renowned and beloved Houston pianist and music teacher. Something of a local legend, he and his brothers performed in the very first season of the Houston Symphony. He was also the best friend of Houston jazz piano legend Peck Kelly. He was Edith’s piano teacher. Then Edith mentioned her daughter Pauline, who played the accordion and helped to found the first electronic music studio on the West Coast.
This quick car-ride primer about a seriously musical family was a lot to take in for a 17-year-old “punk rock trombone player.” But on that night, I was simply charmed by the kind lady with a load of stories and a wicked sense of humor. Gradually, I spent more and more time with Edith, helping her in her studio, taking an occasional piano lesson, often just sitting in her kitchen and listening to her stories. And in the coming years, I would learn more and more about her beloved family. I even had some brief encounters with the accordion player on her occasional Houston visits.
Independent of my experiences with Edith, my musical tastes eventually began to expand. First towards further-out jazz and global sounds. Then, I got an appetite for experimental music. It was only after knowing Edith for a couple of years that I realized something: This accordion playing daughter who founded a West Coast electronic music studio was kind of a big deal. Over time, I would come to know her too.
The following timeline charts some key moments of this relationship, the founding of the Pauline Oliveros Foundation Houston (which later became Nameless Sound), Oliveros’ various activities with the organization, and our engagement with Oliveros’ work independent of her presence.
Summer, 1989 (Houston, TX) – I meet Edith Gutierrez while working at the Houston Ballet. In the years that follow, I get to know her daughter Pauline Oliveros during her visits to Houston.
November, 1994 (Austin, TX) – I see Pauline perform for the first time and attend my first Deep Listening workshop. Pauline and the Deep Listening Band (Pauline Oliveros, Stuart Dempster and David Gamper) came to Austin for a series of performances and recordings with Ellen Fullman, inventor of the Long String Instrument, who was then living in Austin. Of course, to see Pauline perform was very important. No less important was the workshop, as Deep Listening would come to form a basis for much of Nameless Sound’s practice and pedagogy years later.
July 7, 1995 (Houston, TX) – Pauline invites me to see her perform solo at an event organized by the American Accordionists’ Association, a tribute to her accordion teacher Dr. Willard Palmer. She performs Shape Shifting, a piece commissioned by the association. Dr. Palmer would pass away several months later.
Sometime in 1996 (Houston, TX) – Pauline Oliveros is invited by composer Robert Avalon to give an improvisation workshop at Multicultural Education and Counseling Through the Arts (MECA). She invites me and bass player Paul Winstanley to join her. (Paul may be the person most responsible for getting me into free improvisation. We were roommates and would play almost every day. He and I had also formed a boogie-woogie trio with Edith at around that time!) I had never before been to MECA, an arts community center in Houston’s 6th Ward. And this would be one of my life’s serendipitous encounters. I’d already been kicking around an idea in my head without having any plan of how or where it might be realized. I wanted to start an improvisation workshop for teenagers, an opportunity for them to explore music creatively. Robert Avalon had laid out some groundwork at MECA for such activities, and he introduced me to MECA’s Founding Director, Alice Valdez.
I proposed my idea and volunteered my services to Alice. She accepted my offer, contingent on one thing - additional volunteer hours! I was to help some MECA students with their scales and etudes for their auditions to HSPVA (Houston’s performing arts high school). I also helped a young blind pianist learn staff notation by creating relief notation symbols that she could read by touch. The improv workshop began in 1997, and became the seed from which all of Nameless Sound’s activities would grow. To this day, we still hold workshops and concerts at MECA. It should also be noted that The Dow School (the historic building which houses the MECA program) was the elementary school of Pauline’s stepfather Patricio Gutierrez.
May 12, 2000 (Houston, TX) – Pauline Oliveros performs in Houston for the first time since 1986 (when she walked onstage and made a single stomp of her foot as an obligatory performance at the 1986 New Music America festival). Held at MECA, I organized the concert and gathered the support of three important institutions to co-present: MECA, KTRU Rice Radio, and DiverseWorks. The concert, presented in observation of Mother’s Day, was a tribute to Edith who was in attendance. Pauline performed Pauline’s Solo on accordion. After an intermission, she performed her score Ear Rings in a quartet with pedal steel guitar player Susan Alcorn (then living in Houston), recorder player Tom Bickley (a Houston native), and myself on trombone. It was my first time to perform with Pauline.
Pauline gave the audience some context for the occasion and the space before performing her solo:
“It’s nice to be home. I haven’t had the opportunity to perform in Houston for many years, so it’s very lovely to be here. I’m gonna talk to you a little bit because I want to give you just a little bit of background. David has already introduced my mother, Edith Gutierrez. And it’s a great pleasure to be able to dedicate a concert to her and to Mothers Day. Needles to say, Edith has been a very strong influence all my life and she’s been very supportive to me and to my work, and through all kids of weather, so to speak.
But I wanted to say a few more words about my stepfather, Patricio Gutierrez who was born 104 years ago, because I’m very very interested in space, in the spaces that I perform in. Because there’s always very deep resonances and vibrations. And this space - this elementary school - is where my stepfather went to elementary school. Yes. And I am very very pleased at the program that exists here at MECA. I think it is supporting music for many many many students, and giving them wonderful traditional backgrounds as well as experimental backgrounds with improvisation. And so different kinds of music can come together and exist in this space. Now my stepfather Patricio Gutierrez grew up here in the Old 6th Ward. And his family were musicians. And he was a very wonderful musician, and played in the very beginning of the Houston Symphony here. He played horn and he played cello. He was a wonderful pianist. Many very very wonderful musicians studied with him and loved him, including my mother. So I also want to pay tribute to Patricio Gutierrez here at MECA. And so it’s very special for me to play here.”
Pauline and Edith each contributed a note in the concert’s program:
Mother’s day is here again.
Every day is Mother’s Day.
I am so fortunate that you are my mother.
My birthday is coming again May 30.
Sixty eight years ago you brought me into this world.
I am grateful for the healthy genes from you and my father.
I am grateful for the love that you have given me.
I am grateful for the values from you that have supported my spiritual life.
I am grateful for the music that you taught me.
I am grateful for your support of my creative work.
I am grateful that you are so fiercely independent.
I am grateful for your continued ability to transform your self.
I am grateful that I can still visit with you.
Love as always from your daughter.
A concert in honor of Mothers’ Day! What memories this invokes for me! I became a mother on the day that you entered this world, May 30 1932. It took only one hour and eight minutes from the time I entered St. Joseph’s Hospital in downtown Houston, Texas. You weighed five and three quarter pounds. So precious! You were named for your maternal grandmother, Pauline V. Gribbin (wife of the attorney, John M. Gribbin). Four years later, your brother, John B. Oliveros III was born and my happiness was complete. Mothers’ Day now had new meaning for me. You and your brother related well and brought great happiness to your father and me. Both of you have served our country well, John in the military (now retired from US Air Force and presently a marine captain based in Galveston, Texas) and you as a musical innovator, having pioneered electronic music in the '60s, thereby changing the course and history of music. You have become well known throughout the world as a composer/performer/educator/lecturer/author and humanitarian. John and former wife, Daisy, have given me a beautiful daughter, Daisy Pauline Oliveros, while you have enriched my life by teaching me tolerance, awareness, understanding, and unconditional love. WHAT MOTHER COULD ASK FOR MORE?
With deep devotion, everlasting thanks to you and your brother and beautiful memories of my mother, Pauline V. Gribben (who mothered all three of us), Your Mother,
P.S. Happy Birthday!
Summer 2000 (New Mexico) – I embark on my first official project with the Pauline Oliveros Foundation. Interested in the work I was doing with the young people at MECA, Pauline and Ione (Pauline’s partner and Artistic Director of the foundation), offer scholarship support for two of MECA’s students to attend the weeklong Deep Listening Retreat at the Rose Mountain Retreat Center in New Mexico. I bring my two most active students, teenagers Lucas Gorham and Jason Jackson. (Both would later become Nameless Sound workshop facilitators. Jason is currently on staff as our Program Coordinator.) The retreat is a transformative experience for all of us. The project itself would be the seed of my working relationship with the foundation.
March 30-31, 2001 (Houston, TX) – The first ever concerts of the Pauline Oliveros Foundation Houston (POF Houston) are presented. “Waking Moments,” a two-day benefit held at MECA and Rice University, featured performances by Susan Alcorn, trombonist Brian Allen, singer Binx, guitarist Tom Carter, trombone/guitar duo David Dove/Susie Wasserstrom, improv ensemble The Defenestration Unit, MECA Improv student Jason Jackson, and the first ever performance by Scorces (Christina Carter/Heather Leigh). I had been organizing concerts and leading my improvisation workshop for about four years at this point. The founding of the Houston branch of the organization happened after a couple of years of strong urging by Pauline, as she insisted that our activities fit under her foundation’s mission and that a non-profit status would greatly increase our ability to fundraise. (A short time later, I learned that our office’s address was only a block away from Pauline’s childhood home in one direction and a block away in the other direction from Cage Elementary, where she attended grade school.)
November 23, 2001 (Houston, TX) – Pauline and Ione are guests of honor at “Echoes: a Gathering to Benefit Pauline Oliveros Foundation Houston,” held at Barnevelder Movement/Arts Complex.
May 29, 2003 (Houston, TX) – The POF Houston Ensemble and the Austin New Music Co-op join forces to perform Pauline Oliveros’ Four Meditations for Orchestra at Ceremony Hall in Austin. After rehearsing the combined ensemble at soundcheck, Oliveros was present for the concert. The first time a non-student “POF Houston Ensemble” had been assembled, the group was made up of a diverse range of musicians including several very young members of the MECA improv workshop. Some of them, like turntablist Maria Chavez and guitarist Sandy Ewen (who was just days past her high school graduation), had only recently performed in their first-ever public concerts. Due to weeks of conflict and disagreement between the Austin and Houston groups, the collaboration nearly didn’t happen. The details of that story can be found in the essay “The Politics of Collaborative Performance in the Music of Pauline Oliveros” by ethnomusicologist, and participating violist, Dr. Barbara Rose Lange. Pauline’s strong encouragement for the two groups to work out their differences likely saved the event from cancellation.
May 30-31, 2003 (Houston, TX) – Starting on Pauline’s birthday, the first-time trio of David Dove/Susie Ibarra/Pauline Oliveros performs a two-night stand at DiverseWorks in a program titled “From Without and From Within (Listening).”
June 1, 2003 (Houston, TX) – The POF Houston Ensemble and the Austin New Music Co-op perform Four Meditations for Orchestra at MECA. Ione participates with a recitation in the fourth meditation.
In Pauline’s introduction to the concert, she expressed gratitude to the organizations that made the two-city event possible. In a pointed statement, she emphasized the importance of organizations linking and collaborating:
“I really want to express my appreciation for the work that these cooperative organizations are doing and for their collaboration with one another. Because it’s through linkages such as these that grass roots music gets to grow and young people get to be exposed to all kinds of new music and ideas that 30, 40 years from now will be in the mainstream . . . From my own career, it was organizations like these that supported my career, from San Francisco days through ‘till now. So I have a great appreciation for that. And I also have come to know some of the musicians in the MECA ensemble and have watched them develop over the last 6 years with their work with David and that’s also a great pleasure to see how that is moving along.”
October 26, 2003 (Houston, TX) – At “Call and Converge,” a benefit for POF Houston at Barnevelder Movement/Arts Complex, the POF Houston ensemble performs several Oliveros scores suggested by Pauline, including Sound Fishes and Sound Piece. Videographer Don White is in attendance. Impressed with the de-centralized use of the whole space for Sound Piece, he expresses his interest in documenting a future performance of the score.
December 13, 2003 (Houston, TX) – With eight cameras and dozens of microphones, videographer Don White and audio engineer Kevin Patton record an ensemble of 15 musicians performing Sound Piece throughout the entire building at MECA. The following month, I’m at Deep Listening Space in Kingston, New York for a performance with Pauline and Susie Ibarra. Travelling in the region, Don meets up with Pauline and I to share his edit of this special event. Pauline’s assessment was blunt. “It’s a great performance, but it’s not the piece.” Indeed, she was correct. We did not accurately interpret the score. This moment would be the beginning of a more rigorous study of Oliveros’ scores. Their clearly articulated and sometimes deceptively simple instructions can be more demanding then one might think. I would return to Sound Piece again and again over the years, most often in workshops with non-musicians. I would come to understand it as a score very difficult for trained musicians to properly execute, especially if using traditional musical instruments. Originally written for a class of studio artists, Sound Piece’s language emphasizes materials, unusual methods of activation, sound location, sound motion, visual interest, and dramatic design. Maybe most critically, the score says that a sound should not be “identifiable as a fragment or phrase of music.” Our 2003 ensemble hit and missed those marks to varying degrees. But like the performances of many Oliveros scores, missed attempts done with intention and concentration may also produce interesting results. This video document also offers something else very valuable to the telling of our story – a tour through MECA, a special space important for its own long history. It’s also the space that is at the very heart of Nameless Sound’s history.
October 30, 2004 (Houston, TX) – At a benefit for Edith, who had recently suffered a fall, Pauline gives a solo accordion performance at DiverseWorks. Using a quadraphonic speaker system, Pauline presented the only Houston concert with her Expanded Instrument System (EIS). In introducing the event, Pauline talked about embodied and disembodied music. She described her computer as a time machine that allows past, present, and future to happen simultaneously. And she described how the EIS sends sound traveling in geometric patterns through the quadrophonic speaker system. And in a reminiscence of her youth, she shared her childhood fascination with the time stretching effects of her family’s Victrola. In a previous era and with ancestral technology, she vibed on the same time-melting phenomenon that DJ Screw, Houston’s other great sonic restructuralist, would use to transform music so many decades later.
“One of the things that’s interesting about my life in music is that when I came into the world, radio broadcast was only about 25 years old, which is an amazing thing. I was born in 1932. And I heard radio broadcast music and I also heard recorded music that came from our wind up Victrola. The thing that I loved about the Victrola was that you could wind it up and play a record. But the thing that I liked about it most was when it started winding down, and the music would start …… winding down. So you could hear all these slidey tones. Well you’ll hear some of that when I’m playing tonight.”
That evening’s solo was followed by an unscheduled collaboration between Pauline on accordion performing with the following students from the afternoon’s workshop session at MECA: Paula Anne Anicete - clarinet, voice, Al Bear - guitar, David Dove - trombone, David Feil - guitar, Lucas Gorham - drum machine, voice, Jason Jackson - alto saxophone, trombonophone, Ruthie Langston - cello, Kerry Melonson - guitar, Kristilyn Woods - bassoon
2005 (Kingston, NY/Houston, TX) – Pauline Oliveros Foundation changes its name to Deep Listening Institute. The Pauline Oliveros Foundation Houston becomes Deep Listening Institute Houston.
November 21, 2005 (Houston, TX) – Pauline gives a lecture at The Rothko Chapel titled “Deep Listening: The Spiritual Component.” As part of that lecture, she invites our youth improvisation workshop to perform with her. The lecture was recorded. Unfortunately, the performance was not. From her introduction to the performance:
“Somewhere along this journey, I’ll be enjoined by the Youth Ensemble. And I just want to say a word about this ensemble that David Dove directs and has been teaching for the last 7 years at MECA. And is part of the Deep Listening Institute program here. Some of the students have been with David’s class since the beginning of it, and are now beginning to teach others. I am really very, very pleased with that development. I’m very pleased with the community of listeners that has grown up here in Houston and is growing and continuing to expand. So I’m very very delighted that they’re here with me tonight and that you get to meet them too.”
Summer 2006 (Houston, TX) – After five years of operating as a branch of the organization founded by Pauline Oliveros, Deep Listening Institute Houston forms its own independent nonprofit organization to become Nameless Sound. Nameless Sound would not have happened without Pauline’s mentoring. In fact, it only happened after several years of Pauline’s strong and persistent urging. And though we have Pauline to thank for anything that we may have ever accomplished, sometimes the child does indeed grow up and leave the home. There were definitely some practical reasons for this shift – an ability to more efficiently raise funds and manage bookkeeping once out from under the umbrella of another organization, plus the formation of our own board of directors. But it is also true that we were simply ready to have our own identity as a Houston-based organization. Like the most loving of parents, Pauline and Ione gave us their blessings, continued to support us, and remained involved in our efforts.
April 27, 2007 (Houston, TX) – Nameless Sound honors Pauline Oliveros with its Resounding Vision Award at The Art Guys World Headquarters. “The award honors musicians whose efforts transcend aesthetics and resonate beyond the performance venue. It honors artists who follow a vision of progress in our communities.” Using a harmonica and the actual sound-making award presented to her created by The Art Guys, Pauline performed a short improvisation at the event with a group of past and current Nameless Sound workshop students.
May 11, 2007 (Houston, TX) – Pauline Oliveros performs at Roulette Intermedium in New York City in a sextet with David Dove, percussionist Chris Cogburn and four young musicians who were all alumni of Nameless Sound’s youth program: Maria Chavez, Sandy Ewen, Juan J. Garcia Jimenez, and Jason Jackson. All four of those alumni started their practice of experimental improvisation through Nameless Sound, three of them while still in high school. The concert was titled “Deep Syrup Without the Sentiment.” Though not officially a Nameless Sound project, the concert can be seen as a milestone in our organization’s evolution. Our kids had “graduated”. And they were now playing their own music in collaboration with our mentor.
From Pauline’s opening remarks:“The reason that I got involved with this group of young people from Houston is because of David Dove over here who met my mother when he was 17 . . . Eventually, I came to Houston and met David. Little by little, different things happened and David became a teacher of Improvisation at . . . MECA . . . Each year as I went back, David’s improvisation group was engaged in really interesting activity and some of them were as young as 11 years old and up into the early 20’s. And so the improvisation group was coached by David weekly and David brought in really super improvisation stars like Joe McPhee and Sam Rivers and Evan Parker, all of these people came to Houston to play a concert sponsored by David and then to do a workshop with the improvisation ensemble. And so they became very very sophisticated in their improvisation because they were getting input from some of the best in the field, the most experienced improvisers. I played with them and gave workshops occasionally as well. Each time I was more and more impressed with their listening abilities and the sounds they were making. So we played together several times on my trips to Houston. And so I’ve been very very pleased with their development and this is the first time for this group to come to New York and play.”
February 9, 2009 (Houston, TX) – Edith Gutierrez passes at the age of 94. She had taught piano in Houston for 75 years, touching the lives of hundreds and hundreds of music lovers. Her home was the frequent site for gatherings of interesting and diverse people, often on the occasions when Pauline and Ione would be in town visiting. Often at these gatherings, guests would share their music (whether from a recording or on Edith’s piano in her studio). I would sometimes bring young musicians from Nameless Sound’s workshop to attend these small salons, often the occasion for them to meet Pauline and Ione. Somewhere around 2002, I organized a handful of house concerts in Edith’s piano studio, including the first-ever live performances of experimental musicians Maria Chavez and Sandy Ewen.
Edith’s generosity, humor, hospitality and talent generated immeasurable activity in Houston, with endless rippling effects around the world.
For me, it all started on that ride home on my first day at work at my first steady job. Little did I know, it would be the first day of work for a job on a completely different scale! From there, it continued during all those afternoons when I would sit with Edith in her kitchen while she told me stories. Stories of her mother who taught piano for 70 years with the stern discipline of the old style. Stories of her father, the self-taught musician who played dozens of instruments by ear. Stories of her beloved husband and his pals and brothers, who were legends in the old Houston music world. And loving stories of her daughter, who changed the course of music in so many ways that the world is still catching up. It should be noted that Edith was also a composer, most often for children’s theater and dance classes. And she was a spontaneous composer, of funny little ditties with clever wordplay and not always G-rated lyrics. She was marvelously stubborn, but in many ways she may have been the most open person I ever met. She loved people but didn’t suffer fools gladly. She changed my life through our friendship and through my relationship with her daughter. This story owes everything to Edith. Thank you Edith for the love, patience, friendship, knowledge, generosity, and humor.
To dig deeper into the fascinating relationship between Edith and Pauline, I would strongly recommend reading The Houston Press article Write Soon and Tell All by Shaila Dewan, based on decades of letters between Edith and Pauline archived at the Houston Public Library.
November 19, 2011 (Houston, TX) – In a concert presented by Nameless Sound and Rice Electroacoustic Music Labs (REMLABS) at Rice University, Pauline Oliveros performs in a telematic trio, connected to Ricardo Arias in Colombia and Chris Chafe in San Diego through Internet2. Audiences were gathered at all three locations, with video and audio feeds bringing the distant collaborators into each room. What most people see as the primary problem in this type of collaboration, Pauline simply understood as another type of space to sound – the virtual space. Latency is inherent in all spaces and in all listening (acoustic, electronic or virtual), whether that latency is milliseconds or much longer. Pauline spent her whole career investigating latency, long resonances, and reaction times. Telematic improvisation is a mere extension of that. Intensely dedicated to this very experimental approach to collaboration, Pauline often leaned on me to get into this way of working. Never being particularly enticed by technology, it was not the first time ever that Pauline had nudged me to catch up. (I still remember when she made me get my first email account!) In this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, while we’re all working from home and spending our days in countless Zoom meetings, I can’t help but to think that Pauline is looking at me (and many others) and delivering a well deserved “I told you so.”
March 24, 2012 (Houston, TX) – Nameless Sound celebrates its 10th anniversary one year late with an event called “Sources and Echoes” at The Menil Collection. The event began in the Menil’s resonant Richmond Hall with five hours of back-to-back solos performed by myself and 17 alumni of Nameless Sound’s workshops. Following that, the 18 gave an outdoor performance of Oliveros’ Four Meditations for Orchestra in what was likely the only performance ever under the canopy of the “The Mandell Pavilion” (the storage space located next door to Richmond Hall).
February 15, 2014 (Houston, TX) – Nameless Sound and Diverse Works program “Anthology Meditations,” a daylong marathon of Oliveros scores performed back-to-back in conjunction with the sound art exhibition “Sonic Works.” Scores included: Pauline’s Solo, All Fours for the Drum Bum, One Word, Sex Change, Noise-Silence, Sonic Meditation: Variations on Listening, Piano Piano, King Kong Sing Along, Sounds from Childhood, Kitchen Symphony, Peace Soup, The New Right of Spring, Klickitat Ride: 108 Possibilities 54 Opposites, Ear Ly, Word Sound, A Song for Margrit, Wind Horse, Breaking Boundaries, In Consideration of the Earth, Follow Yourself, Threshold Meditation, Blue Heron: In Memory of James Tenney, Rolling Meditation, and Horse Sings from Cloud. Performers included: Paula Anne Anicete, Abel Cisneros, Denis Cisneros, Chris Cogburn, David Dove, Sandy Ewen, David Feil, Sonia Flores, Lucas Gorham, Lisa E. Harris, Jason Jackson, Rebecca Novak, Ivette Roman-Roberto, Alauna Rubin, Damon Smith, Kurt Stallmann, Jawwaad Taylor, Hsin-Jung Tsai, and Ronnie Yates. Though this event was captured in photos, there is unfortunately no audio or video documentation.
December 3, 2015 (Houston, TX) – David Dove and the Wind Ensemble from the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts perform Four Meditations for Orchestra under Dove’s direction.
April 2016 (Houston, TX) – I ask Pauline if she would be willing to submit an original score to auction at our Resounding Vision Award fundraiser. She devised the text score, “NO SOUND NAMELESS FOR NAMELESS SOUND”:
November 24, 2016 (Houston, TX) – Pauline Oliveros leaves the planet on Thanksgiving Day. When I got the unexpected the news, I was with my family doing what families do on that day. That I was fortunate to spend at least one Thanksgiving with Pauline, Ione and Edith added a strange sense of coincidence to this sad day. An era of my life was over and my heart was broken. But her inspiration, instruction, and guidance would surely last a lifetime. Pauline still appears to me in the occasional dream. The sound of her voice still rings on in my head. And her lessons continue to reveal themselves to me in endless layers of meaning.
May 27, 2017 (Houston, TX) – Nameless Sound presents A Pauline Oliveros Birthday Celebration and Memorial Concert at MECA with special guest Joe McPhee, who was a close friend of Pauline’s and cites her as an influence on his own work. Included in this edition are that evening’s performances of Oliveros’ Wind Horse and Exchanges by myself, Juan J. Garcia Jimenez, Lisa E. Harris, Jason Jackson, Rebecca Novak, Jawwaad Taylor, and Joe Wozny. Also included are performances of Oliveros’ Inner Outer Sound Matrix and Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggaggoggchaubunagungamaugg by Tom Carter, Ryan Edwards, Sonia Flores, Justin Jones, Rose Lange, Ayanna Jolivet Mccloud, and Alauna Rubin. A duo performance on that evening by Joe McPhee and myself will be included in an upcoming release on the Astral Spirits label.
May 25, 2019 – Houston Deep Listener/vocalist/composer/film-maker/performance artist Lisa E. Harris and her mixed media production collective, Studio Enertia, present “Deep Listening: Pauline Oliveros Day” at Discovery Green, in downtown Houston. One of the last people to earn a Deep Listening Certificate under Pauline herself, Lisa was also able to arrange for a City of Houston Mayor’s proclamation for “Pauline Oliveros Day,” which was presented to Ione at the event. Oliveros scores were performed by Harris, Ione, Tom Bickley, Heloise Gold, myself, and a number of Houston artists, many from Nameless Sound’s circle.
May 26, 2019 (Houston, TX) – Nameless Sound and Buffalo Bayou Partnership present “Sounding the Cistern for Pauline Oliveros,” the first ever public concert at Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern. Tom Bickley, Juan J. Garcia Jimenez, Lisa E. Harris, and myself (all artists with a direct connection to Oliveros) sounded the space’s 17-second natural reverberation and tapped into the spirit of Oliveros and The Deep Listening Band’s classic 1989 recording made at the Fort Worden Cistern in Port Townsend, Washington.
May 27, 2019 (Houston, TX) – Nameless Sound presents Pauline Oliveros’ Sound Piece in conjunction with the “Axis Mundo” exhibition at Lawndale Art Center. The exhibition, which focused on queer networks in Chicanx Southern California, included documentation of Pauline’s earliest Sonic Meditations conducted in San Diego in the early 1970s. Determined to reconcile the missed target of our 2003 performance, I discouraged the use traditional musical instruments and worked closely with a group that included sculptors, sound artists, performance artists, an audio engineer, a poet, and an architect. – FOUNDING DIRECTOR, DAVID DOVE
Very long ago, in the early 1980’s, when I began spending most of my waking hours with an ear to the ground, I became aware of the music of a composer named Pauline Oliveros. Her name and her sounds and her words and thoughts, have accompanied and inspired me for almost forty years.
Through the few recordings available back then (news and sounds travelled slowly in those days, particularly if you were, as was I, away from the centers of the hegemonic culture), I was able to listen to Sound Patterns (1961) from the Extended Voices LP from 1968 that also included works by Ashley, Cage, Feldman, Ichiyanagi and Lucier; to The Contemporary Contrabass: New American Music by John Cage, Pauline Oliveros, Ben Johnston in which Bertram Turetzky presented her Outline for Flute, Percussion, and String Bass; and to her electronic piece I of IV (1966) which appeared in New Sounds in Electronic Music from 1968, accompanied by pieces by Steve Reich and Richard Maxfield.
She was a lonely woman (not a “lady composer”) among her canonical peers in the “new music” circles of the of the ’50s and ’60s. Even though these compositions are engaging and rigorously constructed, and make use of innovative technical and esthetic resources such as the use of real time tape sound manipulation in I of IV and improvisation in Outline, they are not yet fully fledged manifestations of her visión. They were part of Pauline’s process toward placing people, the body, listening, and community at the center of music composition and performance. A radical, gentle, and profound paradigm shift.
In the late eighties I got hold of a copy of Software for People: collected writings 1963-80, which is an interesting collection since it traces Pauline’s trajectory from being an inventive academic composer, but remaining still within the confines of the official avant-garde to taking off and radically redefining the very the notion music starting with her work with the ensemble and her Sonic Meditations.
I have to admit that I did not fully grasp what she was aiming for with the meditations and with her embracement of ritualistic and communal performance practices. In 1993 I saw Pauline in a concert in Barcelona with Ione, and what they did gave me some cues.
I first met Pauline and had the opportunity to play and talk with her in the Relay-NYC! event put together at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City by the great flutist Jane Rigler. Then I was finally able to experience Pauline’s presence and music making. Years later, in 2008, I invited Pauline to perform in the In-Audito festival in Bogotá and participated in some of her Deep Listening meditations. It was then that I finally understood what she meant in some of her early writings and with her music since the Sonic Meditations. She articulated her ideas beautifully in texts and scores but her discourse was eminently practical, not theoretical. She accumulated a great wealth of embodied knowledge and this was immediately evident when you were in her presence.
She was always generating opportunities for collaboration and in our encounters we were able to organize three telematic performances between 2010 and 2012.
The Nameless Sound telematic event took place on Saturday, November 19, 2011, and linked Pauline in Troy, Chris in Chafe in California and I, in a large studio/classroom at Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá. This was the second telematic collaboration with Pauline and the first one with Chris. I had the experience of the September 8, 2010 telematic performance that opened the Guelph Jazz Festival of that year. We used JackTrip as the software platform to transmit sound, which was, and I think is, the transmission standard, as it ensures the least possible latency, that is, that sound gets to the point of reception as fast as possible. This software was originated and co-developed by Chris Chafe. It worked, I think, nicely. The image was transmitted via Skype, if I remember well. I had the assistance of a group of students, led by María Fernández, who, set the stage in Bogotá so that it would look good and would allow for a visual feedback that would permit an interaction between the musicians similar to a live performance with all the actors present in the same place. The technical aspects were resolved and the event went on as a live improvisation. There was a small audience in Bogotá, among whom was composer Juan Reyes, a pioneer of computer music in Colombia, and who had then a close relationship with Stanford and the CCRMS, and is a good friend of Chris Chafe. Juan was also present, in California, in our second telematic meeting with Chris and Pauline on April 26, 2012. Telematic events were somewhat tense back then. There were big technical issues to be resolved. We were connecting through RENATA, a very fast institutional network, so that we could ensure really fast transmission of the audio signals. It all worked well and we could play and interact as if we all were in the same room. But besides all the technical aspects of these events, I think the main point was to try to be together and share. That was Pauline’s main concern, and the technology was a means to make this end possible, so that even if it didn’t work, technologically, it worked always as an attempt to connect, to be one. Another significant thing about this concert was the fact that Pauline as performing in Houston, that it was a kind of homecoming for her, and it highlighted, somehow, our common Spanish heritage.
I remember being intensely concentrated, mostly with my ears, listening, but also occasionally looking at the the Skype feed to see what Pauline and Chris were up to. It somehow worked but the most important aspect of these extravagant affairs is not, in my opinion, the technological aspect of the connection, which is in itself miraculous, but the conversation with Pauline was inspiring, amusing, intellectually challenging and always full of wit, humour, and generosity. One day I was discussing her work in one of my undergraduate courses and it occurred to me that we might ask her a question. So we called her through Skype, and she very gently, with a big, warm smile, and her cat on her lap, spent an hour conversing with my students. This was Pauline: an expansive, beautiful human, who constantly shared and connected with everyone, and I would say she still does, even from another dimension.
I am forever grateful to have been able to meet and interact with Pauline and with Ione. Their influence is multidimesional, and it remains with me every day. – RICARDO ARIAS
My memories always grow more wool than I would like to account for, but there are threads within the fuzz that pull them together. Thinking of Pauline is especially tangled because there were (and are) always pieces of her circulating — concerts, scores, meditations, writings, bits of conversations. When I first came to be involved with Nameless Sound in 2002, it was still organized as the Pauline Oliveros Foundation Houston, and I was still a teenager. I was a new initiate into the world of musics and practices that Dave was presenting and cultivating and so in my young imagination, Pauline must have seemed the wizard of this Oz.
Each of the times I saw her in person, however, it was an immediate and meaningful experience of my imagination being realigned, grounded back in reality and, more lastingly, humanity. I loved the cerebral challenge of having to learn and adapt to so many new ideas and find and develop new intuitions, but with Pauline, I was reminded again and again, complication itself is not an end or a means, thought is necessary but not sufficient; pay more attention to what is thinking (you), less to what is being thought of, more to what you are deeply connected to, less to all things new and shiny.
I remember the silent pauses, Pauline’s face, that responded to my misdirected questions, more than the words. I remember Pauline’s embodied presence in the room, her posture, her movement, which to me seemed to point the direction towards a comfort, an at-home-ness, that I still hope to find. I remember her speaking to an ensemble of us performers in the auditorium of MECA, advising us to try to open our listening to include the inside (our thoughts, our feelings) and the outside (the world), allowing everything, including ourselves, to mark time in its own way, together but not in unison, not in hierarchy.
I remember her clapping her hands and listening for the coloring of the room, the reflections, the reverberations, the return to silence. And I remember now all the lovely evenings in our upstairs practice room at MECA before I had ever met Pauline, when Dave would have us begin the workshop, or a piece, by closing our eyes, listening to the silence, learning to be present, at peace, in a room, shared with others. I remember noticing, each time surprised, comforted, as we opened our eyes and joined each other in the room that the setting sun was marking time, was there with us too, the warm glowing sky, the deepening shadows of the unlit room.
Perhaps I never really learned the right lessons, but for me, Pauline came to represent that there was a lot more than music happening when you shared space and time with other people, with the environment itself. It takes practice. Attend to it.
– DAVID FEIL
I attended a concert and immediately found the community of musicians I didn't know I had been looking for. I didn't know who Pauline Oliveros was. I was 17, beginning my deep dive into music. These were the days of internet message boards, Napster, and spending whatever money I came across on CDs and LPs from the local record shops. Indie rock to jazz to free jazz and post punk, I was always excited to hear something new. I didn't yet understand free improvisation, but I could sense that I needed to look into it. I joined the Youth Ensemble and began learning Deep Listening practices. Workshops were at a school community center, and I dutifully drove into town from the suburbs once or twice a week.
It took me a while to figure out who Pauline was and how important her legacy was in experimental music. The workshops typically began with an exercise, some sort of constraint meant to ensure the group was listening and being purposeful with sounds. We'd discuss the sonic results, and often the exercise would be expanded or constrained and we'd try it again. Towards the end of class, we'd do a free piece, utilizing the sense of space and concentration that we had built up with the exercises. Pauline began to feel like a mythic figure. Her ideas permeated the ensemble. Hers were the first text-based compositions I interfaced with, and her ideas were challenging and counterintuitive. Her pieces are wonderfully specific, they sculpt a precise direction, while also allowing immense freedom to performers.
I could be mistaken, but I believe the first time I met Pauline was when she worked with our ensemble for a performance of Four Meditations for Orchestra in 2003. She exuded wisdom and a sense of calmness and clarity. Our youth ensemble was paired with Austin New Music Co-Op for performances in both Houston and Austin. Aesthetically and logistically, the two groups butted heads, but Pauline was able to sufficiently sooth the tensions. Leading up to the performances, we had been able to ask Pauline a lot of very specific questions about her intent with some of the pieces' instructions. Her responses were always clear and precise, or perhaps precise in a Pauline sort of way, as in guidance and advise but with room for your own voice.
It would be hard to overstate the impact of Pauline Oliveros and David Dove's Youth Ensemble had on my music values. Believing music can bring a community together. Wanting input from and freedom for all performers. Understanding that compositions and constraints can enable new sonic relationships. Appreciation of patience and silence. Confidence that my voice is valid. I've put these values into practice in all the small groups I perform with, and with the all-female large ensemble that I founded in 2009. I'm grateful for everything Pauline gave us. – SANDY EWEN
Throughout the years I had the privilege of having many great and memorable interactions and conversations with Pauline and whittling it down to just one is nearly impossible. Being someone who has been and still is a practitioner of her Deep Listening technique, one of the most powerful stories that comes to mind is a conversation that I had with her when she came to Houston to receive the Resounding Vision Award from Nameless Sound.
During the reception many people surrounded her in conversation and somehow the discussion turned to an accident that she had somewhat recently recovered from. I asked her if any of her methods and techniques for music and life played a role in her recovery. She mentioned that they certainly did, but what stood out most for her was that while the car was tumbling and rolling over she used her ears and Deep Listening technique to allow her body to move with the sounds of the car. She described how she heard the bending and twisting of the metal and how she was able to naturally move along with the car and she later realized that her body's movement with the sounds of the car likely saved her from worse injury. This she attributed to Deep Listening techniques.
I've been greatly inspired by the work she brought the world and especially her early integration of electronic music into the music realm. She was an early visionary in programing and synthesis among many other techniques that find themselves in my approach to music making. – JAWWAAD TAYLOR
I unfortunately did not have as much interaction with Pauline as many of you. But every time I talked with her it felt special and meaningful, and she was always very kind to me. This is going to sound weird, but it was like standing really close to one of those sound dampening pads they put on the walls in a recording studio. Just steady and endlessly absorbing. My impression of Pauline was that she was deeply grounded and informed and confident, which was so different to my own anxious, busy energy. When I talked to her I felt like I had her full attention, she was truly listening to what I was saying and processing and giving me her very honest reactions.
– DR. KRISTILYN WOODS
I never attended an official class given by Pauline, nor did she ever try to lecture me, or to teach me anything about music, but I will always consider Pauline one of my main inspirations, a mentor and teacher. The first time we met was at her mother’s house in Houston. Like Dave and because of him, I also met Edith Gutierrez before I met Pauline.
We had a little concert series at Edith’s before my first encounter with Pauline, whom I later met at a Thanksgiving dinner with a small group of Houston’s first-generation improvisers, a couple of my college's teachers, Pauline, and Ione. By then I knew who Pauline was, and understood the impact she had on culture and sound, music, and listening. I was certainly intimidated by the meeting. I had the archetype of a famous person in mind, and thought she would be some kind of eccentric that would speak with complex words, immersed deep in her world, etc. She was not. Our first encounter deeply marked me. It was not because of her genius, knowledge, history, or memories. It was because of the simplicity, naturality, and power to break through language, class, gender, or any kind of division she embodied. Her presence invited me to listen and I felt listened to.
Soon I realized that her way of being was consistent with her ideas and ideals, that she always taught by example, and I was able to experience true communication, always in a horizontal way. Every time we talked it was like I had known her forever, like a very familiar person in my life, the feeling of someone that cares, and that guided me. To every question I asked, she always had an answer with a question that challenged my listening, that invited me to learn on my own, a lesson I had to reach by myself, through listening. Once I posted that an experimental rock band was overrated on social media. Pauline saw it and quickly responded that to overrate is overrated, and invited me to listen again, and again, and again. I learned that by focusing on Deep Listening and sound, one can reach a different understanding that ultimately brings many things together.
I heard Pauline say on repeated occasions that if we all learned to listen, there would be no wars. One thing she did teach me was to be active, and by this I mean, to move, literally to move—when you are always actively listening, nothing repeats, nothing gets overrated—to exercise, both in listening and with the body, in reality and in dreams, that exercising the body is a very important beginning in learning to deeply listen. We always kept in touch, and I was surprised that she always had the time to listen, and to answer. What I learned from Pauline during our interactions and conversations was that some divisions are made by hierarchy, by being closed ear-ed, and that by listening you could break through, and that the most important aspects of organization and community are built through listening. She never told me any of this, or at least not directly. What Pauline did was grant a space where I could listen and be listened to, where all those involved had their space and were listening and listened to.
In 2008 I decided to return to Mexico, heavily inspired by the power of listening and the social power of sound. The practices that Pauline proposed, like the break of certain borders such as class, gender, language, and the distinction between musicians and audience, the individual and the collective, were indeed crucial in my decision to come back to Mexico to start a thing of my own. I think the most important lesson learned from Pauline was in fact, to teach myself to fly. – JUAN J. GARCIA JIMENEZ
The world has changed so much since Pauline left. For so many, the last year was an extreme change with isolation and suffering at the forefront and immeasurable amounts of loss. But one thing I noticed the most on social media in the past year was the recognition of Pauline’s works, with people sharing videos, even completing a movie about her life during such a difficult time.
This made me think of the genius in her work, the subtlety of her message that enters everyone's inner dialogue who then turns around and shares the work with others. This form of sharing keeps her work in progress, as if it is a durational/never ending performance piece, seeing how far in time her instructions and meditations can survive through our listening.
Pauline's legacy is something I think about a lot. On one hand I see her as an unrecognized conceptual sound and performance artist, who’s instructional works live in our minds forever. To me, that is very much in line with Fluxus works or works dealing with phenomenology. And she was doing this work in the ‘70s.
I regret never asking her about her thoughts on Joseph Beuys and his writings on Social Sculpture in relation to her Sonic Meditations and Deep Listening Practices. Her workshops always had this sense of community to them that Beuys expressed as of the utmost importance when creating art. That sense of community always seemed to create a closer connection to others, so much so that when she passed everyone around the world that interacted with her or her work was in mourning.
Most recently, I have realized the other side of her work that was also part of her subtle genius, the ability to be a safe person and create safe spaces for everyone. Safety was so elegantly interwoven in her practice that it became overlooked. I have to admit I was also guilty of neglecting such an important factor in her work until a few years after her death.
“She was inclusive before inclusive was cool,” I now say.
When I was 20 I found myself in a really odd position. I had become a working DJ with nowhere to go. My experiments with the turntable were becoming TOO experimental and the boys in the scene were fed up. I was pushed out of the group and told to give up and move on. I was heartbroken and was left feeling aimless. Then one day I overheard info about a free jazz concert in an art gallery called DiverseWorks hosted by an organization called the Pauline Oliveros Foundation. At the time, I didn’t know you could have concerts in art galleries nor had I heard of POF so I had to check it out. But it’s Houston, there was tons of traffic and when I got there I thought I was late. I huffed to the door and reached to open it when a man swung the door open for me. I would later learn that he was the founding director for the Pauline Oliveros Foundation, David Dove.
“Am I late?” I asked, concerned.
”No!” Dave said.
“We’ve been waiting for you!”
From that moment forward I found myself in an entirely new world that I now fondly remember as an extremely special time. After the concert I properly introduced myself to Dave and he told me about an improvisation class he was teaching at an after school program called MECA. I told him that I didn’t play an instrument, I was a DJ and he said,”bring one turntable and let’s see what happens.”
I was perplexed by this. Only one turntable? Can you DO that?
The first class I attended was very small, just Dave, myself, and one other student. I had decided I wasn’t ready to bring just one turntable. I just wanted to see what was going on. Dave had some small drums with implements that we would improvise with and with the sun filling the old school classroom with light it all felt very pure and, I guess, safe. But at the time I didn’t understand it.
After the first class I felt like Dave gave me the space I needed to see if these experiments I had already been trying before had some place here. The second class was very different. This time there were seven students and I brought one turntable. Then, during the class, Dave invited me to improvise with him for a short duo piece and I remember feeling so at ease that I was barely paying attention to the results of my actions, I was in a steady flow, one I had never experienced before, manipulating and moving in a way I was never allowed to move in before. When the piece ended, Dave and I looked up at each other and I heard Lucas Gorham in the corner say,”We got her!” We all laughed, I blushed because I felt like these people really understood what I was trying to do. I didn’t understand it yet but I knew there was something and they agreed.
From there on out I began improvising with this special group 2-3 times a week as Dave introduced us to the Deep Listening and Sonic Meditations of Pauline’s work. While we always had different forms of learning improvisational technique it would always go back to Pauline’s work and how we were listening. After a few classes Dave felt that I was ready for a public concert and asked Pauline’s mother, Edith, if she could host our concert in her piano studio. It was a sacred place that held classes for her piano students for many years and I was so delighted by how cute and warm the space was. It was cozy, fitting an audience of ten comfortably. Perfect for a rookie like me. I remember during the performance having a sense of calm again, not knowing that this was the sensation of safety, I was safe to share my work and it was being accepted as it was and this was what allowed the work to develop into what it is today.
As the group began to get more familiar with Pauline’s pieces Dave decided to record a performance of Pauline’s works at MECA. Pauline flew in so she could meet us and give us some pointers before the performance. Each performer was situated in a specific classroom, hallway or staircase and musicians decided to walk around the space to experience the piece physically. I remember deciding to have my back facing the entrance of my room with the speakers facing towards the door unaware of who was coming and going, creating a space where I could just perform without being overwhelmed by the others. In a way, it was my first speaker installation.
Afterwards, as I was walking through the cafeteria area I overheard Pauline speaking to a friend of Dave’s, ”Maria is VERY good. Like, WOW.” The person she was talking to agreed fully, ”She’s onto something.” “Yes,” said Pauline, shaking her head in agreement. They never knew I was behind them. I quietly exited the area, went back to my turntable and sat in astonishment. No one ever spoke about me or my work in that way before. It was always with judgement and dismissal to minimize my ideas.
Dave and POF Houston organized concerts at DiverseWorks regularly and hosted the English sound artist, Kaffe Matthews. Dave insisted that Kaffe perform a short duo with me to hear my work. Later, Kaffe contacted Pauline to see if we could share an artist residency at Pauline’s studio in Kingston, NY so we could make an album together. The experience I had of learning about what Pauline meant to the larger international sound community really began to show itself. But prior to my understanding of this Dave and Pauline had always been so warm and personable, they were safe. You would never have known Pauline was an icon. Icons seem untouchable, yet here is this organization that creates a space for her to just be herself with us.
When you really look into the timeline of her work, the sound pieces that she made for everyone were so easy to follow with her brilliant minimalist writing style where the simplest word always had two or more meanings. I always admired how much fun she had with the English language. And the simplicity was also a space for safety, so anyone that could read her works would understand.
One day I realized that my time with Pauline and Dave was the only time I felt ever truly safe in my life. Because of that I was able to focus on something and allow it to evolve into what it is today. It was the only time where I was given a space that allowed me to create from within, safely. Pauline was always so encouraging and always impressed with my choices and abilities, even at a young age. No one ever supported me like that before, especially not my family. It felt so foreign to me to meet such a kind and safe person that saw what I was doing as interesting. Just like when she gave me space in her studio to be artist in residence, she provided this type of encouragement that then translated into her speaking of my work in conferences, mentioning my work in writings and always celebrating when I received a fellowship or residency. She was the best cheerleader. I can hear her voice now, “Way to go Maria!”
“The imposition of rules for play creates the many games and styles that we experience in life. Rules also make it possible to be wrong and unsafe. Ability to learn and follow rules can also bring a sense of safety and accomplishment provided that the rules are taught in a loving way.”- Pauline Oliveros, Keynote speech- Just Improvisation: Enriching child protection law through musical techniques, discourse and pedagogies, SARC Institut, Queen's University Belfast, 2015
I realized from that safe space at MECA those many years ago that Pauline and Dave were facilitating safety for me in a way that she describes in this brilliant quote above. And now that I experienced those spaces and gained growth from them I am now able to create those same spaces for others.
Globally, people are finally speaking about safety in ways that she was already lecturing about since the 1990s. Our society has never had access to structures for safety like we have today. Even topics of mental health are being discussed on major platforms that include British Royalty. That is obviously brought about by the stark difficulties of the pandemic and has highlighted the importance of access to safe spaces.
As I was thinking about this point I was asked to write a paper on the topic of the word survivance which means to “thrive in survival”: “At face value, the term “survivance” invokes, but suggests something more than mere survival or subsistence. Deconstructed, sur-vivance divulges a bursting forth of life. Sur: above and beyond, rhyming in intent with hyper, meta, super. Vivance: the French take on the Latin root for vitality, vigor, and vivaciousness. Thus, survivance: hyper vitality, super vigor. Surviving as thriving. Thriving as surviving…Surviving as thriving.”
The organization asked me to write about what I believe this word meant to me. “What does one's life look like when living in complete survivance?” I decided that to “thrive in survival” meant to “thrive in triumphant safety.” To be absolutely safe in the face of an ever changing reality and always creating those spaces for others.
In order to adapt to reality, the brain constantly creates new connections between neurons. This process of neuron connection is known as neuroplasticity, and can be trained and optimized through things like physical exercise, learning a new language, or working on a puzzle. Over generations, activities that evolve our brains take the form of culture. Art has historically been one of the most important and powerful ways for humans to evolve their brains.
This can be particularly recognized in the avant-garde, or artists who throughout history have introduced new ideas and have been shunned for being too new, too different, only for them to become accepted, and even revered later on. In this sense, civilization requires arts and culture to encourage and form opportunities for more neuron connections to develop.
So art practices have the potential to support and aid in developing neuroplasticity. Providing safe spaces where creative people can produce works and offer new experiences is key to stimulating our brains, which is essential for responding to a reality that changes spontaneously and incessantly proves difficult to navigate.
From this paper and a few other lectures the questions that are driving my practice now are ones that I wish I could share with Pauline as I think she would be excited of the prospects:
Who am I without the need to be heard now that I’m safe?
How can I make all of my future work as inclusive and safe as possible for others?
When I think about Pauline and her innate ability to create safety for others, it means more now than ever before. Because in the end Pauline showed us all mercy. She allowed us to be our active listening selves and provided resources that can now guide us through time. It’s the greatest gift to leave us and I know we all honor it. Her durational, neverending, conceptual performance piece of sharing her work with others will continue to grow as we also create safe spaces. In doing so we make our neuroplasticity more malleable and able to adapt to reality in a productive and proactive manner, thereby creating more safety for others. What a brilliant legacy to leave behind.
– MARIA CHAVEZ
Pauline Oliveros’ world-wide influence on the course of sounding and listening for individuals and communities will continue to be felt for a long, long time. She made history as a pioneer of electronic music, as a composer who used the widest range approaches to forge new sounds, as a scientist who harnessed sound’s healing and transformative properties, as a guru who devised recipes and technologies to unlock the creative potential of any who wished to partake, as a leader who leveraged hierarchies, as the cultivator of global communities through organizational efforts and technological innovations, as a mentor, as a great artist, and as the creator of Deep Listening. Our story is only one among countless that can told by artists, listeners, and communities across generations and around the world. Nameless Sound has presented hundreds of concerts and worked with thousands of youth from every corner of Houston, many who are now continuing their own work in music, sound, listening, teaching, and mentoring. Without Pauline Oliveros, none of that would ever have happened. And none of that would ever have happened if someone didn’t come home to visit her mother.
– NAMELESS SOUND FOUNDING DIRECTOR DAVID DOVE
WE WOULD LIKE TO THANK OUR FEATURED ARTIST, WORKSHOP PARTICIPANTS, AUDIENCE MEMBERS, AND ALL THE CONTRIBUTORS AND READERS. WITHOUT YOUR PRESENCE AND AWARENESS WE WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO PRESENT THIS STORY. THANK YOU FOR LISTENING DEEPLY.
PAULINE OLIVEROS' (1932-2016) life as a composer, performer and humanitarian was about opening her own and others' sensibilities to the universe and facets of sounds. Her career spanned fifty years of boundary dissolving music making. In the '50s she was part of a circle of iconoclastic composers, artists, poets gathered together in San Francisco. In the 1960's she influenced American music profoundly through her work with improvisation, meditation, electronic music, myth and ritual.
She was the recipient of four Honorary Doctorates and among her many recent awards were the William Schuman Award for Lifetime Achievement, Columbia University, New York, NY,The Giga-Hertz-Award for Lifetime Achievement in Electronic Music from ZKM, Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, Germany and The John Cage award from from the Foundation of Contemporary Arts.
Oliveros was Distinguished Research Professor of Music at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY, and Darius Milhaud Artist-in-Residence at Mills College. She founded "Deep Listening ®," which came from her childhood fascination with sounds and from her works in concert music with composition, improvisation and electro-acoustics. She described Deep Listening as a way of listening in every possible way to everything possible to hear no matter what you are doing. Such intense listening includes the sounds of daily life, of nature, of one's own thoughts as well as musical sounds.
'Deep Listening is my life practice," Oliveros explained, simply. Oliveros founded Deep Listening Institute, formerly Pauline Oliveros Foundation, now the Center For Deep Listening at Rensselaer, Troy, NY. Her creative work is currently disseminated through The Pauline Oliveros Trust and the Ministry of Maåt, Inc.
NAMELESS SOUND FOUNDING DIRECTOR: DAVID DOVE is a trombone player, improviser, composer and workshop facilitator. He is the Founding Director of Nameless Sound, which began in 2001 as a branch of Deep Listening Institute.
MANAGING EDITOR: VERONICA ANNE SALINAS is an artist, writer, researcher, and listener. She is currently studying Deep Listening at The Center for Deep Listening at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She received her MFA in Sound from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She was selected as the 2020 ALBA sound artist-in-residence at Experimental Sound Studio (Chicago, IL), she is an editor at the sound-based publication, The Eaves, and creator of the urban listening project, Chicago Land Sound. She has worked with Nameless Sound since 2014.
AUDIO ARCHIVIST: RYAN EDWARDS is a producer/recording engineer and improvising musician (guitar/voice/viola) based in Houston, TX. His work in recording is predominantly with classical and improvised/experimental music. Amongst many projects, he was mastering engineer for the Houston Symphony’s Grammy winning recording of Berg’s Wozzeck and many of his recordings of Nameless Sound concerts have been released commercially. He has worked with Nameless Sound since 2003.
VIDEO ARCHIVIST: DON WHITE hates writing boilerplate fluff about himself and would rather be editing video. A lifelong musical omnivore, he loves coffee, cats, Frank Zappa, and looks forward to being able to attend live performances again someday. He has worked with Nameless Sound since 2003.
NAMELESS SOUND ADMINISTRATIVE COORDINATOR: ANTHONY ALMENDÁREZ is an artist working in music composition, sound, noise, improvisation, performance, fixed media, and moving image. His work challenges the hierarchy between audio and visual stimuli confronting their respective stereotypes in relation to identity. Almendárez ultimately seeks to inject new modes of storytelling that are inclusive of histories and collective memories of those thriving along the margins of society. He received a BA in Music Education at CSU Dominguez Hills, an MA in Music Theory and Composition at Marshall University in WV, and is currently a candidate for the MFA in Sound Art at Bard College, NY. He has worked with Nameless Sound since 2018.
RICARDO ARIAS is is an experimental musician, sound artist, professor and researcher.For many years his work centered on improvised music using unconventional sound sources, both acoustic and electronic.More recently he has also produced sound sculptures, installations and site specific sound interventions. He has presented his work in the Museum of Modern Art (New York), Roulette Intermedium (New York), Experimental Intermedia Foundation (New York), La MaMa (New York), Harvestworks (New York), Diapason Gallery (New York), Museum Kunst Palast (Düsseldorf), Galerie Rahel-Haferkamp (Cologne), Haus der Kulturen der Welt (Berlin), Ohrenhoch Gallery (Berlin), La Casa Encendida (Madrid), the Miró Foundation (Barcelona), The Electric Eclectics Festival (Meaford, Canada), FIMAV (Victoriaville, Canada), Experimenta Festival (Buenos Aires), Espace SD (Beirut) and the Colón Theater (Bogotá) among many other venues and festivals in North and South America, Europe and the Middle East. Arias also curates experimental music festivals and sound art exhibitions such as Primer Festival de Los Tiempos del Ruido (Bogotá y Cali, 1995), In-Audito Festival (Bogotá, 2008), Vociferous: Sound Works by 21 Contemporary Colombian Artists (Diapason Gallery, New York, 2010), Densidades: Arte Sonoro en Colombia (Bogotá, 2011), Al Claro de Luna: reminiscencias sonoras (Bogotá, 2013) and Sonósferas: el sonido en las prácticas artísticas contemporáneas (Bogotá, 2013).
His essays on his work and on Colombian experimental music and sound art have been published in Experimental Musical Instruments, Leonardo Music Journal, and Resonancias (Catholic University, Chile). Arias is Associate Professor in the Art Department at Universidad de Los Andes in Bogotá.
MARIA CHAVEZ is an improviser, curator, and sound artist from Lima, Peru. Her sound installations, visual objects and live turntable performances focus on the values of the accident and its unique, complicated possibilities with sound emitting machinery like the turntable. Influenced by improvisation in contemporary art, her work expands outside of the sound world straddling different disciplines of interest. The sound installations and live turntable performances of Maria Chavez focus on the paradox of time and the present moment, with many influences stemming from improvisation in contemporary art.
LUCAS GORHAM is a musician, artist, and educator from Houston, TX. He is currently based in Los Ángeles, where he works as a librarian, a DJ, and a music producer.
SANDY EWEN is an experimental guitarist, artist and architect based in Brooklyn NY, Ewen's guitar playing playing is centered around found objects and extended techniques. She performs solo and in many diverse musical and multi-media collaborations. Ongoing projects include duo with a Damon Smith, an all-female large ensemble, the trio Etched in the Eye, and a duo with Tom Carter called Spiderwebs.
JUAN J. GARCÍA JIMÉNEZ is a musician specializing in contemporary music and improvisation who lives and works in Mexico City. Since 2012, he is an artist in residence at the Center for Experimentation and Production of Contemporary Music of Mexico (CEPRO MUSIC).In 2018 began as member of the faculty at the Music School of the National AutonomousUniversity of Mexico (UNAM), and the School of Art of Yucatán (ESAY). He has collaborated with orchestras and chamber ensembles internationally and has also developed a career in improvised and experimental music. His interests in collaboration have given him the opportunity to collaborate with iconic characters in the development of contemporary music. His practice stems from studies and practices within the musical tradition combined with a broad foray into new music, prominently from sonic improvised explorations and experimentations. He has also developed innovative teaching techniques that have led him to mix traditional and experimental musical ideas and practices within the classroom. García studied Double Bass at the University of Houston under the tutelage of DennisWhittaker and earned a master's degree at Arizona State University under Catalin Rotaru in 2008, parallel to this Garcia was equally active in the improvised and experimental music scene, working directly with David Dove since 2001 at POF Houston and with Nameless Sound. Since then, he has been fully devoted to teaching, performing, and disseminating new music,improvising and premiering hundreds of works by composers from around the world with the CEPRO MUSIC Ensemble, Liminar Ensemble, and the Low Frequency Trio. Important performances include concerts at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (UK), TheDarmstadt Summer Festival (Germany), No Idea Festival (Austin), the Tate Modern (UK),and the Skye Piece at the Friends Meeting House in Houston to name a few.
DAVID FEIL began participating in Nameless Sound workshops in 2002. He has performed in Nameless Sound ensemble performances on numerous occasions, including three led by Pauline Oliveros. He has designed posters, manned the door, worked as a member of the Nameless Sound teaching staff, and co-presented with Nameless Sound on their education program at conferences. He now lives in Galveston, TX and works as a mental health counselor with survivors of trauma and abuse.
IONE is an author/playwright / director and an improvising text-sound artist. She has taught and performed throughout the world with her creative partner and spouse of 30 years, Pauline Oliveros. Pauline and IONE have created large music theater works together Including Njinga the Queen King; The Return of a Warrior (BAM’s Next Wave Festival), Io and Her and the Trouble with Him; A Dance Opera in Primeval Time - University of Wisconsin’s Union Theater and The Lunar Opera: Lincoln Center Out of Doors. IONE also created the film, Dreams of the Jungfrau with sound design by Oliveros. IONE's memoir, Pride of Family; Four Generations of American Women of Color, was a New York Times Notable Book on its publication. A journalist for many years IONE, published in major magazines and newspapers throughout the '80s including The Village Voice, The Gannet Chain and Vogue. She was Artistic Director of Deep Listening Institute, Ltd for 15 years and is currently a Deep Listening Consultant at the Center for Deep Listening ®, Troy, NY. As Founding Director of M.o.M., Inc. (The Ministry of Maåt), in Kingston, NY since 1997, IONE conducts workshops and seminars throughout the world, disseminating the work of Pauline Oliveros and encouraging a vibrant international community of writers, visual artists, and musicians. IONE is the recipient of the 2019 Arts Mid Hudson Individual Artists Award and a Certificate of Merit from the General Assembly of the State of New York. In 2020, IONE became a "Distinguished Mentor" with Composers Now, Inc.
JASON JACKSON is a saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist from Houston, Texas, and the Program Coordinator for Nameless Sound's Creative Music Communities. He is involved with many ongoing creative projects, a member of the band The Young Mothers, and frequently collaborates with the many talented artists who live in and travel throughout the city.
JAWWAAD TAYLOR is a trumpeter, composer, producer, educator, and social activist. He is a founding member of the group Shape of Broad Minds, whose critically-acclaimed album, Craft of the Lost Ark, brought Taylor international attention. Taylor performs with jazz, free jazz, and improvisors, as well as hip hop artists, from around the world. As co-founder and producer of the band, The Young Mothers, he merges modern jazz, improvisation, hip hop, indie rock, and Afro-grooves. He collaborates regularly with and performs with MacArthur Fellow Carrie Mae Weems and other visual artists, and combines his compositions with their visual work. Taylor’s list of performances includes countless national and international festivals such as the Hove Festival, Sonar Festival, Meltdown Festival, and the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. Taylor is an alumnus at the Red Bull Music Academy, and is committed to his hometown of Houston, TX. There, he studied and participated in workshops with Pauline Oliveros, and was a member of the Deep Listening Institute and Nameless Sound. He attended Prairie View A&M University.
KRISTILYN WOODS is a bassoonist and educator working in Phoenix, Arizona. She currently holds a faculty position with Grand Canyon University and maintains a thriving private lesson studio. In addition to performing as a professional symphonic and chamber musician she regularly engages in educational and outreach events and is a certified ASU Gammage Teaching Artist trained in the Kennedy Center Arts Integration method.
SCORES COURTESY OF DEEP LISTENING PUBLICATIONS
PHOTOGRAPHERS: Pete Gershon, Pin Lim, Frank Rubolino, Unknown
POSTER DESIGN: Christina Carter, David Feil, Heather Leigh, Gabriel Martinez, David Wang,
RESOUNDING VISION AWARD INVITATION DESIGNS: Chris Lockwood
NAMELESS: 20 YEARS OF SOUND LOGO DESIGN: Lillian Evans