In 2016, Sharon Stewart of Mixes from the Field was invited by Eric Lewis and Ellen Waterman of McGill University to become one of 85 composers contributing 85 pieces to be performed in 85 seconds each to celebrate Pauline Oliveros’ 85th birthday. They write:
First, we brought Pauline’s wife and long-time collaborator IONE into our secret and worked with her to develop a list of people who had worked with Pauline in some way. Spanning well over half a century, Pauline’s musical collaborations include early improvisations in 1950s San Francisco with Terry Riley and Loren Rush, working with Ramon Sender and Morton Subotnick to found the San Francisco Tape Music Center in the 1960s, mentoring legions of students at UCSD, Mills, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and her most provocative work: founding the Deep Listening Institute and developing an influential new creative and philosophical practice with interdisciplinary artists like IONE and Heloise Gold. The list quickly grew to include eminent composers, Deep Listening certificate holders, students past and present, and friends (some of them dancers or artists rather than musicians). By May 2016 we were ready to start sending out invitations. Never has a project brought more satisfaction to its organizers. We received a flood of responses, overwhelmingly positive, excited and containing the message “anything for Pauline.” Many more composers than those represented in this exhibit wished to contribute but were unable to, for a variety of logistical reasons. Amazingly, we did indeed manage to keep the whole thing a secret.
These works will be presented as a concert and an exhibition at Still Listening – A series of Events in Memory of Pauline Oliveros from 1-3 June 2017 at various venues in Montreal, QC.
As curators, then, we faced a few challenges. First, the sheer volume of incoming work necessitated a major organizational effort to keep track of all the material. Second, unlike many exhibits that encompass a narrower scope, this exhibit was to display a very large body of work in a way that had to be accessible and engaging both for viewers who specialized in contemporary composition, and for those who approached the work with less familiarity. We also wanted to use the exhibit as a catalyst for making links between the various contributors, all of whom share a deep connection to the life and work of Pauline Oliveros. Finally, we wanted to ensure that the spirit of Oliveros’ philosophy of Deep Listening—as well as her work in breaking down the rigid taxonomies between musical genres—could be clearly felt throughout the exhibit.
Sharon’s composition, UN/CIRCUMSCRIBED LISTENING, is a text score that can be performed by anyone exploring the psychoacoustic effects of listening inside and outside a certain self-created space. How do we listen outside our own drawn borders? How does listening both create and dissolve walls?