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date: 20 August 2019

Oliveros, Paulinelocked

  • Timothy D. Taylor


(b Houston, 30 May 1932; d Kingston, NY, 24 Nov 2016). American composer. She studied at the University of Houston (1949–52) and San Francisco State College (BA 1957); she also took private lessons with Robert Erickson. A founding co-director of the San Francisco Tape Music Center (1961–5) with Subotnick and Ramon Sender, she taught, from 1967, at the University of California, San Diego. In 1981 she resigned her post to become a freelance composer and in 1985 she became director of the Pauline Oliveros Foundation in Kingston, New York. Among the rewards she received are the Guggenheim Fellowship for Composition (1973) and the NEA Composer’s Fellowship (1990). She also served as composer-in-residence at Northwestern University (1996) and Mills College, Oakland, California (1999).

Oliveros’s earliest music was conventionally notated, in an abstract but idiosyncratic style. Following these notated compositions, she explored tape and electronic music techniques. The major and enduring shift in her work came in the mid-1970s when her studies of native American cultures and Eastern religions led to a kind of meditative improvisation as a way of teaching people to recognize their own musicality. Her compositions began to introduce meditation practices within larger ritualistic or ceremonial forms, as well as to explore concepts such as the self as a non-autonomous entity and to value qualities such as intuition commonly thought to be feminine. These diverse elements can be seen in ...

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