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Pauline Oliveros - No Mo

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Artist: Pauline Oliveros

Album: No Mo

Label: Pogus

Review date: Apr. 8, 2002

In their hushed intensity and breadth of vision, Pauline Olivero’s Deep Listening works for accordion and spatial processing (or actual physical reverberant spaces) have become a benchmark, even if relatively unlauded, of American music in the last half of the 20th century.

The disc reviewed here is a collection of earlier works from the mid 1960s; No Mo and Something Else were made at the University of Toronto’s Electronic Music Studio in 1966. These pieces are stark constructions of sound created by tone generators and noise sources, processed with varying amounts of tape delay; “classical electronic music," to quote the composer’s brief notes. Yet for all the starkness, there is an organic quality to the sounds and the way they unfold, a richness of spacious detail as sounds move from background to foreground. These elements reveal the architecture and underpinnings of Oliveros’s voice as a composer and, despite the sonic contrast, are of a piece with her later, more harmonically lush works, exploiting the richness of wind through accordion reeds.

Unlike many of her peers, Oliveros seems to have grasped early on the concept that repetition and subtle change are a process of space as much as time. This puts her, strangely enough, closer in spirit to Stockhausen than to most of the high minimalists of her generation: the Oliveros trance seems more malleable and fluid than the pulse and drone trance of a Riley or Glass.

The strongest of the pieces here, the half hour long “Bog Road”, was made at Mills College in 1967. It utilizes the legendary Buchla Series 100 Box synthesizer, along with tape delay, to create a rich and varied sonic portrait of a noisy, mysterious, and fecund bog.

While many composers seek to master and control sound, working it to their own ends, Oliveros surrenders to the process and its unfolding. She seems to know that new sounds are constantly generated from the primordial chaos. These early works capture well those moments of creation, their adhesion to consciousness.

By Kevin Macneil Brown

Other Reviews of Pauline Oliveros

The Roots of the Movement

Accordion & Voice / The Wanderer

Four Electronic Pieces 1959-1966

Reverberations: Tape & Electronic Music 1963-1970

Read More

View all articles by Kevin Macneil Brown

Find out more about Pogus

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