Sound Piece by Pauline Oliveros
Veronica Anne Salinas
Nameless Sound and Lawndale will close out the second season of their weekly They, Who Sound series with a presentation of Pauline Oliveros’ Sound Piece. The 1998 text-based score will be performed throughout Lawndale’s galleries by an ensemble of local and regional artists. Audience members are encouraged to move freely throughout the space since there will be no seating for this final event of the season.
The performance of Sound Piece will conclude three days of events celebrating Pauline Oliveros throughout Houston, including Studio Enertia’s Pauline Oliveros Day at Discovery Green on May 25 and Buffalo Bayou Partnership/Nameless Sound’s Sounding the Cistern on May 26. The performance at Lawndale also connects with the current Lawndale exhibition Axis Mundo: Queer Networks in Chicano L.A. which features work by and documentation of Pauline Oliveros’ practice.
Pauline Oliveros’ significance as a composer was first established in the early 1960’s, through sonically daring works of groundbreaking electronic music (as well as for notated pieces like Sound Patterns, which launched her international career when it earned the Gaudeamus International Composers Award in 1962). She consistently operated on the cutting edge of technology through a range of projects, including her live improvisations with global collaborators, facilitated in real-time through high-speed Internet connection.
Oliveros was an influential teacher, writer and community leader. As a recognized composer, she took a bold step in the early-1970’s with her text-based scores Sonic Meditations. She temporarily rejected public performance and practiced these scores with a cohort of women that included both musicians and non-musicians. Sonic Meditations may represent the avant-garde’s most significant effort towards inclusivity in music-making. They are still widely employed as the basis for community workshops, and they planted the seed for Oliveros’ philosophy of Deep Listening.
Oliveros was an accordion player, and her practice on that instrument had roots in the city where she was raised. Houstonians well know the instrument as one sounded in a great diversity of cultural expressions. This instrument’s plurality was certainly meaningful to her. And its underdog status in “serious music” was also embraced. This too was rooted in her hometown, as the University of Houston had the country’s only bachelor’s and master’s degrees in classical accordion performance.
Oliveros was an improviser. In this capacity, she most immediately expressed her mastery of how sonic frequencies move through physical and architectural space. In performance, her accordion could send sounds in any direction, and shape them in a range of resonances. These abilities were famously employed for recordings in unusual locations with special acoustic qualities. The most famous is her 1988 recording in Washington State’s Fort Worden Cistern. That cistern’s acoustic qualities, like its 45-second reverberation, have become well known. Acoustic architects at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have digitally simulated this space for off-site performance.
Oliveros was an important mentor. Those who she taught, coached, and inspired span generations around the globe, in contexts that range from the academic to the personal. Through the Deep Listening Institute at Rensselaer, that legacy continues. Here in Houston, Nameless Sound was started under her guidance and remains active after almost 20 years.
Oliveros was a native of Houston, Texas. And she was perhaps the most influential experimental artist ever to come from our city.
They, Who Sound
Nameless Sound and Lawndale present . . . .
They, Who Sound
experimental sound-making, improvised music, noises, the sounding of art, the performance of art and . . .
Different Artists and Performers
Every Monday at Lawndale
Two distinct sets each night
For each Monday’s updated lineup, please visit www.namelesssound.org.
7:30 – 9:30 PM
Doors open at 7 PM
Donations to They, Who Sound welcome.
In 2008, trombone player David Dove organized a short series of concerts as a personal DIY project, independent from his work as Founding Director of Nameless Sound. Held at a mid-town Houston bar, Dove had minimal expectations for They, Who Sound. It was casually organized as an opportunity for friends, colleagues, and various Houston experimental musicians to perform with each other and for each other (and for who ever else happened to show up on a Sunday evening).
On the afternoon of the third concert, Dove and friends arrived to locked doors. The bar had cancelled They, Who Sound without notice
Shortly after this auspicious beginning, the series was moved to Avant-Garden, a Montrose mainstay for diverse crowds and eclectic programming. Under the generous hospitality of owner Mariana Lemesoff (and key bar staff), the weekly series that was meant to last only a few months carried on for 9 years.
In those 9 years They, Who Sound not only became the sounding ground for a growing circle of local and regional experimental musicians. It also developed a reputation outside of Houston, as many well-known international artists would play They, Who Sound for their Houston tour stop, often collaborating with local artists. Sometimes They, Who Sound featured seasoned veterans, immediately following a young artist performing their first ever gig. Conversations after concerts were often as important as the performances themselves, and They, Who Sound became a place where new projects and collaborations were born. Though free improvisation might have been the most typical form of experimental music-making featured, there was plenty of space for jazz, noise, spoken-word, performance art, dance, film and sound art. It wouldn’t be fair to say that Houston didn’t have an active and creative scene of experimental musicians before They, Who Sound. But the scene in Houston does feel different than it did 10 years ago.
In 2018, Nameless Sound officially took on They, Who Sound as a weekly series of concerts in partnership with Lawndale Art Center. For Nameless Sound, it is an opportunity to provide a stage and shed light on Houston’s diverse, vibrant, and totally unique experimental music scene. We hope it will continue to be a meeting place for Houston listeners and experimental musicians, and we expect it to be a lab for new developments. You will continue to hear well-known national and international artists sharing the stage with vital regional and local talent. For Lawndale, it represents something of a return to roots. In the 1980’s, Lawndale’s original location was the site for some of the most memorable experimental music and underground rock events in Houston. Anthony Braxton, Pauline Oliveros, Cecil Taylor and the Art Ensemble of Chicago all performed there, as did Black Flag, The Minutemen and the Replacements.
So join us at Lawndale, where every Monday you’ll hear two distinct performances of experimental sound-making, improvised music, noises, the sounding of art, the performance of art and . . .