Pauline Oliveros and the ♀ Ensemble performing Teach Yourself to Fly from Sonic Meditations, 1970, Rancho Santa Fe, CA, (foreground to the left around: Lin Barron, cello, Lynn Lonidier, cello, Pauline Oliveros, accordion, Joan George, bass clarinet. Center seated foreground to the left around voices: Chris Voigt, Shirley Wong, Bonnie Barnett and Betty Wong). Pauline Oliveros Papers. MSS 102. Mandeville Special Collections Library, Univerisity of California, San Diego.
Published in 1974, Pauline Oliveros’ Sonic Meditations is one of the most seminal, if not under-recognized, works in late 20th century avant-garde musical thought. Within it, the grande-dame of American Minimalism not only departs from standard musical notation, but with the entire conception of where music grows from, and how it can be realized. Her focus lies on the cognition of sound – largely through the practice of meditation, and group participation. She highlights the virtues of meditation for making sounds, imagining sounds, listening to, and remember sounds, and sets into action twelve text scores to help practitioners realize these new relationships. Sonic Meditations is as much a workshop for use, as it is a series of pieces. The short volume is particularly important for me because of it’s focus on community, the social power of sound, an extended recognition of its sources, and its deconstruction of hierarchy. Though undoubtedly a new way of composing, it also proposed a new way of existing in the world, and interacting with others. It embodies the sonic incarnation of so much of what I advocate. Without further digression, I offer the complete work below. I apologize about the blurriness of the first five Meditations, it’s the best scan I could find. Hopefully you can make them out, and they bring as much joy into your lives as they have mine.