Houston TX, 12 May 2000
Oliveros refers to her music as a sound journey. She explores the
intricate interrelationship of sound on sound, gathering inspiration
from her surroundings and transforming her feelings and emotions
into exquisite gems of sonic light. On May 12, 2000, she found just
the right setting for her trek into an aural land of tonal purity.
The setting at MECA (Multicultural Education & Counseling Through the
Arts) in Houston was quite conducive to her being able to slip into
another world, a never-never land where the ability to listen was
the only qualification for joining her on the trip. The performance,
part of MECA's ongoing Improvisational Program, consisted of an opening
solo concert, followed by group interplay with three Houston creative
artists in a roundtable exchange dubbed by Oliveros as Ear Rings.
slowly unwound her music in a cautious, discreet way as she put herself
into a self-induced trance and felt the vibrations around her. She
encircled herself in a mesmerizing aura, encompassing her total being
with the sanctity of sound waves coaxed ever so delicately from her
seemingly unwieldy instrument. Oliveros easily manipulated the box
into doing her bidding. As the spirits in the room enveloped her,
she expounded more dramatically in sťance-like communication with
another world—a knock, a rap, did you hear that sound—the
spirits are speaking to you and me. Emotions seemed to intensify as
she delved deeper and deeper into an ethereal state. Her playing became
more overt, the volume more obvious, until you were drugged by the
movement of air being pushed through her accordion folds. The process
was one of evolution and not revolution. Through her methodical standards
of exploration, nuances and subtleties emerged. Her music transformed
the room into a cloud of levitating bodies gently floating through
space. Oliveros captivated the intensely receptive audience with her
tranquilizing magic. She built an ephemeral film of gauze over the
entire room, allowing each to swim in the warm waves of her seductive
playing. Only when she opened her eyes as a signal of conclusion were
we released from her grasp and permitted to respond enthusiastically.
second half of the performance featured trombonist David Dove, pedal
steel guitarist Susan Alcorn, and recorder player Tom Bickley in the
Ear Rings circle conversation. Oliveros orchestrated a series of duets
where each musician played with the other three in a continuous blending
of tones and sounds that culminated in full collective improvisation.
The duets emerged as seamless conversations that flowed unerringly
into the next by momentarily having three players interact and then
one drop out. Alcorn and Bickley opened with an exchange that had
oriental overtones and were followed by a duet between Bickley and
Dove where the incessant drone of Dove's trombone meshed with the
Andean pitch of Bickley's recorder. Dove and Oliveros next engaged
in battle, with the lighter accordion vibes clashing with the gruff,
muted trombone. Dove oozed out continuous groans of improvised music
as waves washing up on a shoreline. They were met with the filaments
of sound spun gingerly by Oliveros.
Alcorn and Oliveros next did a dance of light, delicately prancing
along as the steel bars met the strings and the accordion gushed out
beams of brilliance. The union of Bickley and Oliveros was a fanciful
dance of laser beams as well and was followed by the sweeping, long
trombone lines of Dove moving in a linear direction while Alcorn interjected
soft fragments of raindrops randomly plucked from the sky.
culminating quartet session unitized the artists in an aggressive,
take-hold posture. The quartet was one of contrasts—the high-end
recorder piercing the shield of the basement-level trombone—the
biting notes from the pedal steel guitar molding with the impeccably
chosen accordion strains—darkness blending with the light—quietude
vs. boisterousness—chaos meeting serenity—all forms of
contrast presented themselves in this unique array of musicianship.
The mouthing techniques used by Bickley brought out still more innovative
sounds from his several recorders that further contributed to the
diversity of the music.
Oliveros coordinated a very satisfying solo, duo, and quartet program
full of innovative spontaneity. She dedicated the program to her mother,
Edith Gutierrez, a long-term music educator in Houston who was present
to see her daughter excel. Many years ago, Jon Hendricks wrote a one-word
jazz poem. He simply said, "Listen." Oliveros has expanded on that
concept by promoting her philosophy of Deep Listening, which
she describes and teaches as "exploring the relationship among any
and all sounds". That was all that was required to communicate with
Oliveros on this very special night.