About 250 people crowded the high-ceilinged legislative chamber of Kingston’s city hall this past Sunday afternoon to pay tribute to someone who made and listened to sound. Composer Pauline Oliveros, who died in Kingston on November 24, was a pioneer of electronic music and inventor of transformative listening methods. From her Deep Listening Space headquarters along lower Broadway in the Rondout, Oliveros communicated constantly with a worldwide network of musicians, musical theorists and people who loved sound. For several generations of these people, she changed their concept of the way music is made and conceived of.
More than a score of attendees shared their memories of Oliveros as a teacher (she taught most recently at R.P.I. in Troy and Claremont College in California), a revered musical figure (she taught John Cage a thing or two), and an active performer (on an accordion and a conch shell, among other instruments). But most of all she was remembered as a warm and compassionate human being who taught people not only how to listen deeply but also how to feel deeply and how to express those feelings. Most remembered of all at this memorial event were her smile and her laugh. It never took much to bring a twinkle to Pauline’s eye.
Pauline Oliveros embraced new technology and innovative ways of thinking. She seemed always at the forefront of anything to do with sound.
Ward Mintz, chair of the city arts commission, read the following: “The Arts Commission has been thinking about a fitting and long lasting tribute to Pauline. In recognition of her brilliance and extraordinary musical talent and decades-long commitment to the City of Kingston, we’ve decided that there should be a space in the city named for her in perpetuity. It should be near the center of the city and should be called Deep Listening Plaza in Honor of Pauline Oliveros.”
(Sustained applause … hoots … cheers … more applause.)
A collective remembrance of any figure who touched so many souls is always an emotional and extraordinary occasion. Oliveros has been honored at events in many places around the world. For most of her local friends and fans, there was the feeling that this event at the crowded city hall was somehow exceptional, that remembering this particular neighbor in this celebration of memory, sharing, support and unconditional love – all built around sound – constituted one of the high points of the attendees’ lives.
The late-afternoon sunlight shone though the six large ten-on-twenty windows in the rear of the stately room, casting an irregular geometric shadow on the slanted ceiling. Vibrations of sound bounced off the walls and danced in the space above the audience.