Sonic Meditations


Polyphonic Social: your voice in my head (and mine in yours)
Polyphonics have much artistic and social potential: to make difference audible, to ‘sound’ disobedience, choreograph dissonance, and explore the harmonies possible when we bring voices together (and apart) in a shared space.

SAT 13 May – SUN 14 May 2017
Abbotsford Convent
1 St Heliers St, Abbotsford, Melbourne
Wheelchair Accessible and AUSLAN Interpreted

530PM: Bruce Mowson, Aviva Endean, Danae Valenza, and Fayen d’Evie will pay homage to the great American experimental composer and philosopher Pauline Oliveros, by revisiting her Sonic Meditations (1971), a suite of playful and imaginative works that function more as thought experiments than music. Oliveros gave inspiration to a generation of artists through her sublime compositions and improvisations and, importantly, her philosophical approach to sound and ‘deep’ listening. These meditation works are playful and imaginative, functioning more as thought experiments than music, undertaking a vastly expanded listening, extending to the sensation of the motion of the planet in which the physical motion of the interlocking patterns of our planet, system, galaxy and universe are in some way detectable, at the extremities of physical perception.

LA: Tell us about the process of collective and individual meditation and reflection; about listening with the soles of your feet – can you tell us about the social and personal resonances this project has manifested for you?

“Fayen: We have talked back and forth about the planning of listening; the more that listening has been restructured as a management exercise, the more I am compelled to pause, to walk outside and LISTEN.  What draws me to listening is sensory poetics. I have been working from blindness lately, and my movement and attentiveness enquiries have brought me to collaborate alongside artists and writers and actors with varied connections to blindness and Deafness and Deaf-blindness. I have been meditating on the polyphonics of perception and wayfinding; how listening together invokes intersubjective translations and negotiations; how listening may be experienced as kinaesthetic rhythms and pauses and dissonances, whether through the palms of the hands (as in dactylology) or the echoes of a clicking tongue.  When we meet together, to re-encounter Pauline Oliveros’ meditations, I will be consciously practicing stretching my listening beyond the peripheries of my own embodiment, listening to what I cannot hear rationally, to the invisible vibrations of our collective polyphony.”

Bruce Mowson: “Pauline Oliveros was a guest of Liquid Architecture in 2007 and led one of her ‘Deep Listening’ workshops. I participated in this and experienced the most extraordinary sensation of becoming the world via listening. With her passing last year, I revisited this experience, in particular the 1971 suite that she developed within the ♀ ensemble, the Sonic Meditations. The participatory element of the work struck me as relevant to contemporary practice, and I thought it worthwhile to facilitate their revisiting.

Since December I’ve researched Oliveros’ oeuvre and found my intuitive impressions validated – her ideas and the insights of her critics remain radical and relevant to discourses around music, listening, feminism and participation. Jennifer Rycenga’s essay The Uncovering of Ontology in Music, lists these features of the Meditations as being shared between music and an immanentist feminism: “non-dualism, non-hierarchic structure, acknowledging the importance of material reality, listening and giving attention to the voices of women, dialogic nature, and respect for the agency and limitations of others.”

In the introduction to the Meditations, Oliveros writes (of herself) ‘She has abandoned composition/performance practice as it is usually established today for Sonic Explorations which include everyone who wants to participate. She attempts to erase the subject/object or performer/audience relationship by returning to ancient forms which preclude spectators.’ The communality of experience inferred by the Meditations seems in 2017 like returning to some ancient form from a distant land.”

 photos: Keelan O’Hehir