This Doc Spotlights Pauline Oliveros, the Queer Tejana Who Revolutionized Experimental Music

Lead Photo: Photo by Lynn Lonidier. Courtesy of Daniel Weintraub
Photo by Lynn Lonidier. Courtesy of Daniel Weintraub
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To anyone acquainted with her work, the name Pauline Oliveros not only symbolizes a spirit of experimentation in sound and music, but also one of self-determination and compassion. The pioneering composer, a queer Tejana who revolutionized electronic music as part of the San Francisco Tape Music Center and her own Deep Listening Institute, died at the age of 84 last fall. Her philosophy of deep listening, which calls attention to the healing, meditative qualities of sound, shifted the course of 20th century experimental music. After her death, her legacy has lived on in the music she helped develop, as well as the seeds she planted in students, peers, and fans. Accordingly, it’s no surprise that filmmaker Daniel Weintraub’s chance meeting with Pauline Oliveros turned into a friendship and a collaborative relationship to document her life. Deep Listening: The Story of Pauline Oliveros is a feature-length documentary that is currently being crowdfunded for post-production.

For Weintraub, Oliveros’ death has been a tremendous loss, and a point of reflection that influenced the direction of the documentary since he first embarked on the project. “Since Pauline passed, I have witnessed a worldwide effort by artists and institutions to keep Pauline’s spirit alive,” he told Remezcla over email. “The world needs her wisdom right now, and this film will be my contribution to that effort, as well a vehicle to help introduce many more people to Pauline and her work.”

Oliveros’ visionary approach to sound and music has not only left a mark on modern composition and sound manipulation, but also on her students and the artists she mentored. Part of her work centered on helping people with different skillsets and abilities gain access to improvisation, free jazz, and experimental music. It is this guiding spirit and ability to touch people’s lives that Weintraub hopes the documentary will carry on.

The film will include interviews with a vast group of artists and collaborators, including Morton Subotnick, Ramon Sender, and Terry Riley. Because of Oliveros’ mixed-media approach to music making, a knowledgeable filmmaker with an understanding of the skill and technique in her work is a must. As Oliveros herself put it, “I am eager for Daniel to take the next steps towards completing the film.”

It is a sad and painful moment when a wise and kind person like Pauline Oliveros passes – her life and work have inspired artists from all over the world to push the envelope of creativity. She showed us just how to reach within ourselves, and how to contemplate our surroundings and break away from convention.

Weintraub is currently crowdfunding the post-production of the documentary, with incredible incentives for those contributing to the film, including a book of quotes and CD box sets of the icon’s early works. The campaign ends on December 17, so to help the effort, head over to the film’s IndieGogo page.