Pauline Oliveros

Pauline Oliveros

Professor of Practice

Photo of Pauline OliverosPhoto of Pauline Oliveros

Distinguished Research Professor of Music

Pauline Oliveros is widely recognized as one of America's most important composers of the 20th and 21st century. A leader of the avant-garde and a pioneer of improvisatory music, alternate tuning systems, contemporary accordion playing, electronics and multi-media events, Oliveros continues to be a vital force through continuing performances, and through Deep Listening®, a lifetime practice fundamental to her work.

"As a musician, I am interested in the sensual nature of sound, its power of synchronization, coordination, release and change,” said Oliveros. “Hearing represents the primary sense organ - hearing happens involuntarily. Listening is a voluntary process that through training and experience produces culture. All cultures develop through ways of listening. Deep Listening ® is listening in every possible way to everything possible to hear no matter what you are doing. Such intense listening includes the sounds of daily life, of nature, or one's own thoughts as well as musical sounds. Deep Listening represents a heightened state of awareness and connects to all that there is. As a composer I make my music through Deep Listening."

In a current project, her research group - Gender and the Body - within Improvisation, Community and Social Practice (ICASP) is developing a series of musical instruments for use by people with severe mobility restrictions. The AUMI - Adaptive Use Musical Instruments (AUMI) project, involves researchers in universities including University of Kansas, McGill University- Montreal, Memorial University, and Lakehead University. She is also involved in the Creative Artificially Intuitive Reasoning Agent (CAIRA) project to create a computer program capable of contributing to avante garde musical performances. 

Since the 1960s, she has profoundly influenced American music through her work with improvisation, meditation, electronic music, myth, and ritual. Many credit her with being the founder of present day meditative music. All of Oliveros’ work emphasizes musicianship, attention strategies, and improvisational skills.

She has been celebrated worldwide. During the 1960s, John Rockwell named her work Bye Bye Butterfly as one of the most significant of that decade. In the 1970s she represented the United States at the World’s Fair in Osaka, Japan; during the 1980s she was honored with a retrospective at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington. The 1990s began with a letter of distinction from the American Music Center presented at Lincoln Center in New York, and in 2000 the 50th anniversary of her work was celebrated with the commissioning and performance of her Lunar Opera: Deep Listening ForTunes. In 2012, Oliveros was honored with the John Cage Award, which is made in recognition of outstanding achievement in the arts for work that reflects the spirit of composer John Cage and also the GigaHertz Preis from ZKM Karlsruhe for lifetime achievement in Electronic Music.

Oliveros received the Resounding Vision Award for Life Time Achievement from Nameless Sound in Houston TX, April 2007. She has received an honorary membership in the Society for American Music and an honorary Doctor of Music from Mills College, an honorary Doctor of Arts from DeMontfort University in the UK and the William Schuman award for lifetime achievement from Columbia University. Oliveros’ work is available on numerous recordings produced by companies internationally. Current research interests include Adaptive Use Musical Instruments for the Physically Challenged and Experimental Telepresence for performance and teaching. Improvisation, Community and Social Practice –a multi-year, international research grant funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada and The National Science Foundation CreativeIT and the RPI Office of Research fund her work.

In addition to her work at Rensselaer, she is the Darius Milhaud Artist-in-residence at Mills College, Oakland, CA and is founder and executive director of Deep Listening Institute, Ltd. in Kingston NY.

Contact info:
Office number: West Hall327
Phone number: 518.276.8765
Fax number: 518.276.4370
Email Address: olivep@rpi.edu