Pauline Oliveros | Sonic Meditations

Pauline Oliveros’s 1974 Sonic Meditations PDF

Published in 1974, Pauline Oliveros’ Sonic Meditations is one of the most seminal, if not under-recognized, works in late 20th century avant-garde musical thought. Within it, the grande-dame of American Minimalism not only departs from standard musical notation, but with the entire conception of where music grows from, and how it can be realized. Her focus lies on the cognition of sound – largely through the practice of meditation, and group participation. She highlights the virtues of meditation for making sounds, imagining sounds, listening to, and remember sounds, and sets into action twelve text scores to help practitioners realize these new relationships. Sonic Meditations is as much a workshop for use, as it is a series of pieces. The short volume is particularly important for me because of it’s focus on community, the social power of sound, an extended recognition of its sources, and its deconstruction of hierarchy. Though undoubtedly a new way of composing, it also proposed a new way of existing in the world, and interacting with others. It embodies the sonic incarnation of so much of what I advocate. Without further digression, I offer the complete work below. I apologize about the blurriness of the first five Meditations, it’s the best scan I could find. Hopefully you can make them out, and they bring as much joy into your lives as they have mine.

-Bradford Bailey

What is Deep Listening?


Developed by composer Pauline Oliveros, Deep Listening is a practice of awareness devoted to “listening in every possible way to everything possible to hear no matter what one is doing.”  Deep Listening explores the difference between the involuntary nature of hearing and the voluntary, selective nature – exclusive and inclusive — of listening.  The practice includes bodywork, sonic meditations, interactive performance, listening to the sounds of daily life, nature, one’s own thoughts, imagination and dreams, and listening to listening itself.  It cultivates a heightened awareness of the sonic environment, both external and internal, and promotes experimentation, improvisation, collaboration, playfulness and other creative skills vital to personal, artistic and community growth.  Plus it’s a ton of fun.

(Text adapted from the Deep Listening Institute)