Experimental American composer Pauline Oliveros has passed away at the age of 84. Known as the creator of “deep listening”, Oliveros was part of a group of influential creative artists who formed the San Francisco Tape Music Center in the early 1960s.

Pauline Oliveros (1932-2016)

Born in Houston, Texas, in 1932, Oliveros was introduced to music by her mother and grandmother, playing the piano, violin, French horn and accordion in her childhood before going on to study at the University of Houston and San Francisco State College. She also took lessons with Robert Erickson – who taught a number of significant American composers including Morton Subotnick, Ramón Sender, Terry Riley and Paul Dresher.

Along with Subotnick and Sender, Oliveros was a co-founder of the San Francisco Tape Music Center, of which she was a co-director until 1965. She studied electronic music with Hugh LeCaine and became the first director of the Mills College Tape Music Center in 1966. She taught at the University of California, San Diego, where she was director of the Center for Music Experiment from 1976-79 and founded the Pauline Oliveros Foundation in New York, which became the Deep Listening Institute in 2005.

Oliveros pioneered the concept of Deep Listening, based on principles of improvisation, electronic music, ritual, teaching and meditation. According to Oliveros, Deep Listening is “listening in every possible way to everything possible to hear no matter what one is doing.” She applied the concepts of Deep Listening in her music – particularly her 1989 album Deep Listening recorded with Stuart Depster and Panaiotis (Peter Ward), with whom she performed in caverns, cathedrals and other uniquely resonant spaces.

Later in life she developed her Adaptive Use Music Instruments software, created with her students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, designed to enable children with extreme physical and cognitive disabilities to play music and improvise.