On March 28, the Deep Listeners of LU club hosted their third annual “Ocean of Sound” event, titled “Pauline’s Dream” in the Wellness Center gym. Students were invited to bring pillows and yoga mats to place on the floor and listen to a “sea of sound” performed by club members.
The musicians set up their equipment in the racquetball court adjacent to the gym where students gathered. Using their instruments, voices and found objects, they produced an ever-changing soundscape which was released into the gym through four large speakers.
The main purposes of the event were to expose interested students to the wonders of deep listening experiences as well as to pay tribute to Pauline Oliveros. Oliveros, who died in November of 2016, founded and popularized the practice of deep listening as it is known today. She was also known for her skill as an improviser; she composed and performed many works as she was advocating for the teaching of sonic awareness skills to all musicians.
Oliveros was a long-time friend of Brian Pertl, the Dean of the Conservatory of Music, as well as music education instructor Leila Pertl, who together work with the Deep Listeners of LU and teach a course called “Deep Listening Lab,” which is open to all students. They are friends with “Ocean of Sound” special guest Tomie Hahn, Director of the Center for Deep Listening at Rensselaer, who contributed greatly to the magic of the event.
The musicians waited until the participating students had taken their places on the mats laid upon the gym floor before beginning a slow procession around the perimeter of the space. They gently swung large bells and walked among the listeners before heading back to the racquetball court. As the performers moved into the other room, hidden from view, the sounds of the bells faded away. Gradually, unidentifiable drone sounds began to leak from the speakers, which were strategically placed in the four corners of the gym, surrounding the listeners.
A multitude of sounds came and went through the space over a long period of time. Swells and fade-outs, lasting several minutes each, gave the music a long form and defined sections. The list of instruments and sound-making tools used was impressive; familiar sounds such as harp, oboe, didgeridoo, voice and guitar intermingled with the mysterious sonorities of seashells, long pipes and pouring water.
Students interested in learning more about deep listening are invited to join the Deep Listeners of LU at meetings on Fridays at 7:30 p.m. in the Jazz room.