The Deep Listening Band set to open ears this Saturday

Sam Lewin

The Deep Listening Band will perform in Lawrence University’s Memorial Chapel this Saturday at 8 p.m. While the concert is part of Lawrence’s World Music Series, the band’s music is not rooted in specific regional or stylistic influences and does not focus on virtuosity and instrumentation; instead, the band primarily focuses on sounds — especially reverberation — and listening.

Dean of the Conservatory of Music Pertl is responsible for bringing the band to campus and wanted to expose Lawrence students to the band for two main reasons. First, the band consists of two renowned contemporary musicians, Pauline Oliveros and Stuart Dempster. Unfortunately, the band’s third member, David Gemper, passed away Sept. 27. Saturday’s concert will be dedicated to him.

“Pauline and Stuart are giants in the field of contemporary music,” Pertl explained. He continued, “Pauline, in particular, is one of the greatest c omposers of the contemporary era.”

Pertl added that since Oliveros is turning 80 in 2012, she will soon be traveling the globe in order to receive awards honoring her career. So it is “a really big deal” that the Deep Listening Band is making a detour to Appleton.

Upperclassmen may remember Stuart Dempster’s mind-blowing-yet-hilarious performance two years ago in Harper Hall. Dempster is perhaps best known as a trombonist and didjeriduist, but locally, he is also known as Pertl’s former didjeridu teacher.

Pertl studied with Dempster while he was a Ph.D. student at the University of Washington, and the two soon began to collaborate. Dempster and Pertl have been collaborating for 20 years since and gave a recital this past Thursday night in Harper Hall.

The second reason Pertl wanted to bring the Deep Listening Band to Lawrence is to expose students to what he calls the “art of hearing.” Pertl has dedicated various programs during the past few years to listening; last year, for example, natural sound recordist and professional listener, Gordon Hempton, came to Lawrence.

Pertl explained that bringing the Deep Listening Band to Lawrence is a continuation of this trend, as their music is “introspective” and focuses on deep listening, a concept pioneered by Oliveros. As a result, the Deep Listening Band concert will illustrate what Pertl describes as “hearing as an active art” and will be a rather unconventional performance.

One of the trademarks of the Deep Listening Band is its use of reverberation. The band has previously recorded in a two million gallon cistern with a reverberation time of 45 seconds, and on Friday, the band will perform in the Chapel, electronically modifying it to allow for 20 seconds or more of reverb.

The band’s focus on reverberation is actually an extension of its focus on listening; as Pertl explains, reverb “forces you to listen completely differently.” Furthermore, playing with such a large amount of reverberation can often complicate more conventional musical approaches and consequently requires musicians to “play” the reverberation as if it were an instrument itself.

Saturday’s concert will be interspersed with collaborations between Dempster, Oliveros and various Lawrence students and faculty including IGLU, cellist Matt Turner, Visiting Professor in Dance Rebecca Salzer and Pertl himself.

The concert is free and promises to be a thought-provoking if not transformative musical experience. Oliveros will also be giving a master class Saturday at 1 p.m. in Shattuck 156.