morphogenesis discogs resonance


Oliveros cover

Jewel case CD with 4 page booklet

Includes postage - for multiple items I will refund the excess


•   I of IV  (25:29) mp3
•   Big Mother Is Watching You  (33:45)
•   Bye Bye Butterfly  (8:02)

total time 67:18

Cover by Clive Graham
Released 1997

I of IV was made in July 1966 at the University of Toronto Electronic Music Studio and was first released by CBS alongside works by 2 other young composers - 'Come out' by Steve Reich and 'Night music' by Richard Maxfield. It is really only in recent years (born out of the more radical elements of dance music, electronica and ambient music) that music like this is being rediscovered by a growing number of people interested in all manner of experimental electronics. Track 2 was also made in the summer of 1966 at the University of Toronto Electronic Music Studio, and track 3 was made at the San Francisco Tape Music Center in 1965. The 3 pieces on this CD are all live experiments, which at the simplest level use either an array of oscillators or filters, a mixer and one spool of tape feeding a series of (variously set up) stereo tape machines. Long delay lines, pile ups of noise and rich sonorities are the stuff of this music. The third piece also samples a chunk of Pucini's 'Madame Butterfly', which only makes this music seem even more contemporary.


Three compositions from pioneering American electronic composer these pieces date from 1965 to '66 and display her early explorations into tape music. The first piece I of IV is a real-time recording of a partially improvised experiment at Toronto University, which creates hypnotic droning effects with tape loops, and its duration builds to stunning sonic effect. Big Mother Is Watching You was also produced at Toronto Electronic Music Studio in 1966, and is a development of Oliveros' techniques of repetition and transformation that characterized her work for the ensuing three decades. The tape-delay technique and sine-wave combination build a massive cloud of sound which floats through a reverberating architecture Doppler effect from the drones and tape loops create a three dimensional sound that is far too elaborate to be called minimalist, the harmonies bubbling within make for ecstatic listening pleasure. The final piece Bye Bye Butterfly is a short tone poem made with stereo-imaging techniques. This issue comes highly recommended as an insight into the fascinating early work of this maverick composer. (Skip Jansen)

This disc contains some 70-odd minutes-worth of material from one of America's foremost pioneers of electronic music. It contains just three works, each dating from the mid-1960s. Although the equipment, as well as the techniques, utilised in the production of these works were relatively unsophisticated, the same cannot be said of the end product. The emotional depth that these pieces plumb is quite staggering. In all three, Pauline Oliveros demonstrates that her compositional technique has always been driven first and foremost by the sonic results of her experimentations: in other words, by her listening to what she produces. It is this concern for the way her music actually sounds that in my view sets this wonderful composer apart from so many of her (often better known or more f?ted) contemporaries. And which ultimately will make her music last longer. Something else which distinguishes these works from those of other electronic music composers of the time - especially those of European schools of composition - is that these are all recorded in real time, rather than consisting of sounds built by painstakingly spliced together bits of tape. Or by recording and rerecording, ad infinitum. The end product has an immediacy and vibrancy that other composers only rarely achieve. It also results in larger scale works, as well as works of a much higher sound quality. Contemporaneous works by Karlheinz Stockhausen, or Pierre Schaeffer (even in their 1970's remasterings) cannot hold a candle to the sound quality of these pieces. For its time, it is truly stunning. Perhaps the best-known work here is Bye Bye Butterfly. Consisting mostly of clicks and screaming oscillator whine, the inclusion of a chunk of recorded Puccini nevertheless manages to expose this work for what it really is: a short but powerful feminist statement. (Oliveros has always been a pioneer in much more than just musical composition!) I of IV uses super-heterodyning and a complex tape-delay set-up to weave a densely textured edifice, which has obvious resonances (pardon the pun) with the composer's oft-recounted tales of experimenting as a child with her grandfather's short wave radio set. But the real masterpiece on this disc is Big Mother is Watching You. Using the same tape-delay set-up as "I of IV" but with real sound sources, rather than oscillators, this massive work is as solid a piece of musique concr?te as any one could wish. And is as cleverly and daringly constructed as only Pauline Oliveros could achieve. Unreservedly recommended to anyone with an open ear and a mind to match. Steve Benner (s.benner@lancaster.ac.uk)

A revolutionary composer and performer from the 60's through til the present day, many will best know Pauline as a member of the Deep Listening Band, or as an accordianist fond of making music that wallows in natural reverb. But, many of you may not know that she was amongst the earliest pioneers in electronic music, and that to create her music she used the most unconventional of techniques. The mammoth I of IV originally appeared on the album 'New Sounds In Electronic Music' taking up all of side 1, and it's always been stunning. Made at the University Of Toronto Electronic Music Studio in July 1966 using only 12 sine tone generators and a bizarre delay technique. The technology was primitive, yet the effect was startling with huge sonic swirls, oozing flurries and cascades of sound. It's original to this day, although you can hear its influence in many other works by synthesizer avant-gardists in later years. Big Mother Is Watching You I'd never heard before, but this is a little more offbeat, with a mixture of sound sources blended into a weird aural soup that oozes and flows. Bye Bye Butterfly is another familiar one to me, from the album 'New Music For Electronic And Recorded Media' (which also included pioneering early recordings from Annea Lockwood and Laurie Anderson), and it's the earliest here, scored for 2 oscillators, tapes and delay, it's almost like a cosmic mini 'Kontakte' cum 'Telemusik' with an added warbling opera singer. Weird and sensational! Over 30 years old and still brilliant, this is certainly a scoop for Paradigm, and destined to be a huge seller! (Alan Freeman)

Pauline Oliveros' recent instrumental work - which may loosely be termed minimalist - is well known; indeed this aspect of her work enjoys almost cult status. Her electroacoustic compositions, by comparison, have received very little exposure. She was in fact a pioneer of electroacoustic music in the United States. She was a member of the San Francisco Tape Music Centre from 1961 to 67, collaborating and touring with Morton Subotnick and Ramon Sender; and from 1966 was director of the Tape Music Centre at Mills College. She has been a major innovator in the fields of live electronic music, music theatre and mixed media collaborations; she worked with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, creating the devastating sound score 'In Memoriam Nicola Tesla: Cosmic Engineer' for the choreography 'Canfield' in 1965. This is only the second CD release of her electroacoustic works (the other is on Pogus P21021-1) and the second of these tracks is appearing here for the first time. I of IV (1966) is a work of exceptional depth and penetration, using a tape delay system in combination with 12 sine tone square wave generators, an organ keyboard, a spring-type reverberation unit, two line amplifiers, two stereo tape recorders and a sub-audio generator. The delay system contributes timbral and dynamic changes to steady-state sounds and the bias frequencies of the tape recorders are pulse modulated by the sub-audio generator. Here formal structure is entirely the unforseeable outcome of a complex interactive process. I of IV is probably one of the earliest electroacoustic compositions to have been realised in real time with virtually no cutting and editing of the finished material. The delay system gradually builds massive textural accretions, working from opposite ends of the frequency spectrum. Shrill electronic pulsations accumulate in massive crescendi, underscored by deep reverberations which sound like cataclysmic earth tremors. The work's form is articulated, not by harmonic changes, but by sudden increases in density and by spatial shifts where the layers seem torn appart as if by some powerful magnetic force. Big Mother Is Watching You (also 1966) explores a more rugged industrial terrain with its grating metallic textures and powdery frictions evocative of rock and stone. Both works create a chilling sense of desolation, like that of some ravaged, post-holocaust landscape. Rather less apocalyptic in style, Bye Bye Butterfly (1965) is a surrealist miniature which uses two electronic oscillators, two line amplifiers, a record turntable and two tape machines in a marvellously complicated delay arrangement. Here Oliveros juxtaposes dissembodied operatic choruses against cascades of electronic frequencies, often to incongruous and humerous effect. Overall this is disquieting music, surreal and hallucinatory in its impact. Highly recommended (Roger Sutherland)

Another crucial collection of early electronics, this comes from American female electronic pioneer Pauline Oliveros. Oliveros was a composer and accordion player who sculpted experimental electronic music in a totally unique manner - as meditations on a certain subject or other. Developing her own techniques of recording and processing electronic instruments and also building her own synthesizers, Oliveros managed to come up with a sound which was way ahead of her time. Indeed listening to these three pieces (recorded in 1965 and 1966) makes me think that they could have been recorded yesterday - the ideas and concepts are still being explored now and are totally relevant. The first piece on the disc 'I of IV' is played in real-time using oscillating tones and tape loops to create the epic world of noise and
ambience we, the listener, get to hear. It's a captivating world of echoing astral sounds, something like early Radiophonic Workshop but without the reliance on 'themes' or repetition... the improvisational aspect of this track is key, and it builds and grows in a way that would only occasionally be mirrored. The second piece 'Big Mother is Watching You' is even longer at over half an hour, but is no less compelling as tape loops of decomposed noise and concrete sounds make up a sludge of devilish audio. This is proto noise music at its finest, music that could still stand its own ground against modern noise acts such as Hair Police (who this piece sounds closest to I think...). The best however is saved until last with the 1965 piece 'Bye Bye Butterfly', a detailed composition made from electronic sounds, reel-to-reel tape and samples from Madame Butterfly. This might sound like a peculiar mix, but the end result is something close to Philip Jeck or Janek Schaeffer, with the pitched 'plunderphonic' sound reverberating underneath squealing electronic noise. An incredible portrait of one of electronic music's great figures, this will be enjoyed with a desire to hear more early electronic goodness in the same realm as Delia Derbyshire et al. Huge recommendation!

HALANA (Vol.1 No. 3)
I've been hoping for a good CD of Pauline Oliveros' old 'Electronic works' one of these days, and I just got a doozy put out by a label called Paradigm. And it starts off whizz-bang with the long out-of-print motherload I of IV ('II of IV' is on an electro-acoustic compilation put out by a teensy Massachusetts label, and it's pretty great, but number I is still the waking dream you always wanted.) It's also got Big Mother Is Watching You and the gorgeous Bye Bye Butterfly. All three pieces are from 1965-66, improvised live with signal generators and enough tape delay to confuse you straight into happiness. It's as thick and buzzy as the droney flavour of electronic music gets, exploiting tone combinations and refractions to achieve maximum hypnosis. Really amazing. (Ian Nagoski)

To the legions of bleating women who complain that there are no presidents and no role models for women in electronic music listen to Pauline Oliveros Electronic works 1965-1966 then try to live up to it and keep your criticisms for your own musical inadequacies.
Recordings made in 1965 -66. Three tracks on this CD, I of IV, combination tones and tape repetition using 12 sine tone square wave generators connected to an organ keyboard, etherial whirring high tones that inject into the silence, fluctuating wobbling, high pitched square waves that you can almost visualise as the dials are tuned, 11 of the generators were set to operate above 20,000Hz and 1 generator at below 1 Hz, 2 stereo tape recorders, tape machines threaded together creating feedback loops, sounds like traffic jams, and road diggers join in with the generators.  Big Mother is Watching You, tape delay, pink noise bands and some voice input; this second piece is denser, the tape delay building up, a power station, machines rumble and hum in the distance, whisps of vocals with heavy delay. Bye Bye Butterfly, tape composition, 2 oscillators, a turntable, and 2 tape recorders. Real time studio performance, intermodulating high tones scream pleasingly, a woman's voice sings opera, the voice soars with the sine tones, becoming one and then going higher and lower weaving in and out. (Paddy Collins)

Those who know Oliveros' work from her more recent Deep Listening outings will find this release of early works (1965-66) far less 'new age'. This CD demonstrates that her music has always derived from experiments with tape delay and not, as detractors might suggest, with meditative improvisation. The pieces here are all constructed from very simple sources, mostly sine tones. Heterodyning (the production of a lower tone by combining two higher tones of almost equal frequency) and tape delay are used to transform the material. Overall 'Electronic Works' presents in 3 pieces what Oliveros does best - the improvisatory transformation of non-objective electronic material without any recourse to programme, text or (apparent) intension. (Chris Atton)

What interests me about any early-ish pioneering electronic music is the very difficulty of effecting it. Look at Stockhausen hand-splicing hundreds of pieces of tape for three months to produce the jigsaw puzzle of 'Kontakte'... Edgard Varese labouring over his taped ÔInterpolations' for 'Deserts' in 1954... Tod Dockstader compiling a library of taped sounds... any INA-GRM musique concrete pioneer working only with magnetic tape and a Revox. Which isn't to try and make a fetish out of the limitations of 1950's equipment and hardware, nor to promote the Protestant hard work ethic - but having something you have to push against can often spur the creator onto greater heights. Despite the fact that those named above had good ideas, there was an elaborate and disciplined structure behind their music-making which distinguishes it from the swamplands of modern Ambient dribble. A medium that doesn't challenge you can result in soft-centred, lazy work; modern music computer banks become like Sony Playstations. What then of Pauline Oliveros, coming to terms with sine tone generators, oscillators and tape recorders to produce some of the most beautiful music man has ever heard? These pieces, dated 1965 and 1966, come from a time before binary algorithms were commonplace, in the twilight zone just before the commercially availability of the Moog synthesizer. I of IV is played in real time, using amplified tones and tape loop repetition... a more sophisticated version of Frippertronics, given that the sound sources are quite elaborate tone generators. Most important is that she did it live without using overdubs or tape splicing; no after-the-fact tweaking and correcting for this plucky explorer. The piece is dramatic, a true battle of wits, a split-second decision making process involving a massed army of unpredictable sound events. For Ms Oliveros to pitch her talents against these machines is an unequal struggle of Julie Christie vs Demod Seed proportions (there is something inately masculine about electronic equipment, don't you think?) Pauline wins, re-educating this monstrous configuration of forbidding humming boxes to speak a musical language without it even understanding what it's doing, and at the same time reinventing its machismo circuits into something more feminine, compassionate even. Big Mother is Watching You is a piece you owe yourself to hear before you check yourself into the funeral home. This is a work of terrifying beauty, of primal forces barely under control. If you are comforted by the rain outside your window but find thunderstorms alarming, stay well away from this recording. Otherwise by all means tune in to a raw and elemental composition. The fearsomeness eases off eventually, to glide into a soaring flight over a lunar landscape, only to recur in the closing passages of gigantic inhaling and exhaling. Like I of IV, Mother uses techniques which Oliveros worked on at the San Francisco Tape Centre, but recorded in Canada (Toronto University). More than merely an important electronic composer, Oliveros is a writer and philosopher and (like film-maker Maya Deren) has worked with myth and ritual, with performances spilling over into areas of choreography, music theatre. She is also founder of The Deep Listening Band, develoing a meditative approach to all aspects of music. A number of recent recordings are available through the Lovely Music label in America. She also contributes to the 'Driftworks' CD set which I have reviewed in The Crackling Ether section. (Ed Pinsent)

'There was only one place I was interested in going with what I needed to express and that was inside,' said Pauline Oliveros in The Wire 164. Though this valuable ur-Electronica excavations predate the 1969 period the statement refers to, they mark the near beginnings of the fantastic voyage through body and soul that her life's work has been dedicated to charting. The technology that Oliveros was developing back in 1965-66, when the music contained here was recorded, might not have permitted the same precise calibrations of pulse and emotion as later digital equipment. But then again the unavoidable chance elements - most of them related to the erratic quality of reel-to-reel tapes - built into her pioneering tape delay set-ups, variously fed with combination tones from up to 12 generators, oscillators and/or a record turntable, were in themselves only more than human, such uncontrollable variables inadvertantly representing human fallibility. Because the works were recorded real-time in the studio, you can sense the composer responding to these variables, turning herself into each new configuration of sounds as the linked record-and-playback system of tapes turns through cycle after cycle and adjusting the input accordingly. And given Oliveros's desire to express what was inside, her tape delay system can be seen as analogous to, if not a direct extension of her nervous system. The intimacy of her electronic compositions suggests parallels with John Cage's statements about silence, the singing of the blood and the nervous system. Just as Cage's remarks were predicated on close listening to the body's internal music, Oliveros would integrate Deep Listening practices into the compositional and improvisational musics through which she explores her interior landscapes. Listen deep to her electronic compositions and you feel a warmth that was either beyond the understanding, or simply didn't figure in the thinking of the more familiar and infinitely more formal works of officially recognised pioneers, like say, Stockhausen. That is not to say that this disc is the sonic equivalent to womb immersion, full of comforting blips, drips and whooshes. On the contrary, as Oliveros's prime concern is researching human perception, her pieces out of necessity require close attention. If their discoveries can be downright spooky, they are also illuminating. Unlike future researchers, from Industrial through Dark Ambient, who went real big on alienation, Oliveros's ur-Electronica opened a way into the interior, offering a journey through a body that brought you closer to yourself. It's awesome to speculate how the course and temperament of electronic music might have changed, had more people been listening to her back at the beginning (Biba Kopf)

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