Vision: Renowned Composer Pauline Oliveros' Orchestras for Feminism and Fracking

We all know about musicians who write their lyrics about progressive issues, but what about those that interpret them through their music? That's what renowned composer Pauline Oliveros has done with two pieces as of late, abstractly translating feminism and fracking through the sound of her instruments. In a new interview with Pitchfork, the longtime scholar, professor and pioneer discusses her new archival release, Songs for Valerie Solanas and Marilyn Monroe -- which looks deeper into the lives of two vastly different women -- and a newer piece she wrote about fracking:

Pitchfork: Is it challenging in general to put concrete themes into abstract music?

PO: It's certainly not easy to work in an abstract way that doesn't convey ideas directly to the listener, but it can be done. For instance, I recently took part in a meeting in the Catskills organized by activists who want to protect the watershed there from corporations that want to hydrofrack-- drill through the shale for natural gas, which will surely contaminate the watershed. They invited a lot of artists because they felt we would have a way of conveying the ideas to the people. I played a solo piece. The first part was called "Let's Get the Frack Out of Here," and it was pretty rousing and menacing. The second was called "Let's Keep Our Water Pure", and you could hear the water in the way that I was playing. So those are ideas that convey feeling. It's important to get to the heart and feeling of things like that, and music can do that. It can do it without words.

She goes on to further discuss feminism, Solanas, Shirley Jackson, her teaching style and other issues. It gets a little wonky at the end, but it's really worth reading -- Oliveros, 79, is a rare woman in a New Music boy's club, a super-populist about music and a longtime supporter of arts and young people. Not to mention she is a total pioneer in experimental music and an incredible example of how to get at progressive issues from a cultural perspective. Read it here.

AlterNet / By Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

Posted at March 5, 2011, 7:13am

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