Why make a film about Pauline Oliveros?


Through Pauline Oliveros and Deep Listening, I finally know what harmony is…It’s about the pleasure of making music.


 - John Cage, 1989


Pauline Oliveros, a distinguished American composer who played a major role in the development of experimental music, passed away peacefully on November 24, 2016. Born in 1932 in Houston, Texas, Oliveros pioneered collaborative mixed-media compositions with electronic sounds, light projections and theatrical elements during the 1960s. She also created tape music compositions now considered classic works in the history of electronic music and contributed to the early development of free improvisation. Oliveros embraced the infinite variety of sounds in our world. She viewed this sonic multiplicity as a “a grand composition” and was committed to developing and teaching perceptual skills that made it possible for both musicians and non-musicians to appreciate this global “sound environment.” She extended this praxis to “Deep Listening,” a form of meditative art that focuses not only on the sounds of the external world, but also on the more ephemeral sounds of our innermost thoughts. Listening, for Oliveros, is a foundation for collaborative work and a means to form communities, which can cultivate an appreciation of human diversity. This film will powerfully convey Oliveros’ profound message at a time in human history when it is most needed.


- David W. Bernstein, Head of Music Department, Mills College


In this time of divisiveness and disillusionment, we hear again and again the complaint that the American public feels it is “not being listened to.” Pauline Oliveros dedicated her entire life to providing an antidote for this very malaise. The world could certainly use her presence right now, but sadly she is no longer with us to offer her council. “Deep Listening: The Story of Pauline Oliveros,” has thus become a crucial conduit for passing along Pauline’s wisdom and illuminations.


To those who encountered her, or are familiar with her work due to a knowledge of the avant garde and contemporary American music, Pauline was an indisputable giant of the American arts. It can be easily argued, in fact, that there is no other post-war artist who contributed so much to the cultural landscape. Pauline can easily be elevated to elite status simply for her work as a composer. However, that barely scratches the surface of her contributions. In her unusually prolific six decade career, Pauline also made invaluable contributions as a groundbreaking improviser, multi-media guru, technological innovator, writer, teacher, mentor, philosopher, humanitarian and as an advocate for women and people with disabilities.


While Pauline has been widely recognized by a variety of institutions, it is the filmmaker’s hope that “Deep Listening: The Story of Pauline Oliveros”, can broaden that recognition to the public as a whole. Perhaps, through Pauline, we can all learn to really listen.




Why are you the best person to make this film?


First, Daniel is the best person to do a documentary on my life and work because he has shown extraordinary interest in my work. Daniel’s filming is excellent and he is also an expert audio engineer. Daniel’s expertise in both audio and film is very important to me. His knowledge of music is also important to me.


In the two years that we have worked together on the film, Daniel has gathered numerous interviews. All my friends that have been interviewed are very impressed with the way that he is working with the material and have enjoyed Daniel’s questions.


I am eager for Daniel to take the next steps towards completing the film.


- Pauline Oliveros


Pauline and I both shared the feeling that this story is made for me to tell. I looked for many years for a subject about which to do my first feature length documentary. When my neighbor in upstate New York introduced me to Pauline, I knew I had found a subject that would inspire me throughout the inevitably lengthy process of making a film, and I also felt an instant obligation to share the story of this incomparable American icon. In the process of making this film, Pauline and I became close friends. Now that she has left this plane, I feel an even greater obligation to tell her story. I can think of few other people of the last century whose message of healing, unity and unbridled creative expression is more deeply needed at this time in American history.


I have dedicated my entire life since my early teens to music and filmmaking. In all those years, I never found a subject like Pauline Oliveros who provides me with such a perfect outlet for both passions. It is absolutely crucial, when making a film about someone to whom listening is the center of her personal and artistic world, that the filmmaker have a very advanced knowledge of music and sound recording and editing. I know that Pauline chose to work with me on this project because of my experience as a recording engineer as well as the use of sound in my films. In fact, in the time that I have been working on this film, I have also mixed a record for Pauline and Miya Masaoka, and recorded and mixed Pauline’s final record made with Nels Cline and Thollem McDonas.


Finally, there is the practical side of the equation. I live only a few miles away from where Pauline lived in The Hudson Valley, and where her spouse of thirty years, Ione, still lives. I was able to track Pauline's career very closely and  spent countless hours with her over the nearly three years we worked together on this film. In the past year, I am blessed to have Ione offer me the same level of support and guidance I received from Pauline.




Why do you need so much money to finish a film?


Thanks to the generosity of my Indiegogo contributors and a grant from The Robert Bielecki Foundation, production on "Deep Listening: The Story of Pauline Oliveros" is complete. The production process was successful beyond all expectations. I interviewed over 30 people for the film, including: Pauline, Ione, Morton Subotnik, Tony Martin, Ramon Sender, Anna Halprin, Bert Turetsky, Claire Chase, Mark Dresser, Linda Montano, Miya Masaoka and many more incredible individuals. I have also scoured archives at Mills College, UCSD and NYU. I have had access to Pauline and Iones' personal archive as well as many generous archival contributions from others who worked and/or played with Pauline over the years.


The end result of these past three years of work is that I have an astounding amount of material I now need to somehow distill into a two hour film. In my twenty years as an editor, this is the greatest challenge I have faced (just as I'm sure Pauline would want it!).


Film post production is expensive. To begin with, we are looking at a minimum of two months of editing for which assistants will need to be hired. The production will also need to hire someone to secure rights for the huge amount of archival still images, film and sounds that will be in the documentary. In many cases, additional funding will be needed to pay for those rights and get hi-res copies of images and film. The last stages of post-production are color correction and sound mix. Each of those services cost a minimum of $10,000. Finally, if enough funding is secured, the filmmaker will hire a marketing expert to make sure the finished film is seen by as many people as possible.


As Pauline herself wrote in 2007: “What, then, of my work do I hope will last? Well, what I am most interested in is not specific pieces surviving, but the understanding of Deep Listening and of the practices and processes that will lead to individual and collective creativity. That is what I would like to hand on.” We believe that this film can help in that noble pursuit. Please help us spend the time and energy needed to tell the story of this remarkable artist and her vibrant and varied career.


Any amount you can donate will be greatly appreciated. If you cannot donate money right now, then help us spread the word using the Indiegogo share tools. Finally, don’t forget to keep on listening!