Pauline Oliveros

Accordion and Voice

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Critic John Rockwell's review of a New York performance of Horse Sings From Cloud offers a concise and insightful summary of Pauline Oliveros' aesthetic: "The music…is built up of the simplest of ingredients. In a sense, it is the experience of the piece and its essential sounds that interest her more than the compositional deployment of those sounds….It might not seem to be 'music' at all, but some vaguely therapeutic ritual. Oliveros means it to be just that; for her the implied politics of a concert are at least as important as the tangible aural result." Oliveros' aim is for audiences to experience the musical event as an opportunity for personal, and even social change, and not as entertainment, or as a commodity. Horse Sings From Cloud invites the listener to surrender to the music's static surface and experience it on a purely visceral level, without the analytical, logical filter through which most Western music is perceived. The listener's acceptance or rejection of this approach to music will determine his or her appreciation of the CD. The accordion's long-held notes, chords, and clusters, accompanied by Oliveros' gentle singing, can be heard either as a serene, aural Zen-like opportunity to empty oneself of expectations and experience the sound purely for its own sake, or as simply monotonous. Rattlesnake Mountain achieves a similar effect by very different means. It's in constant motion, full of grace notes and rapid figures, but they move within a harmonic stasis that precludes any traditional sense of development. Oliveros' work should be of strong interest to fans of avant-garde, and to adventurous listeners willing to listen in non-traditional ways.

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