Pauline Oliveros

Tara's Room: Two Meditations on Transition and Change

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There are so many gems buried in Pauline Oliveros' past that the early electronic pieces reissued in the early 2000s have only scratched the surface. First released on cassette in the late '80s, Tara's Room offers a glimpse at the visionary woman's contemplative side -- the subtitle "Two Meditations on Transition and Change" is to be taken at face value. "The Beauty of Sorrow" (25 minutes) features an accordion tuned in just intonation and hooked to delay processors, her "Expanded Instrument System" at the time. The accordion notes shimmer and flap lightly against each other when played back on loudspeakers. The drone is quickly set into motion and passes through the listener, carrying part of him or her along with it. The electronic effects are slightly more intrusive than in her subsequent works, but they add food for thought. "Tara's Room" (27 minutes) is a different affair; listeners who know Oliveros mostly for her pioneering work with electronics and her accordion playing are in for a surprise. The piece consists of multi-tracked voice, wooden flute, and percussion. Flute, drum, and crotales provide the sparse elements used in the first minutes. Gradually, the voice of Oliveros repeating a mantra over and over appears and moves up front, joined in her psalmody by what sounds like dozens of other Paulines, forming a whole community. The voices literally drown the soft drum and flute tracks, eventually reverberating throughout the stereo spectrum. The result is impressive and hypnotic, maybe a bit less involving than one would expect. Analogies with Terry Riley's more spiritual and ritualistic pieces are in order.

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