Artificial Canyons




In the early 70s, in San Diego, composer Pauline Oliveros created a new work called Sonic Meditations. This work, which put listening at the forefront was made in collaboration with a group of women called the ♀ Ensemble and. Among these twenty-five text-scores one of them invites participants to find a canyon to perform. In this paper, I would like to emphasize the significance of this landscape in the work of Oliveros. On the one hand, this type of site reinforces the contemplative dimension that is specific to Sonic Mediations. Indeed, when one makes a sound in such a resonant space, it is possible to dwell upon sounds at length as requested by many of the meditations. On the other hand, the listening experience in a canyon can become so immersive that boundaries between the landscape and the individual evaporate. ‘Our ears felt like canyons’ recalls the composer after a sonic experience in the Feather River canyon. During this talk, I will argue that the canyon landscape in Oliveros ‘work is more than simply a punctual occurrence in one of her pieces and figures instead as a paradigm for a constructivist experience of listening. I will support this idea firstly, by recalling the heuristic role of sonic resonances via collaborative work and recording experiences in her Sonic Meditations and personal accounts. Secondly, by underlining how Sonic Meditations are not simply a set of experimental music pieces but a tailored social space for all sounds to be heard in detail and at length. Finally, we will be looking at Sonic Meditations as a sort of step-by-step ‘how to build an artificial canyon’, aiming to configure social space for new or unheard subjectivities.




Studied history of art, philosophy (Paris I Sorbonne), film (Paris X Nanterre), sound art (University of the Arts London) and music (Conservatoire de Paris IX Nadia et Lili Boulanger). More recently he has published during a residency at the Banff Centre a book of text scores called Friendly Algorithms, completed postgraduate research (MPhil) on improvised music and listening at CRISAP (Creative Research into Sound Arts Practice), and obtained a certification to facilitate workshops based on composer Pauline Oliveros’s listening approaches (The Center for Deep Listening/ Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute). Artur is currently deepening his interest in listening and improvised music with the online project Sonomateca in collaboration with Russian choreographer Karina Scherbakova.