An Ambient Milestone – The First-Ever Vinyl Issue of Oliveros’ Deep Listening

Exciting news to start off the new year! A classic recording of the ambient genre has been issued for the very first time on vinyl by Important Records. The Massachusetts-based label has issued special releases from artists including Daniel Johnston, Boris, Coil, and Japanese noise musician Merzbow and specializes in indie rock, electronica and avant-garde music.

The label’s official website posted the news in early December and quickly sold out of the gold edition on the evening of Wednesday, December 18th. The official release date is January 31, 2020 but pre-ordered copies shipped January 6th to arrive well in advance of the official date. (This copy arrived Friday, January 10th.)

From their announcement:

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Deep Listening, we offer you the definitive double LP combining the classic, complete original 1989 release with selected tracks from the Deep Listening Band’s 1991 album The Readymade Boomerang.

This elegant double LP is packaged in a gatefold sleeve with original and updated recollections from the performers, the recording engineer and a mesostic from John Cage, to which these recordings are inextricably linked.

Recorded in a cistern, this double LP reverberates with brilliant sonic clarity and masterfully improvised performances combining live electronics, vocals, trombone and accordion. Deep Listening is a classic in the fields of improvisation, minimalism, ambient/drone and modern classical.

Listen with attentiveness, listen while lying down, listen with headphones – as recording engineer Al Swanson entices the listener to become a virtual performer in selecting the many different ways to perceive these phenomenal tracks. Whatever you do, listen deeply.

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A quick summary for those not already familiar with the band – 

Deep Listening Band was founded in 1988 by Pauline Oliveros (accordion, “expanded instrument system”, composition), Stuart Dempster (trombone, didjeridu, composition) and Panaiotis (vocals, electronics, composer). Oliveros was a central figure in the development of experimental and post-war electronic art music and a founding member of the San Francisco Tape Music Center. Wikipedia notes that:

[Oliveros] coined the term “deep listening,” a pun that has blossomed into “an aesthetic based upon principles of improvisation, electronic music, ritual, teaching and meditation. This aesthetic is designed to inspire both trained and untrained performers to practice the art of listening and responding to environmental conditions in solo and ensemble situations”

Pauline’s mantra, exquisitely realized on this recording, was to “Listen to everything all the time and remind yourself when you are not listening”. 

Deep Listening Band recorded the album in the 2-million-US-gallon Fort Worden Cistern in Port Townsend, WA on October 8, 1988. The cistern has a 45-second reverberation time. AllMusic describes the unique sonic characteristics of the recording as follows:

The unlikely instruments — primarily accordion, trombone, didjeridu, and voice — produce sustained tones that are subtly modulated by the extraordinary acoustics, making it often seem as if there were more instruments present, or as if this music has been electronically processed — neither of which is the case. All the music was improvised on site, with the musicians banging on metal pipes and found objects on the final track. The effect is remarkable, immersing the listener in a hypnotic field of shifting resonance, in a truly profound experience of deep listening.

This pivotal and iconic recording was originally only issued on compact disc in the US on New Albion records in 1989 so it is a great honor to finally have it receive the double-LP vinyl treatment just in time for the album’s 30th anniversary. The bonus selections from The Ready Made Boomerang and the mesostic from John Cage are wonderful additions for this special release and an exciting way to begin 2020!

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Published in: on January 11, 2020 at 12:34 pm  Comments Off on An Ambient Milestone – The First-Ever Vinyl Issue of Oliveros’ Deep Listening  
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Experimental Music Haul 2.0

I’ve started volunteering at the Bop Shop and they let me browse the special collections section (items for sale on the website) and I’ve found some remarkable LPs.

The first item I picked up was Morton Subotnick’s The Wild Bull.  I asked, “so is it true that I can pick up just about any release on the Nonesuch label and know that it will be fantastic?”

Moments later, I had my answer.  I found a double LP boxed set titled, The Nonesuch Guide to Electronic Music by Beaver and Krauss.  It was composed on one of the first Moog synthesizers built by Bob Moog and includes a syllabus to guide the listener through a collection of sound concepts and the language of electronic music which was altogether new to the world when the record was released.

One of the 20th century music experts working in the shop smiled and told me that the Guide was an essential starting point for my early electronic library and that had the album been produced in a more limited run, it would be considered a holy grail.

Click on the back cover shot for a high-resolution photo and check out the track listing for a better idea of what this collection offers.

Next I asked if by chance the store had a copy of George Harrison’s noise record, Electronic Sound.

Sure enough, in the special collections area there were not one but three copies!  The first was $25 but had needle wear and audible surface noise.  The $40 copy was a Japanese import in NM condition and it played magnificently.  I opted for the second disc and after researching the recording I learned that Krauss actually composed and performed an entire side of the album but was never credited on the release.

The final treasure came when I inquired about a collection of experimental releases from the French label, Prospective 21e Siècle from the 60s and 70s.  I was surprised to hear that the owner of the shop recalled the label and remembered seeing a few discs come into the store at one time or another.  We searched through the “to-be-filed” shelves and to my absolute surprise found FOUR of the label’s releases tucked away on the top shelf!  Most were $50 apiece and in excellent condition.  After quickly sampling these discs I picked out three and added them to my pile.

I plan to rip these rare albums to FLAC just as soon as the McIntosh pre-amp and power amp arrive.

Prospective 21e Siècle – Boucourechliuv

Prospective 21e Siècle – Clavencin 2.0

Prospective 21e Siècle – Ohana

I made two additional discoveries this week as well.  The Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble has released two albums, each in the area of New Music.

The first was a performance of Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians.  It was an excellent performance of the classic piece, but the second release is what really grabbed me.

In C Remixed is a 21st century re-imagining of Terry Riley’s groundbreaking minimalist composition.

Below is a sample – Jad Abumrad’s mix

And the other discovery was the work of Pauline Oliveros.  I began exploring her tape music from the 50s and 60s but was most impressed with her work with The Deep Listening Band during the 1990s.  The album, Ready Made Boomerang was recorded in a two million gallon cistern which has a reverberation time of 45 seconds!

I’m hoping for a vinyl re-issue of this release.

I’ll be heading back to the Bop Shop this Saturday so stay tuned for more!