Pauline Oliveros; Alien Bog

Pauline Oliveros – “Alien Bog” (1967) – “Beautiful Soop” (1966)
Pogus Productions P 21012-2. Duration: 61:03

Pauline Oliveros' homepage

Pauline Oliveros on the background of the pieces on this CD:

I was deeply impressed by the sounds from the frog pond outside the studio window at Mills. I loved the accompaniment as I worked on my pieces. Though I never recorded the frogs I was of course influenced by their music. Since that time many other composers have also been influenced by the sounds from the pond. Sadly, the pond will soon give way to a new building to expand the quarters of the CCM. It will no doubt be haunted by ghost frogs!

I recall another pond – very small, man-made – on Lover’s Lane in Dallas, Texas, where I lived in the late 1970s, since I happened to get marrried there while on a bike-ride (racing bike) from New York to San Francisco. I remember coming home in the dark heat towards fall, hearing these magnificent choruses of the frogs. I brought my cassette recorder out there one night, which is why I can still listen to those particularly loud-mouthed Lovers’ Lane frogs of 1978… nowadays on a home burned CDR… I also later acquired a CD with different kinds of Scandinavian frogs… so I fully understand Oliveros’ obsession with the species!

When this
Pogus CD arrived it was a revelation to me, in all its whole-wheat fullness, its nutritious electronic horn of plenty, in full length displays of early American experiments in electronic music, beautiful as it’s ever going to be, molded by the fantasy and determination of Pauline Oliveros back in the 1960s; those days of joyous ingenuity and senseless creativity!

About the methods the booklet explains:

“During her year as first director of the Tape Music Center at Mills (now Center for Contemporary Music CCM) in Oakland, Pauline Oliveros completed ‘
Beautiful Soop’ (1966) and ‘Alien Bog’ (1967) utilizing the original Buchla Box 100 series created for the Tape Music Center by Donald Buchla and her tape delay system. The take up reel was on tape machine I and the playback reel on tape machine II. Through patching the playback signals from tracks 1 – 4 were re-routed back to the recording head of machine I in a variety of configurations controlled by the composer.”

San Francisco Tape Music Center 1965:
From left: Tony Martin, Bill Maginnis, Ramon Sender,
Morton Subotnick & Pauline Oliveros

Now we can marvel at the results of these deliberations, which in those days had to be done by hand in an analogue way, feeling your way in the sacrosanct intuition of the moment, whereas today all is done in a jiffy on computer keyboards… but the small “malfunctions”, the minute deviations, the sometimes slightly “off” character of the sound, the one-off timbre arising out of imperfections of the machinery – which all together helped shape the living body of sound so palpable throughout these works – are not present in contemporary hi-tech electroacoustics. In today’s world composers of electroacoustics must seek out other measures to arrive at a degree of uncertainty, which is necessary in the creation of something that will carry, that will lift, will elevate this poor human spirit of ours…

Alien Bog” (1967) is more than 33 minutes long, allowing for ample indulgence; downright auditory pleasure on the brink of indecency!
The beginning is inconspicuous, sporting high spacey pitches shooting out in gravitational bowings from beyond the horizon, in trajectories of sonic particles screeching across the sky in their high-pitched quest for a lasting silence. Deeper, soily humus sounds emerge, in many different pitches and durations, all giving off a mystical awareness, clutching your face, looking you in the eye, laying you back to float on the therapist’s sofa… as vibrant sounds massage your tympanic membranes… and you’re spiraling inwards, inwards… eventually circling the core, the light, the answer… which is a mirror…

Elementary particles shoot through even the toughest matter, leaving detectible traces in subterranean water tanks – or are we dreaming of a Robin Hood scenery in the Sherwood Forest outside Nottingham, where a gallant rider draws his lightning-fast arrow out of his quiver of plenty, resting it on his bow before letting go, before letting the arrow rest in its furious speed across the meadow…

Later on in Oliveros’ “
Alien Bog” amplified nocturnal sounds out of the Buchla Box makes for a dark heat encounter with all kinds of beings, glaring at you out of the darkness with the shiny eyes of night-vision. Be not afraid, for you are indestructible, though “alles Fleisch, es ist wie Gras”…
The conclusion of this music is a measure of the call of the wild, reaching us from inside the minerals, from inside the granite, inside the bedrock – where forlorn longings fight their eternal chains of density…

Beautiful Soop” is also a long piece; almost 28 minutes. It is a surprise to hear a woman singing in your right channel and then in the left one – but you’re more prepared when the male voice arrives, in a tape-delayed repetitious game, while Oliveros’ Buchla Box flashes bulge in nauseating wavy formations… Beautiful! You name it, we like it!
This piece moves right on into the lustrous world of sound poetry, as the volume increases and the voices get increasingly more stubborn and the sounds out of Oliveros’ Buchla more frantic…
A chorus built on a female voice is drawn out in elastic progressions, as the chirping of electronic birdies cuts through the thicket – and the woman inside the web of many sounds moans… while the elusive man just keeps on his reciting… but the woman too, after a while – about 11 minutes into the piece – starts reciting something that sounds like a portion of some kind of fable… all inside this madly echoing environment of man, woman, Buchla-born birds and all kinds of plentiful, manifold Oliverosian sound bursts, bursting at their seams…
I do not get a clear impression of the actual contents of this dialogue between the man and the woman of “
Beautiful Soop”, but it’s not necessary at all; you feel an atmosphere of a juicy fairytale that maybe, just maybe… (?)