This is a recording of a performance of Pauline Oliveros’ text score Rock Piece at Trinosophes on February 10, 2016 as part of a series of Deep Listening study groups taking place around Detroit, MI. Rock Piece invites participants to use a pair of rocks as percussive instruments. The first instruction is to listen for environmental pulses, then establish an independent pulse with the rocks. If the listener perceives they are synchronizing with another pulse, they should stop, listen, and create an independent pulse rate.
Rock Piece is an example of a form of composition created by Oliveros termed “Sonic Meditations.” Based on patterns of attention, “Sonic Meditations” are exercises in listening and responding to one’s internal reflections and surrounding environment and aspire to produce healing, heightened states of awareness and expanded consciousness and new forms of communal relationships (Sonic Meditations, “Introduction II”). As described in her book A Composer’s Sound Practice, “Sonic Meditations” are an embodiment of a philosophy developed by Oliveros called Deep Listening.
The practice of Deep Listening aspires to expand consciousness of sound through meditative practices, intending to facilitate creativity, and develop compassion through listening to sound environments. Intended to be performed by a mix of musicians and non-musicians, Rock Piece is enacts the inclusive nature of Deep Listening principals by embracing non-judgmental perception and non-hierarchical sound/music-making situations. Participants are not designated as composer, audience or performer but integrated as hybrids of all three. In Rock Piece, rocks are not precious stones, they are a medium allowing participants a device for sound-making collaboration—an egalitarian object used as an instrument to create a communal sound piece.
23 participants showed to perform in the event. I chose Trinosophes as the environment for the piece because of the quality of reverberance in the space. The room was ideal for sound to reflect off surfaces and collide, creating a soundfield of pulse rates echoes, generated by the resonance of rocks, people, and the room itself. In Rock Piece, participants are instructed to “move slowly and freely” during the performance. Movement of their sound sources creates a unique form of communal sound spatialization and an environment rich in sonority for listening to each other.
Editor’s note: To view video excerpts of a performance of Oliveros’ Rock Piece – led by Lindsay Karty – from Flint Magazine’s launch in Detroit, click here.