Buffalo Bayou Partnership and Nameless Sound present Sounding the Cistern

In remembrance of one of the important composers of our time, four improvisers sound the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern for Houston’s native daughter. 

Her significance as a composer was first established in the early 1960’s, through sonically daring works of groundbreaking electronic music (as well as for notated pieces like Sound Patterns, which launched her international career when it earned the Gaudeamus International Composers Award in 1962). She consistently operated on the cutting edge of technology through a range of projects, including her live improvisations with global collaborators, facilitated in real-time through high-speed Internet connection. 

She was an influential teacher, writer and community leader. As a recognized composer, she took a bold step in the early-1970’s with her text-based scores Sonic Meditations. She temporarily rejected public performance, and practiced these scores with a cohort of women that included both musicians and non-musicians. Sonic Meditations may represent the avant-garde’s most significant effort towards inclusivity in music-making. They are still widely employed as the basis for community workshops, and they planted the seed for Oliveros’ philosophy of Deep Listening. 

She was an accordion player, and her practice on that instrument had roots in the city where she was raised. Houstonians well know the instrument as one sounded in a great diversity of cultural expressions. This instrument’s plurality was certainly meaningful to her. And its underdog status in “serious music” was also embraced. This too was rooted in her hometown, as the University of Houston had the country’s only bachelor’s and master’s degrees in classical accordion performance.  

She was an improviser. In this capacity, she most immediately expressed her mastery of how sonic frequencies move through physical and architectural space. In performance, her accordion could send sounds in any direction, and shape them in a range of resonances. These abilities were famously employed for recordings in unusual locations with special acoustic qualities. The most famous is her 1988 recording in Washington State’s Fort Worden Cistern. That cistern’s acoustic qualities, like its 45-second reverberation, have become well known. Acoustic architects at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have digitally simulated this space for off-site performance.   

She was an important mentor. Those who she  taught, coached, and inspired span generations around the globe, in contexts that range from the academic to the personal. Through the Deep Listening Institute at Rensselaer, that legacy continues. Here in Houston, Nameless Sound was started under her guidance and remains active after almost 20 years.   

She was a native of Houston, Texas. And she was perhaps the most influential experimental artist ever to come from our city. 

In memory of this singular artist and humanitarian, four musicians with close ties to Pauline Oliveros will sound Houston’s Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern in the first ever public performance held in this special space. Built as a drinking water reservoir in 1926, the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern was designed to hold 15 million gallons of water when functioning at capacity. 87,500 square feet, and supported by 221 concrete columns which are 25 feet tall, the Cistern features a 17-second sonic reverberation. Buffalo Bayou Partnership restored and repurposed the Cistern into a magnificent public space, offering regular history tours as well as periodic art installations and programs.

May 26, 2019
This event is sold out but you can get on a waiting list by emailing Justin Bogert at jbogert@buffalobayou.org.
6:30 pm
Sunday Time & Price:
Concert times: 6:30pm, 7:30pm, & 8:30pm
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PO BOX 66494
Houston, TX 77266-6494


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