Deep Listening

For me, Deep Listening is a life long practice. The more I listen the more I learn to listen. – Pauline Oliveros

Composer and pioneer Pauline Oliveros, founder of the practice of Deep Listening®, describes the practice as “a way of listening in every possible way to everything possible, to hear no matter what you are doing.” There’s more to listening than meets the ear!

Deep Listening, as developed by Oliveros, explores the difference between the involuntary nature of hearing and the voluntary, selective nature of listening.  The practice includes bodywork, sonic meditations, and interactive performance, as well as listening to the sounds of daily life, nature, one’s own thoughts, imagination, and dreams. It cultivates a heightened awareness of the sonic environment, both external and internal, and promotes experimentation, improvisation, collaboration, playfulness, and other creative skills vital to personal and community growth.

Oliveros on Deep Listening

I have been training myself to listen with a very simple meditation since 1953 when my mother gave me a tape recorder for my twenty-first birthday. The tape recorder had just become available on the home market and was not so ubiquitous as it is today. I immediately began to record from my apartment window whatever was happening. I noticed that the microphone was picking up sounds that I had not heard while the recording was in progress. I said to myself then and there:

"Listen to everything all the time and remind yourself when you are not listening."

I have been practicing this meditation ever since with more or less success. I still get the reminders after forty-six years. My listening continues to evolve as a life long practice.

What Is Deep Listening?

For me Deep Listening is a life long practice. The more I listen the more I learn to listen. Deep Listening involves going below the surface of what is heard, expanding to the whole field of sound while finding focus. This is the way to connect with the acoustic environment, all that inhabits it, and all that there is.

Deep Listening is a practice consisting of listening and sounding exercises and pieces I and others have composed since 1970. The results are processed by group discussions in workshops and retreats. Deep Listening is for musicians as well as participants from other disciplines and interests. Previous musical training is not required.

The key to multi-level existence is Deep Listening - listening in as many ways as possible to everything that can possibly be heard all of the time. Deep Listening is exploring the relationships among any and all sounds whether natural or technological, intended or unintended, real, remembered or imaginary. Thought is included. Deep Listening includes all sounds expanding the boundaries of perception.

We open in order to listen to the world as a field of possibilities and we listen with narrowed attention for specific things of vital interest to us in the world. Through accessing many forms of listening we grow and change whether we listen to the sounds of our daily lives, the environment or music. Deep Listening takes us below the surface of our consciousness and helps to change or dissolve limiting boundaries.

Deep Listening is a birthright for all humans.

Excerpt from "Quantum Listening: From Practice to Theory (To Practice Practice)" by Pauline Oliveros. SoundArtArchive, December 1999.