The award was accompanied fittingly by a three-hour concert of her music on March 27 at Columbia’s Miller Theatre.
For five decades, Oliveros has been a pioneer in American music, experimenting with so-called “deep listening” pieces which incorporate the environment of sound into musical performance.
“What I’m trying to do in my practice and in my work is to open awareness of listening and of sound,” said Oliveros. “Often people are not as open, for example, to the environment of sound around us; people often try to shut sound out instead of opening to it.”
To make a pleasurable experience of heightening awareness of sound requires focused concentration, skilled musicianship, and strong improvisational skills, which are hallmarks of Oliveros’ form.
The William Schuman award, a major recognition given periodically over the past 28 years, is named for its first recipient and is one of the largest awards offered to American composers. The award includes a direct, unrestricted grant of $50,000.
Oliveros was honored to be chosen for the award.
“It means quite a lot to receive such recognition at this time in my life,” Oliveros said. “The concert represented 50 years of composing music, including pieces from 1960 to 2010.”
Oliveros is currently working on Meditation Symphony, which she hopes to perform at the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center upon its completion.
“The concept will come from the title, Meditation Symphony,” she said. “It will be an orchestra of sorts, but not like a traditional symphony orchestra; this orchestra may be very mixed in terms of the instruments, voices, and sound sources used.”
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