by Pauline Oliveros


Sonic Meditations are intended for group work over a long period of time with regular meetings. No special skills are necessary. Any persons who are willing to commit themselves can participate. The Women's Ensemble to whom these meditations are dedicated has found that non-verbal meetings intensify the results of these meditations and help provide an atmosphere which is conducive to such activity. With continuous work some of the following becomes possible with Sonic Meditations: Heightened states of awareness or expanded consciousness, changes in physiology and psychology from known and unknown tensions to relaxations which gradually become permanent. These changes may represent a tuning of mind and body. The group may develop positive energy which can influence others who are less experienced. Members of the Group may achieve greater awareness and sensitivity to each other.


Pauline Oliveros has abandoned composition/performance practice as it is usually established today for Sonic Explorations which include everyone who wants to participate. She attempts to erase the subject/object or performer/audience relationship by returning to ancient forms which preclude spectators. She is interested in communication among all forms of life, through Sonic Energy. She is especially interested in the healing power of Sonic Energy and its transmission within groups.

All societies admit the power of music or sound. Attempts to control what is heard in the community are universal. For instance, music in the church has always been limited to particular forms and styles in accordance with the decrees of the Church Fathers. Music in the courts has been controlled through the tastes of patrons. Today Muzak is used to increase or stimulate consumption in merchandising establishments.

Sonic Meditations are an attempt to return the control of sound to the individual alone, and within groups especially for humanitarian purposes; specifically healing.

Each Sonic Meditation is a special procedure for the following:

1. Actually making sounds
2. Actively imagining sounds
3. Listening to present sounds
4. Remembering sounds

Because of the special procedures involved, most all of the meditations are available to anyone who wishes to participate regardless, or in spite, of musical training. All that is required is a willing commitment to the given conditions.

Sound making during the meditations is primarily vocal, sometimes hand clapping or other body sounds, sometimes using sound producing objects and instruments.

Sound imagining is encouraged throught the use of various questions designed to trigger auditory fantasy. Individuals are then asked to share what was heard inwardly with members of the group using any means to describe the experience. Conditions given for listening to present sounds are intended to expand awareness of the auditory environment, both within and without of the individual.

Auditory memory is also encouraged by trigger questions with subsequent sharing of these memories in the group. Some of the meditations involve body movement as well. The term meditation is used simply to mean dwelling with or upon an idea, an object, or lack of object without distraction, or divided attention.

Healing can occur in relation to the above activities when 1) individuals feel the common bond with others through a shared experience. 2) when one's inner experience is made manifest and accepted by others. 3) when one is aware of and in tune with one's surroundings. 4) when one's memories, or values, are integrated with the present and understood by others.

In process a kind of music occurs naturally. Its beauty is not through intention, but is intrinsically the effectiveness of its healing power. This may be felt by the group, and the music relates to the people who make it through participation and sharing, as a stream or river whose waters offer refreshment and cleansing to those who find it.

by Pauline Oliveros, "Software for People"

While one's attention is focused to a point on something specific, it is possible to remain aware of one's surroundings, one's body, movement of all kinds, and one's mental activity (in other words remain aware of inner and outer reality simultaneously). Attention is narrow, pointed and selective. Awareness is broad, diffuse and inclusive. Both have a tunable range: attention can be honed to a finer and finer point. Awareness can be expanded until it seems all-inclusive. Attention can intensify awareness. Awareness can support attention. There is attention to awareness; there is awareness; there is awareness of attention.

Attention seems to equate with mental activity and to be aroused by interest or desire. Awareness seems to equate with the body's sensory receptivity. It is activated, or present, during pleasure and pain. Either attention or awareness can interfere with the other, depending on the intensity of interest or the intensity of stimulation. When either attention or awareness predominates or becomes out of balance, the other tends to drift or become unconscious; for example, after practicing a difficult passage (or even an easy one) over and over again, with or without success in execution, the musician discovers a cramp in some part of the body which has developed from a faulty playing position. Awareness has been sacrificed for attention and has become unconscious, or conscious on a very low level. Awareness only returns with the urgency of the cramping pain. With conscious awareness, the cramp might have been avoided by adjusting the relationship to the instrument, without sacrificing attention, before a cramp could develop. In this case awareness would be supporting attention, rather than producing delayed interference reaction.

I. Teach Yourself to Fly
Any number of persons sit in a circle facing the center. Illuminate the space with dim blue light. Begin by simply observing your own breathing. Always be an observer. Gradually allow your breathing to become audible. Then gradually introduce your voice. Allow your vocal cords to vibrate in any mode which occurs naturally. Allow the intensity to increase very slowly. Continue as long as possible naturally, and until all others are quiet, always observing your own breath cycle.
Variation: Translate voice to an instrument.

V. Native
Take a walk at night. Walk so silently that the bottoms of your feet become ears.

VIII. Environmental Dialogue
Each person finds a place to be, either near to or distant from the others, either indoors or out-of-doors. Begin the meditation by observing your own breathing. As you become aware of sounds from the environment, gradually begin to reinforce the pitch of the sound source. Reinforce either vocally, mentally or with an instrument. If you lose touch with the source, wait quietly for another. Reinforce means to strengthen or sustain. If the pitch of the sound source is out of your range, then reinforce it mentally. XII. One Word
Choose a word. Listen to it mentally. Slowly and gradually begin to voice this word by allowing each tiny part of it to sound extremely prolonged. Repeat for a long time.

1. As above, but increase the speed of each repetition as imperceptibly as possible. Continue beyond the normal pronunciation of the word until the repetitions are as fast as possible. Continue.
2. As variation one but when the top speed has been reached and maintained, reverse the process by slowing down again as imperceptibly as
possible until the origianl utterance returns.

XIII. Energy Changes
(For Elaine Summers' movement meditation, Energy Changes) Listen to the environment as a drone. Establish contact mentally with all of the continuous external sounds and include all of your own continuous internal sounds, sush as blood pressure, heart beat and nervous system. When you feel prepared, or when you are triggered by a random or intermittent sound from the external or internal environment, make any sound you like in one breath, or a cycle of like sounds. When a sound or a cycle of sounds is completed re-establish mental connection with the drone, which you first established before making another sound or cycle of like sounds.

XIV. Tumbling Song
Make any vocal sound, but always go downward in pitch from the initial attack. The initial attack may begin at any pitch level. Go downward in a glissando or in discrete steps continuously. Go any distance in range, at any speed, dynamic or quality, but the breath determines the maximum time length of any downward gesture. XVI.
Begin simultaneously with the others. Sing any pitch. The maximum length of the pitch is determined by the breath. Listen to the group. Locate the center of the group sound spectrum. Sing your pitch again and make a tiny adjustment upward or downward, but tuning toward the center of the sound spectrum. Continue to tune slowly, in tiny increments toward the center of the spectrum. Each time sing a long tone with a complete breath until the whole group is singing the same pitch. Continue to drone on that central pitch for about the same length of time it took to reach the unison. Then begin adjusting or tuning away from the center pitch as the original beginning pitch was.

XVII. Ear Ly
(For Kenneth Gaburo's NMCE) 1. Enhance or paraphrase the auditory environment so perfectly that a listener cannot distinguish between the real sounds of the environment and the performed sounds. 2. Become performers by not performing.

XVIII. Re Cognition
Listen to a sound until you no longer recognize it.

XX. Your Voice
Think of the sound of your own voice. What is its fundamental pitch? What is its range? What is its quality? What does it express no matter what you might be verbalizing or singing? What was the original sound of your voice before you learned to sound the way you sound now?

What constitutes your musical universe?

XXIII. Pure Noise
Sing the pursest tone possible, that is, with the fewest partials, in a comfortable register. Gradually change the quality of this tone to include more and more partials until it approaches or becomes a noise band. Continue as long as possible, going from pure tone to noise with each breath. Variation: Reverse the above process.

Focus your attention on an external source of constant sound. Imagine alternate sounds while remaining aware of the external source.