Selected Issues in Contemporary Composition and Improvisation Concert

Music from Mills Classes, Spring Term
Wednesday, May 5, 2021 | 5:00 PM PDT
Presented by Mills College Music Department and Center for Contemporary Music

All Music From Mills Classes events are free and open to the public.
This semester, all events are being hosted online.

SOUNDS OF THE SONOSPHERE: POETIC RESPONSES to LISTENING — Pauline Oliveros, Jean Luc Nancy, Peter Szendy, François J. Bonnet 

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“…you can’t train the ear, it does what it does. It’s a microphone.  ….But what can be trained is listening. That is what  
technology is doing, it is changing the way we listen.  
It can’t change the way we hear…I think listening is very close to  what we call consciousness.” 

“We need more words to access the richness of  
auditory phenomena and to express the meaning of  
sound and sounding.”  

“Our vocabulary limits discussing inner or 
mental sound and sounding or listening in 
dreams and daydreams.” 

"You might begin to notice how your attention changes  
when you use auditory terms instead of visual terms  
to speak about sound. Your dreams may become richer  
and soniferous. Your environment might come  
alive with sounds formerly unnoticed. The ear  
tells the eye where to look and the eye sometimes  
silences the ear"  

“My appropriation of Kleiner's word "auralization" then can be used to  refer to mentally modeling sound by remembering or by creating sound.  We can auralize a score without sounding a note outwardly. The body can  and does resonate with such auralizations.”

Poetic Responses to Pauline Oliveros: 

1-Jefferson - Live Film, Video, & Sound Projection  

2-Sam - PowerPoint 
A brief lecture about hearing devices and domesticated rabbits. 

3-Cory - Audience Participation 

4-Kyle - Prose and Sound 
I have utilized a handful of sound words proposed by Oliveros to alter the  meaning and tone of a preexisting piece of prose.


“What secret is at stake when one truly listens, that is, when one  tries to capture or surprise the sonority rather than the message?  What secret is yielded – hence also made public – when we listen to  a voice, an instrument, or a sound just for itself? And the other,  indissociable aspect will be: What does to be listening, to be all ears,  as one would say "to be in the world," mean?”  

"To listen is tendre l'oreille--- literally, to stretch the ear---"  

Poetic Responses to Jean Luc Nancy 

1-Adam – Live Electronics 
“I believe that we are surrounded by relatively infinite depth, and we have to  choose what to open ourselves up towards.” 

2-Patrick – Video performance/w/ light, sound, movement


“We are not a community of listeners listening to one single object that  joins us together, like that population with mute ears that Wagner seemed  to dream of. We are an infinite addition of singularities that each wants to  make itself heard hearing. Thus without any possible summing. We do not  listen like one single body: we are two and (therefore) always one more.”  

"Even more improbable, undiscoverable, as if it were drowned in the  flood of shapeless memories, is the moment when I began  to listen to music as music."  

"There in fact exist, in the history of music, listeners  
who have written down their listening. These are  
so-called arrangers….-

Poetic Responses to Peter Szendy 

1-Sam - live drawing 
"Two improvisations: first the music, next, the drawing displaying memories and  real-time reactions to the tune." 

2-Angie - Fire  

3-Kristian - Live electronic processing


“Sound is not something that is self-sufficient and isolated
within nature. It cannot be for itself. So regardless of  
whether it is audible or not, it is always coupled with a listening.

“[I]n apprehending sound oneself and one’s perception are
like a continent bordered on every side by the ocean,  
perceptual multiplicity against perceived multiplicity 

“…each time that I experience a sensation, I experience  
that it does not concern my own being…” 
"All listening is the occasion for, or the activation of, a  
reflexive process in he or she who always lies at the  
origin of listening: THE AUDITOR."

"It is this simultaneous multiplicity of its appearing, not its  reducibility to one thing or another that makes for the richness  and the mystery of sound. Sound is irreducible and its nature  can only be a nature separated from itself. "

"hearing is a physiological phenomenon: listening is a psychological act." 

Poetic Responses to François J. Bonnet 

1-Adam - Prepared Piano 

2-Angie - Live Electronics 

3-Jefferson – Two Cristal Baschets, I play one and the  transducer plays the other 

4-Kristian - Live Melodica + little objects + synthesizer 5-Patrick - Recording 

6-Cory - Field Recordings and live electronic signal processing 

7-Kyle - Video + Buchla 
I externalize my reading of Bonnet using a Buchla synthesizer and video taken at  Ocean Beach.

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Learn more about the music programs and courses involved in the series on the Music Department Undergraduate and Graduate pages located on the Mills College website. For questions about the class concert series or accessibility, please contact the Mills College Music Department by emailing