Empac Event

Deep Listening: The Story of Pauline Oliveros dives into the life and legacy of the RPI professor

Photographer Anna Zuniga '26 and I attended the first public screening of Daniel Weintraub’s film, Deep Listening: The Story of Pauline Oliveros on October 9th.

The film, nurtured over the course of ten years, honors the life and legacy of Rensselaer's Distinguished Research Professor of Music Pauline Oliveros. Deep Listening brilliantly gives insight into her philosophy, creativity, tenacity to break through barriers, and passion for teaching and inclusivity.

The film documents her “primary relationship” with “sound and music,” organized by “listening questions” and intertwined with interviews. Over the course of the film, we see Oliveros’ life unfold, from her journey as a 20-year-old with $300 and an accordion in San Francisco to her professorship at RPI.

Over the course of the film, we see Oliveros constantly experimenting and innovating with sounds—performing in the “Tropical Fish Opera” (a group piece where musicians adjust their notes based on where fish swim in a fish tank), and creating the “Tuning Meditation”—“first performed by seventy-five singers”—to name a few.

Teaching, building relationships, and inclusivity are cornerstones throughout Oliveros’ life. In the film, Oliveros responds to a question about how she deals with criticism over her unique approaches, “I’ve never tried to build a career, only to build a community.”

While we watched the film, laughter from the audience filled EMPAC as Oliveros quipped jokes. A picture of Oliveros with a baseball bat in one hand and a french horn in the other also drew laughter. After these reactions and the Q&A with the audience, I could feel how special she was and will continue to be. In the Q&A, her partner and executive producer of the film, IONE, said in response to a question about her reaction to the screening, “I feel like I’ve been with Pauline and I am with Pauline.”

IONE (LEFT), EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, AND KATHY HIGH (RIGHT), GUEST CURATOR, ANSWER questions during the post-film Q&A. Anna Zuniga/The Polytechnic

I believe the film is an amazing way to honor her memory and give others a way to learn more about her life, legacy, and what it truly means to listen to and welcome others. Oliveros was an immensely creative, driven, and inspirational musician, who touched the hearts of everyone she interacted with.

To learn more about Pauline Oliveros, click here. For a Daniel Weintraub interview on the film, click here.