FROM THE ARCHIVES | Love Letter to Pauline Oliveros

An image of composer and musician Pauline Oliveros performing. The orientation of the image is skewed, so the floor is slanted and angles down to the right. Oliveros sits on a chair with a large accordion, her head is tilted down, her eyes are closed, and she has an expression of deep concentration. Oliveros sits in a large gallery room, and behind her there is a giant white ear on the wall with a huge, brass ear horn.
Pauline Oliveros. Photo by IONE.

Since Variable West launched in August 2020, we’ve published almost 100 Love Letters, Reviews, and Interviews. Over the next few weeks, the VW team is looking back and highlighting some of our favorite pieces.

This Love Letter will always be significant for me because it was the first piece I published by another writer. That also means it was the first time I paid a writer to contribute to the magazine I started, something I feel immensely privileged to do and continue doing. Zeny May Recidoro wrote one of my favorite kinds of Love Letters—a piece that’s dreamy and meandering but also incredibly specific and evocative. It was a perfect piece to kick off Variable West’s editorial adventure. —Amelia Rina

I have more time for dreaming because I stay asleep more. One time—I can’t remember when, because days and hours and weeks and moments now all melt into each other—I dreamt I met a storyteller while walking along a jungle path. We sat under a tree. She took off her head and shook it. Her skull rattled and made music. Seeds, which made those musical sounds, started to pour out of her eyes, mouth, and ears. She put her head back on and told me each seed was a story. I think about skulls and sonority, how women sing, how I like to sing when telling a story; I do a lot of difficult things that knock me out of my center and listening puts me right back to the groove. Lately, I’ve been listening to Pauline Oliveros and have made a playlist for this love letter. In “Horse Sings from Cloud” from the album Accordion and Voice, Oliveros’s long-drawn tones expand and compress from the instrument’s bellows. In “Wolf” from Ghost Dance, come ululations, chants, and vocalizations of animal sounds that remind me of the Wild Woman from Clarissa Pinkola Estés’s Women Who Run With the Wolves. “Slipping Away” from The Roots of the Moment offers turns and shifts in keys, evoking the image of a winding road in my mind. Time became a little feral these past few months. Music, which is noise ordered by time, provides grounding kinship.

Originally published August 31, 2020.

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Over the past year and a half, I’ve spent thousands of hours doing everything I can to uplift and amplify the outstanding artists and writers on the West Coast—all on a shoestring budget. Next year I plan to do more, and I need your help. By becoming a monthly subscriber or making a one time donation, you’re directly helping the Variable West team build a stronger, more resilient and diverse West Coast art world. Your support makes it all possible! —Amelia Rina, Founder and Editor in Chief


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