Creating, Performing And Listening
FRANK J. OTERI: You’ve been teaching for years and years, so you’ve always been able to stay young in that sense, and stay connected to a lot of music – when jazz came along there was a divide among people. A lot of people said “This isn’t serious music.” Now we’ve gone past that. And there’s still a divide with rock, with people over a certain age saying, “This just isn’t serious music,” and that includes jazz people saying that rock isn’t serious music. And now the rock people are saying that about hip-hop, and sample-based music. It’s like every generation has this. For a short period of time I taught English in high school, and it was a great way of staying young, and staying connected, not falling into the trap of getting jaded.
PAULINE OLIVEROS: That’s important.
FRANK J. OTERI: In a way it’s a two-way street, this whole teaching thing.
PAULINE OLIVEROS: My mother is 86 now, and she’s still teaching. A lot of her friends were young people, and she likes that. I think that I get it from her.
FRANK J. OTERI: So as someone who teaches composition, someone who founded the contemporary music department here, what do you do with your students. How do you keep them open minded? What do you do to keep them open to possibilities?
PAULINE OLIVEROS: I trick them. (both laugh) It’s very interesting, you get a 20-year-old person who’s going on 65. (laughs) Basically what I do is listen to what they say, and if they’re not saying it, well then I find ways to get them to say it, to say something.
FRANK J. OTERI: And what kind of styles are your students are writing in, is it all over the map?
PAULINE OLIVEROS: It’s very diverse, I would say. I’m not even sure if I know how to answer that. Each student is definitely treated as an individual, a new person. I don’t try to teach composition, I don’t know how to do that. But what I do know how to do is listen to what people bring to me and ask questions about it. And that’s basically what I do. I try to draw them out as to what it is they want the piece to do, how do they want it to function. If I can find materials that support what they’re doing I can do that. It’s basically listening and questioning.
FRANK J. OTERI: I was lucky enough, as fate would have it, to get to attend a concert here this evening, and it was wonderful being able to hear it.
PAULINE OLIVEROS: Matthew Goodheart. Yeah, it was pretty fantastic.
FRANK J. OTERI: So he’s one of your students?
PAULINE OLIVEROS: No, Matthew graduated from Mills a couple of years ago. He wrote his thesis on Cecil Taylor. That was 1995, I believe, when he was working on that, because I came as a guest in 1995 and then I started teaching here in the fall semester in 1996. Matthew graduated right about then. Cecil Taylor had just been here and done a 40-piece orchestra work and Matthew’s thesis was writing about that whole process.
FRANK J. OTERI: I should get a copy of his thesis.
PAULINE OLIVEROS: Yeah. Well it’s online.
FRANK J. OTERI: I actually knew him before tonight because he’d sent a recording to NewMusicBox that we featured a year ago.
PAULINE OLIVEROS: Yeah, I think he’s quite an interesting guy. You’ll find an real interesting variety of students here. The one thing that keeps me interested is them.
FRANK J. OTERI: I feel a great energy from this place.