-page 26- excerpts from Meet the Composer: Pauline Oliveros Interview by Peggyann Wachtel
PO: Well, I turn to the resource that will give me the sound I want. Actually, when I started my work in electronic music in the late '50s, it was the accordion, or the understanding of what my accordion would do, that gave me an edge in making electronic sounds nobody else was doing. It was from understanding the phenomena of difference tones; you can hear them very clearly on the accordion. I noticed I was interested in hearing the difference tones without hearing the generating tones. I could do that in the electronic music studio by using signal generators that went above the range of hearing. A difference tone is the difference between any two frequencies, also the sum of any two frequencies. When you add them you'll get sums; when you subtract them you'll get differences. However, those sums and differences may be at very slight amplitudes, so you have to allow for that and amplify them.
...I don't play the accordion exclusively; it's one resource that I have as a performing composer. I play other things as well; I use electronics to extend the field for myself.
I was watching Tuyo this afternoon, enjoying the imagination that constructed the instruments and the meanings of that. And remembering the instruments I made in San Francisco at the end of the '50s and remembering I had a piece called "Apple Box." I had an old apple box I liked and I knew. It was like an old friend as well, because an apple box that has seasoned wood is a very resonant box. I used to amplify the box and put all kinds of things on the box to play: curb scrapers from automobiles, little implements from the kitchen -- anything, small little things -- and then amplify them, do things with them, make sounds.
There was a piece I played as a solo called "Apple Box," and I did a duet with David Tudor called "Apple Box Double." In 1965 I did a performance with ten players, so it was an apple box orchestra. It was an amazing scene, because here were all these ten apple box players, and the amplification was done with tube amplifiers, so all of this stuff had to be hauled out -- there were ten channels.
At that point, that was a very ambitious thing to do, because there weren't any 24-channel boards at the time. As a matter of fact, I had designed a board to use for performance built for my by Carl Countryman when he was a little kid. That board is now sold as a model 2A, as a Teac board. But it didn't exist at that time -- you had to jerry-rig everything to do something like that.
...When I made my first tape piece I had no circuits or filters or modulation or anything else. So I used a mike in the bathtub for reverb; I used cardboard tubes as resonators, as resonating filters. I would sing or talk or play through the tubes. I used the walls to amplify little sounds and record them, and I had a Silvertone tape recorder from Sears Roebuck, which for some reason or other would allow you to hand wind the tape in record mode; it was like a variable speed recorder.
That's how I did my early work. It was not with any of the things you buy off the shelf today. I worked a lot with tape delay by stringing tape across several machines. I did all that tape delay work in the early '60s. I wrote an article about it, which is in by book. Now I'm using digital delays which have been developed by companies which sell them to me. I would like them to give me a few so I could tell them what the next steps are. That's what I did in the tape delay article. -page 26-
Typed by Cheryl Vega 3-21-95