Deep Listening Band: A Short History
by Stuart Dempster

Deep Listening Band Chronology

The Deep Listening Band (DLB) arrived in Chicago late Sunday and early Monday (11 and 12 April 1992) just as the town was being evacuated from the great tunnel flood. What is it about the DLB that relates so well to water?  The DLB was formed by accident 8 October 1988 while recording its award winning Deep Listening CD for New Albion Records in a two million gallon cistern with a reverberation time of 45 seconds on an old military base (Fort Worden) 70 miles northwest of Seattle in Port Townsend WA. Just a few months later the DLB was recording Troglodyte's Delight for ¿What Next? Records (reissued in 1998 on O. O. Discs; assigned to Deep Listening®* 2004) in an old limestone quarry, Tarpaper Cave, Williams Lake Hotel (Rosendale NY) that had lovely dripping water sounds and Valhalla-like mists. About a year and a half after that the DLB was once again in the cistern to record The Ready Made Boomerang CD released in January 1992, also on New Albion. This "upstart Deep Listening Band worships in a cistern chapel (and) explores the mysterious spaces between notes, where all is sweet dissonance and beading microtones" according to Marc Weidenbaum in the April 1992 issue of Pulse!


In December of 1991 the Deep Listening Band went to perform in Jameos del Agua, a marvelous concert space built in a lava cave, containing a pond, on Lanzarote, the northernmost Canary Island. By this time keyboardist David Gamper had been with the DLB for a year joining trombonist Stuart Dempster, accordionist Pauline Oliveros, and vocalist/computer wizard Panaiotis. The DLB is a composer collective--usually improvising in the moment, and experimenting with all kinds of instruments and electronics: Dempster on conch shells, didjeridus and garden hose; Gamper on overtone flutes, and found instruments, and continuing to develop the Expanded Instrument System (EIS); Oliveros on voice, bells, and conch shells.


The DLB has regularly invited guests to perform with it. Dancer/vocalist Julie Lyon (Balliett) Rose, vocalist Thomasa Eckert, percussionists Fritz Hauser and George Marsh, writer Ione, performance artist Linda Montano, and clarinetist William O. Smith form only a small part of the guest list. Whether performing in San Francisco at Life On the Water (October 1990); in Austin with the Sharir Dance Company (March 1990) or the Ellen Fullman Long String Instrument (1994); in Brussels, Oslo, and Stockholm (April 1991); in Lanzarote (December 1991); Tokyo (December 1992) in a hall with over 700 loudspeakers in the walls and ceiling; rattling our Pots and Pans in New York's "The Kitchen" (January 1995); performing in the World Financial Center Winter Garden, or the Low Library Rotunda at Columbia University, the DLB stands ready to play just about anywhere!  


An unexpected depth was reached with events leading up to Panaiotis' resignation in June 1993; the DLB had to reinvent itself. While this was going on, and unbeknownst to DLB, a group at the "Alternative Festival" in Moscow led by Anton Bugatov played along with our Troglodyte's Delight CD in our first "virtual" concert; one could say they were DLB guests!  Barely six months after the personnel change the DLB played a "monumental" (Ione's description) benefit "Non-Stop Flight" concert in Kingston, New York in January 1994 inviting some 13 guest performers (modeled after the five hour Marathon in Japan)--the DLBB (Deep Listening Big Band)!  Work then took place with composer Ellen Fullman and her Long String Instrument (LSI) in three separate weeklong residencies in Austin, Texas during January, February, and November 1994 culminating in several fantastic energizing performances. Fullman represents the fourth of ten DLB commissions (other composers are Thomas Buckner, David Gamper, Joe Giardullo, Fritz Hauser, Linda Montano, Joe McPhee, Panaiotis, Pauline Oliveros, and Baikida Carroll).


The DLB released two CDs during 1995. Sanctuary, recorded in Kingston, NY's lovely old Trinity United Methodist Church (TUMC) on Mode Records, features Non-Stop Flight mentioned above, along with the Expanded Instrument System (EIS) and TUMC's unique Tracker organ. Tosca Salad represents a two-year DLB history, from June 1993 to May 1995. This CD sampler introduced the Deep Listening* label and presents twelve excerpts from concerts and recording sessions including Ten Ears Celebration in honor of the tenth anniversary of the Pauline Oliveros Foundation. Two more CDs have been released: Suspended Music (1997) features the DLB with Ellen Fullman's Long String Instrument in two DLB commissions: Fullman's TexasTravelTextures and Pauline Oliveros' Epigraphs in the Time of AIDS. This CD also introduced the label, Periplum. Non Stop Flight (1998), released on Music & Arts, is an excerpted recording of a concert at Mills College dedicated to the memory of David Tudor: 4 Hours and 33 minutes, a trope on Cage's 4' 33", with many Bay Area guests.


The September 1998 set of concerts in Columbia University’s Low Library Rotunda with Ellen Fullman and her phenomenal Long String Instrument began Deep Listening Band Decade, a year long celebration of the DLB's first ten years. By March 1999 the Band was at Weill Recital Hall (at Carnegie Hall) with guests Joe McPhee, and Linda Tillery with the Culture Heritage Choir from Oakland. Later in March it was a performance at Cat in the Cream, Oberlin College, with guest Hugh Ragin on trumpet. June saw a recording session in Kingston NY for McPhee’s Unquenchable Fire with author Rachael Pollack reading from her text. A few days later it was the Knitting Factory in New York with Straylight and also McPhee to round out the celebration. Each of the spectacular events presented different sides of Deep Listening Band, with special attention to honoring a tradition of having a wide variety of amazing and talented guests.


Oliveros’ Lunar Opera during August 2000 provided a marvelous opportunity to perform with guests composer/performers Brenda Hutchinson and Hugh Ragin as part of Lincoln Center Outdoors. Lunar Opera was an extravaganza with many day and evening events, including a grand processional. DLB with the long line of people seemed to be the ultimate guest lineup. With some 200 people involved as Fan Walkers with toy accordions, moonbodies, Diva Nation, drummers, Lambchop (Heloise Gold), Linda Montano “sleeping” in front of the Met, Ship of Fools, and various “cities” to visit it all formed only a small part of the proceedings. The presence of the Drepung Loseling Monks provided a marvelous blessing. Riding this high during the season led naturally to the following March 2001 when the DLB performed at New York’s Engine 27 in an event, recorded in 16 channels, that the DLB felt was their “best concert ever.”  


During October of 2001 DLB played with guest organist Karel Paukert and the choirs of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church as part of the Aki Festival in Cleveland. In December the concert was at Detroit Institute of Arts. It was telling that one of the DLB pieces was Great Hall Noise, a premonition apparently, because the bar in Rivera Court made considerable noise spilling over into the Great Hall. Six months later in June 2002 DLB performed in San Francisco as part of Sounding the Margins celebrating Oliveros’ 70th birthday. A month later it was “Sound Symposium” in St. Johns NF that provided the opportunity for two DLB events. The first concert served as a memorial in honor of the Symposium’s founder Don Wherry. The second concert saw guests Tonya Lockyer (movement), Renko Ishida Dempster (painter), and artist/writer Ione in a stunning multimedia event. The brave and a very surprised MC Mack Furlong was a good sport as Oliveros and Gamper gradually “processed” his announcements through the EIS.


In May 2003 it was The World Financial Center’s Winter Garden followed a few months later, in October 2004, by participation in Sounds Like Now festival at New York’s La MaMa space: “Deep Listening Band performs spontaneously tonight under the title Then & Now Now & Then. Then was sixteen years ago in an underground cistern in Washington State resulting in an underground classic produced by New Albion called ‘Deep Listening;’ Now is tonight’s performance and is dedicated to changes for the better…” At last, two CDs long in preparation were released: Unquenchable Fire and Deep Time both on Deep Listening. Two energetic concerts during 2006 were quite special. First was the DLB SoundExchange residency in Philadelphia during March/April in two concerts with a large contingent of participants especially featured in Philadelphia Mint: An Ear Full of Philly. In October 2006 featured guest Norman Lowrey and Ione in a concert at Drew University, Madison, NJ. DLB performed Lowrey’s Into the Deep (Dreaming) as part of Ione’s Dream Festival.


On 3 October 2005 there was a “Sedimental Journey” celebrating 50 years of Dempster and Oliveros working together. A DLB related event, it was a telematic concert featuring live dancers at Mills with Internet appearances by Oliveros at Rensselaer (NY) Polytechnical Institute and Dempster at DXArts, University of Washington in Seattle. All performers appeared at all sites via Internet. Previous DLB telematic events happened during the mid-1990s mostly at New York City’s The Kitchen. Some of these early efforts used PictureTel over ISDN lines that were often all by themselves quite “creative” in their behavior. By the time of “Sedimental Journey” we used iChatAV. More details can be obtained from DLB Chronology** by looking up the appropriate dates: 15 January 1995 at The Kitchen’s Electronic Café and groups in Toronto and Paris; 14 March 1996 was similar but with Dempster at The Speakeasy Café in Seattle; 4 and 6 April 1996 with Gamper at The Kitchen, Oliveros at Northwestern University in Evanston IL, and Dempster at Speakeasy Café in Seattle.


In August 2008 the DLB began “Celebrating Twenty Years” with a concert at Bard College as part of New Albion Records’ 25th Anniversary. The occasion was perfect for Pauline and Ione to award an Honorary Deep Listening Certificate to a very surprised Foster Reed for his dedication to supporting new music artists. We performed Sounding the Bard without Shakespeare with subsections Listening to Mirrors, Deep Mirroring, and Mirroring the Bard[o]. The Spiegelpalais has mirrors everywhere, and that was perfect for reflecting our regular use of sound mirrors. The sound was lush, coming in long, slow, dramatic waves. It did not surprise us when we completed our performance with a long, slow diminuendo leading to a beautiful two-minute silence held by the audience—and us—supported by a rather loud solo cricket in the space. We thought it to be one of our best concerts. The celebration continued in October with concerts in the Catskills and at Roulette in New York, the latter celebrating a special commemorative double LP Then & Now Now & Then: Celebrating 20 Years on TAIGA (5) that collected four representative sides of live DLB concerts.


In May 2009 DLB performed two amazing, sold out concerts in Seattle at Good Shepherd Center’s Chapel Performance Space under the auspices of Nonsequitur, administered by Steve Peters (one of the cofounders along with Jonathan Scheuer). Featured was Oliveros’ DroniPhonia (based on the iPhone application Srutibox by Henry Lowengard) where “…different musical characters appear unexpectedly from time to time out of nowhere [and eventually] all players weave their way in and out of the droneophony sharing the unknown finale.”  This work was revisited in March 2010 when Oliveros was feted at Columbia University’s Miller Theater receiving the William Schuman Award. This magnificent event featured many of her colleagues and friends in a three-set extravaganza where the finale was Deep Listening Band joined by Timeless Pulse and other collaborators. DroniPhonia took on an expansive aura with at least double the iPhones increasing the presence of “different musical characters” and deepening the “unknown finale.”  


2011 began as an amazing banner year. In January DLB had the most fantastical residency at Town Hall Seattle with essential support by University of Washington’s DXArts and School of Music. Three lengthy recording sessions and the concert, taking advantage of the elegant Meyer Sound surround system, have produced enough material for a CD and LP (Important Records) and a double LP (Taiga Records) to be released in May 2012. Well over 100 hours of listening and editing by Dempster and DXArts’ Michael McCrea have gone into this, with McCrea demonstrating amazingly skillful technical wizardry throughout realization of these projects. Playful titles include concert titles of Great Howl and Town Haul, and DLB agreed that this residency was one of the finest moments in its history. Later in the year, in early June, DLB participated along with over 40 others in Oliveros’ spectacular Tower Ring performed in and around the Ann Hamilton Tower at Oliver Ranch in Geyserville CA. The two-day event was a fascinating study in a nearly rained-out production with the sun magically appearing on both days just long enough to complete each concert (further details on both January and June events in DLB Chronology).


The banner year is tragically broken off when, on 27 September 2011, DLB is shocked to its core by the sudden death of David Gamper at his beloved “Landgrove” in Londonderry VT. A member of DLB for over 20 years performing on piano, conch, natural flutes, and so much else, he was one of the more recent in a continuing legacy of developers of EIS (Expanded Instrument System). Besides making improvements to EIS, he also was a regular trouble-shooter during all our concerts and rehearsals. This shock becomes an explanation point to a long summer of extremely intense listening to the January sessions by Dempster and McCrea, and the above-mentioned recordings are to be released in loving memory of and tribute to David Gamper. In the meanwhile, a tribute to Gamper was exercised by DLB at the end of October at Lawrence University (Appleton WI). Under the guidance of LU’s Conservatory of Music Dean, Brian Pertl, the program was adjusted to include faculty e-cellist Matt Turner and dancer Rebecca Salzer, with guest dancer Jeff Wallace. Also included were Pertl’s beautifully spiritual Land of Snows as well as a large cadre of students joining in this effort performing Oliveros and Dempster works befitting the occasion.

 *Deep Listening® servicemarked by Deep Listening Institute, Ltd. (DLI) (formerly Pauline Oliveros Foundation (POF).








Center for Deep Listening at Rensselaer
Tomie Hahn Director
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