Notes from the 1st Deep Listening Conference

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On July 12-14th, in the impressive EMPAC center on the campus of Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, the 1st International Conference on Deep Listening was held, and I (Adam) had the unexpected pleasure to present my ongoing Physics Gestures work at it.


Deep Listening is a movement pioneered by Pauline Oliveros, a former professor at UCSD and founder of our Experimental Music department. According to her, deep listening is “listening in every possible way to everything possible to hear no matter what one is doing.”  More precisely, it is a practice, incorporating motion, mediation and technology to explore the difference between involuntary “hearing” and voluntary “listening”. The community engaged in Deep Listening includes musicians, artists, scientists, and aims to facilitate creative innovation among artists and audience, musicians and non-musicians, healers and the physically or cognitively challenged, and children of all ages.

The conference featured talks from artists and scientists, performers and practioners, and there was plenty of active involvement on the part of the audience (including small “break pieces” that occurred in the EMPAC hallways). I presented a similar piece as my Audacious Speculations performance, including new ideas gained from the conference, such a physics term meditation:


1.Read the word/phrase
2.Say it quietly to yourself
3.Reflect on its meaning (if you know)
4.Reflect on your connection with it (if you have one)
5.Make a movement (gesture, stance, reach, lunge, hold, grasp, dance) and a sound that feels connected to that word, or whatever comes to you
6.Share your movement/sound with one other person
7.Together, say the word/phrase loudly


I also explored banding (using a large rubber band that binds two physics actors together, allowing for interactive control and kinesthetic experience, introduced by Tomie Hahn) and embodied calculation (using wearable white boards to assign quantities and a designated “calculator”).

A PDF of my slides can be found here.

My hand-written notes from the 3-day conference can be found here.

A twitter feed of highlights can be found at #deeplistening and #deeplisteningconference


Some of the highlight talks/performances included:

  • A keynote speech on the neurology of hearing/listening by Seth Horowitz (“listening goes back 300 Myr”, “hearing is the fastest sense”, “there are few auditory illusions”, “psychophysics”, “math behind the mind is sound”)
  • Animated notation by Ryan Ross Smith (photo above), and a 42-piece sound chorus orchestrated by this notation involving the entire audience
  • Deep Smelling by Genevive Bjorn – using your most basic sense to meditate on judgement
  • A sound walk around RPI (dominated by A/C vents)
  • “Amhran na mBeach” (“Song of the Bees”) by Sean Taylor – a community-integrated, science research, sound recording and music production project on bee colony collapse in Ireland
  • An amazingly successful class on Deep Listening and entrepreneurialism presented by Brian Pertl at Lawrence University
  • Tomie Hahn’s introduction of banding, which got incorporated into my Physics Gesture presentation
  • Jennifer Wilsey’s improvisational music games, which became an inspiration for modeling a movement of physics seminar
  • Jonathan Hoefs new class on experiential learning at UCSC
  • Johannes Goebel (Director of EMPAC): “music for commercials is meant to be heard but not listened to”
  • A demonstration of Deep Listening’s Adaptive Use Musical Instruments (AUMI) (photo below)
  • Thomas Stoll’s introduction of the cepstrum (inverse fourier transform of logarithm of fourier transform)
  • Bart Woodstrup’s conversion of weather data into classical Indian raga
  • Ted Krueger’s experiment in long-term oscillation and stochastic infrasound resonances in a steel plate, which could be explained by resonance contained in the surrounding room

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After his talk, Pauline spoke to me and revealed a deep connection in time, space and research that this conference brought together:

After the talk, Pauline came right up to thank me, and relayed the following story: As a faculty member at UCSD, she took karate lessons from Lester Ingber, a theoretical physicist who at the time was an Asst. Research Scientist and a high level karate instructor. He taught karate through principles of physics – energy, torque, momentum, torque – and it was in this class that Pauline learned physics and connections between body and nature. As she said to me, “and out of this eventually came Deep Listening”. It is a honor to be drawing from a common root stock!



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