For Two or Three Instruments (2016)
For Two or Three Instruments is a piece by Pauline Oliveros that combines improvisation with meditation in a technique developed by the composer called Deep Listening. The method "explores the difference between the involuntary nature of hearing and the voluntary, selective nature of listening,” according to the Center for Deep Listening, which continues her work. The center's description continues: "[Deep listening] cultivates a heightened awareness of the sonic environment—both external and internal—and promotes experimentation, improvisation, collaboration, playfulness, and other creative skills vital to personal and community growth.” The practice includes bodywork; sonic meditations; interactive performance; listening to the sounds of daily life, nature, one's own thoughts, imagination, and dreams; and listening to listening itself. Oliveros described Deep Listening as "a way of listening in every possible way to everything possible.” The inspiration came from her childhood fascination with sounds as well as her work in composition, improvisation, and electroacoustics.
In For Two or Three Instruments, musicians of unspecified instruments are provided with a series of options. The duration, dynamics, articulation, and structure of the performance are all free, and the sound created by the musicians can be any pitch, tone, or noise that does not does not identify as a pitch.
Written by Frances Atkins
On April 3, 2017 Mars Williams, Rob Kassinger and Katinka Kleijn performed the World Premiere of Pauline Oliveros' For Two or Three Instruments which was completed shortly before her death in 2016.
Commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's MusicNow Series, these longtime collaborators reached deep into their musical dream boxes, initiated by the great Oliveros and shaped by the powerful riches and history of Chicago's musical womb. Saxophonist Mars Williams is a living free jazz and rock legend (The Psychedelic Furs, Peter Brötzmann, Ken Vandermark, Liquid Soul, Hal Russell's NRG Ensemble, ‘an Albert Ayler Xmas'). CSO bassist Rob Kassinger (Silk Road Ensemble, Woody Herman Band, Teldec) grew up touring in his father's jazz band and regularly trades Orchestra Hall for Andy's jazz bar. And CSO cellist Katinka Kleijn (International Contemporary Ensemble, SONY Japan, Drag City Records) performs freely across the genres of classical, experimental, improvisation, and performance art.
In March 2018 the trio booked Chicago's Elastic Arts venue to capture Oliveros' work in a series of versions, adding improvisations inspired by For Two or Three Instruments. In true Oliveros' style, these collaborations are guided by her Deep Listening practice, opening up possibilities of the musicians' reactions to her typical explorative and self-assessing way. These musical travels therefore can not be typified by the word improvisation alone, but perhaps can invite the listener into three minds constantly assessing in real time how to interpret Oliveros' directions while creating material that may be a reaction, an initiative or both. While one might argue this is what improvisation is, Oliveros is brilliant in creating a very specific space to musically live in, as the worlds of composition and improvisation are currently becoming accepted as so rightfully intertwined.
To simultaneously receive and send, is a highly crafted brain space that musicians uniquely culture and polish with their lifetime. No words or visuals can truly describe it, but you may be able to enter it if you let yourself be transported with this record.
Mars Williams - reeds
Katinka Kleijn - cello
Rob Kassinger - bass
For Two Or Three Instruments
Courtesy of PoP and MoM
Recorded live at Elastic Arts, Chicago, by Caleb Willitz
Mixing and mastering by Caleb Willitz
Improvisations I and II ? Music From Mars (BMI) R Kassinger Music (ASCAP)