Beethoven Was a Lesbian

17 March 2023 – 10 September 2023
#Chamber Music

Pauline Oliveros (1932 – 2016) was a composer, performer, author and educator who pioneered an experimental multi-disciplinary attitude to music that embraces the world of inner and environmental sounds which accompany us each day. Integrating the body and its ever evolving technological extensions, she sought to transform and subvert their everyday functions through listening and sounding. Oliveros, in fact, believed in the transformative and healing powers of listening, alone or as a group, and she developed a collaborative, organic and non-hierarchical approach to performance in which audience, performer and author overlap, often within a framework of free improvisation. 

Born in Houston Texas, she spent much of her childhood outdoors and learning to play a variety of instruments including the accordion. In the early 1950s Oliveros moved to San Francisco where she studied composition and eventually began to experiment with electronic music, developing mixed-media environments that included theatrical elements and light projections. It was also around this time that the composer made her first pieces using a tape recorder, which she initially used to capture the noises of San Francisco from her windowsill, marking the beginning of her tape music compositions, now considered classic works in the history of electronic music. In 1961 she founded the San Francisco Tape Center together with composers Ramon Sender and Morton Subotnick, becoming its director in 1966 when it moved to Mills College and later she joined the faculty at the University of California San Diego. During the 1970s Oliveros created an all-women’s improvisation ensemble where she would develop her Sonic Meditations (1974), compositions made up of verbal instructions aimed at developing what she called “focal and global attention to sound”. These meditations laid the groundwork both for Oliveros’ lifelong commitment to Deep Listening–a practice she would develop from the 1980s onwards—as well as for the political and community driven aspects of her practice. She was one of the first to advocate for women composers and to call out the disproportionate absence of women from musicology and the history of music. This commitment was an integral part of her methodology which questioned authorship and weaved together aesthetics, psychology and bodily movement, borrowing from scientific research as well as spiritual beliefs.  


The exhibition, spans releases and sound-recordings that encompass Oliveros’ entire career from her earliest works combining improvisation, montage and electronic sounds to her later work which increasingly sought to expand on the interplay between technological devices, environment and musician(s). The title, Beethoven Was a Lesbian, draws from a series of post-cards Oliveros made with Fluxus artist Alison Knowles in 1976. 



Heartfelt thank you to Ione, Al Margolis, Lynda Claassen, Fabio Carboni, The Pauline Oliveros Trust, Pauline Oliveros Papers at University of California San Diego, Center for New Music and Audio Technologies, Centaur Records, Deep Listenings Publications,Important Records, Lovely Music, Mode Records, Neuma Records, New Albion Records, Paradigm Discs, Pogus cds, Roaratorio, Sub Rosa, Taiga Records.  

Curator: Luca Lo Pinto
Curatorial Coordinator: Chiara C. Siravo
Production Coordinator: Sara Cattaneo
Curatorial Assistant: Carlotta Pierleoni
Intern: Marco Lo Giudice
Art Handlers: Fabio Pennacchia, Matteo Pompili
Sound Technician: Digital Village srl – Fabio Ferri