Issue 39 / 2020

Connection in Digital Participation. The World Wide Tunning Meditation and Heart Chant

Bridgid Bergin


Every Saturday from March 28-April 25, 2020, Music on the Reboundin partnership with the International Contemporary Ensemble, produced The World Wide Tuning Meditation led by IONE, Claire Chase, and Raquel Acevedo Klein. Subsequently, the same team led The World Wide Heart Chant on June 21st. Anyone could join and connect with people from around the world through making open vowel sounds following the meditative instructions and guidance from the late Pauline Oliveros. The World Wide Tuning Meditation reached over 4,600 participants from all seven continents and over 30 countries, and The World Wide Heart Chant reached around 175 participants.

As I explore my own—as both participant and co-organizer—and others’ experiences, a reimagined sense of participation, agency, and community emerges. How is openness cultivated through an online participatory experience? How does this moment of the pandemic and distanced participatory experience reimagine artistry and expertise in the music field and change our perceptions of sound? How do “sounds like a cosmic flock of bleating sheep”[1] turn scattered participants into a community, emerging from a session of hundreds of Zoom tiles?


Saturday, March 28, 2020. 4:45pm EDT, Brooklyn, NY

I set myself up in my bedroom, what will become my meditative sound space, and go through the motions of opening my laptop, starting a Zoom call, and staring at a video tile reflective of me in the moment, alone and in silence. Soon, more names and chats pop up in the virtual room as welcome slides are displayed, accompanied by a soundtrack of a previous Tuning Meditation, reverberating and reaching me through my small ear buds. I am tied by this cord connected from my audio port and two buds which reach my ear canals, my personal shuttle into a shared virtual space. My relation to my own self and individual space has already begun to morph and form anew. Foreign, removed sound materials seeps through—someone making dinner, playing the radio, talking with a housemate, some voices breaking up—and are quickly muted. We begin and soon myscreen-view changes from just seeing a reflection of myself to hundreds of Zoom tiles: close-up faces, greenery from an outdoor space in someone’s yard, pets walking around a living room. I feel like a voyeur looking into other people’s personal environments. Intimate, private space turns to a public place for the individual self to connect with others, a place for solitary and communal meditation. People chat where they are joining from, across the United States, Switzerland, London, and more.

Raquel Acevedo Klein, musician, visual artist and founder of Music on the Rebound, breaks the silence; “Hello and welcome, everybody, to The World Wide Tuning Meditation!” She sets the tone for our 45 minutes together, providing information for what is to come. Then Claire Chase, flutist, collaborative artist, curator, and arts advocate, invites us to all to introduce ourselves in a boisterous simultaneous fashion by saying our name as we would like it to be heard in that particular moment—by singing, scatting, whispering. This is the first opportunity we have to engage with one another, in the vast digital space we have all occupied. “And 1, 2, 3…” We are unmuted and a cacophony of sounds follows which are entirely incomprehensible. The Zoom interface only allows snippets of each person’s greeting to come through to the group. Hands are waving, smiles beaming across the quilt of vignettes. I realize this is the first time, since lockdown due to COVID-19, that I am seeing and hearing hundreds of people communicating in some way with others, actually sharing an experience with a large group. And this is different from my previous Zoom call experiences—only one person talking at a time, the hesitancy to unmute oneself in a group meeting. But here, we are encouraged to sound, to connect, and be with each other. Chase then provides context for Pauline Oliveros’s work, her philosophy, and process of Sonic Meditations[2] and the Tuning Meditation itself. Celebrated author, playwright, director, and artist IONE, who was also Oliveros’s creative partner and spouse of 30 years, is introduced and invites us all to notice something with her, breathing. “We would like to give some gratitude for being in the world today, for having breath. Noticing it’s there is an honor of it. Let’s take one together, let it all the way out with a sound, any kind of sound you want to make,” says IONE. In this moment a collective consciousness begins to form across the multitude of screens, breathing together as one organism in the moment.

IONE goes on to describe more about the World Wide Tuning Meditation, detailing how it has been done all around the world by and for thousands of people: around 6,000 at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, 1,000 at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, and (most recently in 2016) 500 at St. John Smith Square in London which was on the eve of Brexit. “In some ways it goes on and on. Today it’s us doing it. It’s intended as a healing throughout the world. It was a vision, a sonic vision that Pauline had many moons ago to really be interconnected in this way, a network of artists and listeners and sounders. It was my great joy to be with her when this was seeded. I am delighted that you in particular are a part of this with me and Pauline’s with us as well as a timeless spirit,” IONE says. She goes on to read through Oliveros’s original text score instructions:

Begin by taking a deep breath and letting it all the way out with air sound.

Listen with your mind’s ear for a tone.

On the next breath using any vowel sound, sing the tone that you have silently perceived on one comfortable breath.

Listen to the whole field of sound the group is making.

Select a voice distant from you and tune as exactly as possible to the tone you are hearing from that voice.

Listen again to the whole field of sound the group is making.

Contribute by singing a new tone that no one else is singing.

Continue by listening then singing a tone of your own or tuning to the tone of another voice alternately.[3]

IONE provides additional notes from Oliveros: “Always keep the same tone for any single breath. Change to a new tone on another breath. Listen for distant partners tuning. So we have a lot of distance, sonic distance and also physical distance, so listen for distant partners for tuning and sound a new tone so it can be heard, communicate with as many different voices as possible. Sing warmly.” We sit for a moment, taking in the instructions, preparing to follow them. “I’m asking Raquel to unmute us all in 3, 2, 1…”

…and we begin. At first the sounds are quite hectic, jarring. A constant movement of different faces popping up on the screen as different voices are highlighted, hearing different iterations of vowels and pitches from the collective. When I focus, beautiful moments of consonance and dissonance follow. Sirens from outside my Brooklyn apartment filter in and inform my choice for the next sound I contribute. Does someone else take it? Was that a technical glitch, a phantom participant I am connecting with? Who am I reaching, who am I interacting with? The sense of an independent identity breaks down to a larger collective, contributing and working within a collective consciousness. Sounds intermingle with each other and provide a communal sense of meditation. I get a tingling sensation in my face, and a vibration in my core. I become more aware of the cells within my body communicating and vibrating with each other. My bedroom becomes a pathway to connect with not only those on the Zoom call but also with the sounds and organisms outside in the world.

The sounding of chimes are heard three times, indicating our end to the World Wide Tuning Meditation. IONE raises her hands and arms up. “Take a deep breath together and let it all the way out,” IONE says, with her hands coming down to the center, entangling her fingers and joining her palms together. Everyone begins to wave their hands, saying goodbye. For many, it’s difficult to simply leave the Zoom call. Participants call out “Take care everyone!” “Be safe!” “Thank you” “Wow!” “Thank you, Pauline!” “See you next week!” “How do I get out of here?” It reaches the point where it falls to me to end the call. I am recoiled back into this overwhelming sense of solitude, staring blankly at my computer screen. However, the experience has left me rejuvenated, still feeling those vibrations going out into the world and within me.

Within my memory I hold the sense of community that was created in the past 45 minutes and this continued with each subsequent Tuning Meditation. It is an inherent invitation to connect with others and with yourself; continuously reentering the world as a new permutation of self, feeling refreshed and renewed. The Tuning Meditation continued for the following four Saturdays, and many participants returned each time creating this overlapping cycle of alone-together-alone.



This [is] intended as a healing, [Pauline] always had a healing underlying intention.

So I myself have imparted the World Wide Tuning Meditation to large audiences as well, particularly in the last couple of years, and so I have that experience of what happens to people while they’re doing it and what happens to me as it’s happening, which is a sense of well-being actually,

it’s about being in communion and community.


Oliveros highly valued the communal creation of music, and fostered experiences that were and still are accessible to everyone regardless of musical or performance “training.” As Denise Von Glahn states, “while the instructions are set, the music that results each time the meditation is ‘performed’ is variable according to the specific time, place, and group of participants. The potential for infinite dialogues represents the limitless variety of our sounding environment and our relationships to it.”[4] In the case of The World Wide Tuning Meditation, the instructions create an opportunity for heightened listening. There is a back and forth, playing between inner and outer experiences, communication, and attention. Oliveros noted, “meditation is the interplay of focal and global processes with the inner and/or outer world, and is usually characterized by singularity of purpose which may result in heightened or enhanced awareness of perception.”[5] The way for participation to truly work is within this balance of exclusive and inclusive, or global, listening. As seen in the score above, The World Wide Tuning Meditation guides participants back and forth through these two modes of listening and engagement, truly exemplifying participation as a multimodal and multidirectional practice.

Tuning Meditation and Heart Chant cannot exist without embodied engagement, listening, and sounding. Encouraged relationships between participants, so characteristic of Oliveros’s work, are “real-time negotiations, ways of being with sounds and people in space, like those that crowds experience in navigating metropolitan walkways.”[6] This was why Raquel wanted to organize The World Wide Tuning Meditation online at the beginning of lockdown:

The Tuning Meditation was, in my mind, this perfect gift that would bring people into a space that didn’t know each other beforehand. I think the thing that we were all missing so greatly was this idea of walking through your neighborhood, recognizing people that you don’t actually know on a personal level, but they are very much an important part of your life because they’re the people that you regularly see walking around the neighborhood. Or just being able to be immersed in a space with strangers. I think that was something that I had hoped to create. But again, inherent in Pauline’s work, is this idea of what’s a tangible process through which we can feel comfortable and also intimate with other people in a shared space?[7]

In order to participate actively and consciously in the creative process, Oliveros pointed out that “willingness is needed. A willingness to be open to possibilities. Drop judgment and analysis of everything that comes from verbal consciousness. Be open to sensation and feeling.”[8] It’s really about a collective sense of listening and attention. Eugenia Siegel Conte, an Ethnomusicology PhD Candidate at the University of California Santa Barbara, and a participant during several Tuning Meditation sessions, frames this as “something that relies on the faith of a lot of different people, that their inner lives intersect and aren’t broken in that experience. And you can give a lot to somebody else by being that open, when you’re able to put your voice out into a void that you don’t know how to control.”[9] It’s through the process of “letting go” that one is free to participate and there is a play between the individual and collective.



The frequency of the Tuning Meditation helped cultivate and foster a sense of connection and community as well. Each week brought something different as Eugenia reflects, “since this was sort of at the beginning of lockdown, there was something incredible about the fact that each one was so terrifically different.”[10] And Raquel mentions, “I think what made the Tuning Meditation so receptive for a lot of people was that it tapped into a vulnerability for lots of people, but was able to bring them together in a way that created openness.”[11] Vulnerability and intimacy came up many times in my conversations with participants, especially within the context of the pandemic, as the meditations provided a moment to truly listen and hear others. David Klein mentions, “it was as much a kind of spiritual, ritualistic milieu, atmosphere created space as it was music…it’s one of those experiences where…it’s a meditation where you let go of your ego just sort of falling into other people’s faces [and] sounds.”[12] Another participant, Kim Noce, comments:

It was a lot more intimate because you do really watch people and notice them and you notice their beauty…you actually [open yourself up] to being viewed. So there is that exchange, you know that you’re viewing, but you are also being watched, and maybe someone can linger on you and almost make eye contact with you without you even knowing. So it’s quite beautiful in a way. It’s like it’s an agreement…I would have never felt I could make a connection online before.[13]

There is a deep focus and attention to listening and sounding as a collective which is enacted through the openness that is created through Oliveros’s instructions, listening to the whole field of sound and finding distanced tones to connect with. A setting where one enters without “training” is embraced and creates a heightened sense of awareness. It is both an individual and collective exercise. Empowerment takes place in playing an active role in the creative process, fostered by an environment which the participant takes in the small details, hearing individual contributions feeding into a whole without an imposed system in place. The individual is stripped away and made into a larger whole of the group as Kim notes in her process of drawing during the meditations: “in the beginning I threw them all in boxes, and then I just couldn’t distinguish anymore because everyone was really joining in and the boxes were flashing. It was like a composite of all the drawings…the brilliance of that moment.”[14]

il. Kim Noce

Within the immediacy and physicality of shared participation, individuals are empowered with choice of sound contribution as well as knowing at the outset that they are entering an open space as one does not need to be trained or have a musical background to participate. It’s a subversion of the power structures which are so embedded not only within western classical music but also in society. “With the Tuning Meditation, what’s beautiful about it is that you get to experience the idea of moving as an organism in real time and creating the shape as it’s happening, but without the kind of feeling of fear [of messing it up],” says Raquel.[15] Tuning Meditation and Heart Chant provide spaces for a complete breakdown of preconceived notions of what it means to vocalize, to sing, to perform, and to create sound in a collective. As participant Alba Acevedo notes, “coming from a non-musical background, Tuning Meditation online was for me an introductory exposure to Pauline Oliveros’s work and to communal digital participation. (I was a Zoom virgin at that point). To my relief, participation wasn’t asking very much of me. And in the connective tissue of this vocal experience, it was apparent, and comforting, that I was not that different from most.”[16] This relief of not having to be musically prepared creates an opportunity for all participants to listen closely, pay attention to things that one may not otherwise be conscious of. Through this heightened state, choices are made which play between subjective and intersubjective realities; one choice can be constrained by choices of others, as the participant is asked to sing a tone of another voice.[17] With each re-entry a new tone cluster pitch collection enters the fray. It causes the participant to reconsider what is the sonic whole, adjusting perceptions of distance, but always feeding into a collective consciousness.



Performing in a digital space, the technology and “technical glitches” contributed sound, engaging and interacting with ever-evolving permutations of the self. There was an acceptance at the outset to take in the latency through the Zoom interface. After all, Oliveros pioneered telematic performances.[18] “You use it, you play with it, you create pieces that incorporate what the technology is…and of course, the technology keeps changing. You keep changing too with the technology,” says IONE.[19]

In a way, Tuning Meditation lended itself to a smooth and engaging transition to a digital form. For Kim, she most likely would not have participated if it were not for the online format: “The online version allowed me to [participate] because I was in my cozy house, it was my safe space…[it] allowed me like a sort of anonymity, as well as closeness at the same time when I felt ready.”[20] David’s experience also reflects similar sentiment with Kim: “It was a way of connecting and connecting on a kind of a more spiritual and interpersonal way than we often do when we are all face to face” considering the time it was in and “being in the now” of the particular sounds coming together in a moment of time. With the importance of time and place, there was also a sense of finding a community through anonymity, a sense of liberation and finding one’s self within the online format. IONE recalls, “[the Tuning Meditation] took me out into the world more into these worlds of people’s being; so that I was aware of that network of community members in a special way that was different.”[21]

In the interplay of subjectivity and intersubjectivity amongst participants, embodiment and affect become tied to musical meaning and a sense of belonging. As a trained singer, Eugenia misses choral, group singing during this time in the sense of “the listening part of it and the re-tuning [of the] body in ways that allows you to work combinatorially…who knows whether you’re reacting to something that is another person’s voice, or if you’re reacting to something that’s in the system…it doesn’t matter because you are still physically reacting to it, both as a singer, and as a body—as a vibrating being.” She remembers sitting with her ear buds in and being aware of how her body was acting and reacting in the moment:

There was something very settling about it for me, particularly because of the fact that I so missed what I’m calling, in my scholarship, “diagnostic embodiment;” which is the idea that as singers, we are listeners at the same time. There’s something that’s built into that that’s not only about embodiment, but also is about affect. And so when you’re doing that kind of work, there’s something really special that comes from it…[participants are] hearing combinations of yous and thems and everything and other ghosts in the machine. That becomes part of this practice. And so instead of focusing on your own voice you can focus on how your body feels when your voice does something that engages with the rest of this mechanism, this moving, complicated set of cogs that you join into.”[22]

Moving back and forth from inclusive and exclusive listening leads to a sense of connection with oneself and others. An additional factor during the Tuning Meditation was the Zoom chat window. Alba comments:

[The] Tuning Meditations were perfect for being a needed and primal and compact place to hear and see and feel connection, and perhaps something ethereal. I also felt a lot of connection in reading the chat window. The postings were succinct, but much was expressed in the aggregate. Typically people mentioned where they were hailing from, and that the Tuning Meditation was beautiful. A participant posted merely that they were crying and didn’t know why. I immediately felt in my gut that I did know why.[23]



Pauline Oliveros encouraged participants to always listen deeply to themselves and the sounds of their environment, creating community as a path toward healing. In 2001 she created The Heart Chant in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Tom Bickley and The Cornelius Cardew Choir have been hosting the Heart Chant for years in California, eventually as part of Make Music Day. At first starting with a 45-minute session, it grew to four-hour sessions as they started to realize the impact it had on people. As the co-founder and director of the choir, Tom states, “we see ourselves as a political modeling of community in which we honor the insight and creativity of what each person brings in their lives and then together as opposed to looking at a hierarchy. It may be that moment by moment in singing and inviting people to sing with us, that we can, in fact bring some centeredness, some consciousness that may well affect how they live their lives. So we regard The Heart Chant as political action on our part.”[25]

Every year there is a tradition for The World Wide Heart Chant to be performed in a close, physical space during this day-long festival of Make Music Day. In organizing the Heart Chant for Make Music Day, IONE, Claire, Ross, and I had to come up with a way to still capture the tactile sensations and physicality that is so very present in the Heart Chant. During test calls we played with placement of mics and also where the gaze would focus during the Zoom call since it was through sight and movement that we could create the sense of standing together in a circle, touching the back of whoever’s Zoom tile was next to yours in the grid. IONE recalls:

I loved the imagery of the way we realized, well, you don’t need to see faces. We realized we didn’t need to be looking at each other but we could look at other parts. I think also what we noticed in that piece, even more than the others, because each person was in their own environment… you got the feeling of the spaciousness of their space.[26]

We added an instruction at the beginning of the Heart Chant for participants to not show their faces during the session. Instead, we provided four options to participate while sounding:

  1. Move close to the camera. Place your right hand over your chest and have your face not shown.
  2. Place your left hand in the corner of the screen as if you are holding the back of the heart of another person.
  3. Put your hand as we start singing on your device itself which will create it’s own vibration (on a desktop or laptop speaker, phone). Welcome to go back and forth.
  4. If in a household with others, gather in a circle/line and perform The Heart Chant as it was originally intended with physical touch.

This visually created the sense you were connecting with another’s heartbeat, or that you were touching another’s back. To add even more of a tactile evocation, Ross Karre suggested for participants to place their left hand on their speakers, in order to really feel the vibrations coming from everyone on the call. We also encouraged participants to not use ear buds for the Heart Chant. “Something that I love, is the concept of people throughout the world communing and connecting with each other…as though they might be in the same living room. With the Heart Chant we really got a sense of that, taking in environments more, different parts of the body,” says IONE.[27]


June 21, 2020

I am catapulted back to the routine I grew accustomed to with the series of Tuning Meditations from April – now in my living room, opening my laptop, initiating the Zoom call, and staring at my own digital, pixelated reflection with sirens from outside creeping into my silent space. This felt different though, since we only had this one moment together to perform The World Wide Heart Chant. There wouldn’t be other iterations for the month, just this one day at one time. What would be captured and felt in this one singular moment together?

More participants join the call, chatting “hellos” and sharing where they are joining from as welcome slides are displayed, accompanied by a recording of a previous Heart Chant performed by the Cardew Choir. I stop presenting the welcome slides and am met with a large mosaic of video tiles. I am no longer alone in my living room but instead in this shared virtual space with 175 people. In a way it feels more intimate than the series of Tuning Meditations, made special from the fact that we are doing this once together. It’s the immediacy, intimacy of truly being in the moment.

Raquel breaks the silence and frames what we are doing today in relation to Make Music Day, aiming to continue the feeling of intimacy during the pandemic through a virtual performance of The World Wide Heart Chant. Claire continues to welcome everyone and guides us in a warm-up with our hands: “Let’s create some heat, a nice warm-up to the piece itself…And here we go!” Hands are vigorously going against each other across the screen. Energy is moving through the friction. The sound is like sand exploding onto a hard surface or like the ocean tumbling onto the shore. Then there is a release – all hands in the air and silence. “Now we’re here with some heat in the room!” says Claire.

Claire walks through how this will be different from the Tuning Meditations, facing the reality of all of our odd relationships with daily video calls:

So many of us have spent so many hours of our day staring into this green dot to connect with other human beings. I’d love to invite you to look at anywhere but that green dot. Use your spaces, acoustics, energies of your rooms in whatever creative ways that move you today. I’ll pose departure points so we feel more connected to each other’s hearts.

She goes through four different hand placements where ones face is out of frame in order to still feel like we are almost in a circle over Zoom. With these options there is also an invitation to choose your own adventure and, as Claire states, to “make this your own in our collective experience.”

The mic is passed over to IONE who dedicates this performance to Black Lives Matter and aims to create a big healing force toward “the reality of creating systemic change.” She goes on to say, “Pauline’s intention with the vibration of the heart, vibrating the heart itself…is healing [for] ourselves and it’s also healing going out to the world so we can […] keep rededicating it on that sound of ah, a heart sound.” We are invited to warm up our hands again, hearing the ocean, the storm – energy churning, cycling through my laptop speakers from the Zoom interface. This creation of heat is important for performing The World Wide Heart Chant as it travels to the heart’s center. IONE leads us through the score and placement of hands once again.

“And begin on the sound of ah to resonate your heart center and send out that beautiful energy for deep healing to the world and all the universes,” guides IONE. I see hands connecting together among the Zoom tiles, imagining how they are interacting by touching the backs of other imagined hearts. I see multiple hands joining together with other vignettes focusing on participants’ chests and a virtual body is created on the screen with the different body positions participants choose. The openness to choose one’s own journey with this work felt freeing. Each person contributed something different with their sound, energy, and visual framing.

I start to feel my heart vibrating with others, feeling different universes coming together. I can feel my own surroundings more without my earbuds plugged in. I place my hand onto my laptop speaker. I can actually feel the vibrations shared from hundreds of people during the Zoom call, made even more special and with a greater sense of connection by not seeing faces. The supreme anonymity creates more connectivity, brings down self-consciousness, fosters a loss of ego and even sense of self in the moment. I see one Zoom tile where there is a couple sitting side by side performing The Heart Chant as it was originally intended as they are surrounded by other tiles with a left hand, a close-up of a right hand on the heart, another with both hands reaching out into the void. The sounds are more like exaltations, not necessarily in tune and also not necessarily trying to mimic others. The sounds of ah are truly coming from the heart’s center – an authenticity of body, of heart and mind. And then…the chime! Sounds start to taper leading to a vibrating stillness, a feeling of togetherness to end.

IONE guides us to bring our palms to our naval, her hands moving back and forth, expanding and contracting to show a ball of energy. “Make a little ball of energy…storing it with beautiful intentions, great healing, protecting. Feeling that, take a nice deep breath together and let it all the way out…and we release this with great love and say ‘so be it and so it is.’” I hear others repeat so be it, so it is. Everyone is then unmuted – I hear birds chirping, singing tones of thank you, goodbyes, and see waves, smiles across my screen. Someone shares that they are joining from a farm with cows surrounding them, “they came over, they heard me ah-ing! They wanted to be part of The Heart Chant!”

It becomes time that I have to end the Zoom call. As I click “end call” someone calls out “the heart chant ripples around the globe.” I am back in my living room alone, still vibrating and connecting with those ripples.

There was a new sense of reaching out to others during the pandemic, especially in regards to touch. In a time where we cannot physically connect, the Heart Chant experience filled a void which IONE expresses:

Sound touches us. So when we talk about not being able to touch each other because of these screens and not being in the three-dimensional with each other, when we’re sending sound out it’s the vibration of the sound that is literally touching us. So, there is a response. There is a touch response that is happening. And I just find that so powerful, and so strong that it can forever change our relationship to what is so called virtual sound and sounding…the original potency is in the moment where we are literally being touched by the vibration of sound.[28]


il. Kim Noce


The World Wide Tuning Meditation and Heart Chant called on participants to access a consciousness which brought in a heightened awareness to inner and outer listening of both the self and a collective. Within a digital space of openness, vulnerability, and intimacy, participants embraced a shared activity that brought them closer with others and themselves. And with both events it was about creating participatory experiences which tap into the voids of human experience, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fostering a shared, visceral experience online invited participants to take in the acoustics of one space as it relates to a digital screen. The World Wide Tuning Meditation emulated the experience of walking down the street and passing strangers by, occupying time larger than self. This aspect of time was similar to The World Wide Heart Chant, however there was more of an invitation to play and interact with imagined space as well as spatialized sound, imagining that you were literally touching another’s back as if in the same room, that you were touching someone’s heart. The focus was sharing energy through the screen, making sound tactile, and ultimately shifting the gaze away from an individual reflection to a framing of anonymity, heart, and body. The guidance of multiple different choices to place hands during the Heart Chant created a sense of body amongst the whole group and in a way provided more agency for participants. There was a movement away from prescription and structure in this virtual participatory experience for The World Wide Heart Chant.

The World Wide Tuning Meditation and Heart Chant are not necessarily vastly different and opposite from each other but instead tap into various elements of ones psyche. With both works, and specifically in a virtual format, there is a meaningful process that is individualized, inward looking and also collectivized, healing externally. What sets the Heart Chant experience apart from the Tuning Meditation was the factor of shifting the visual gaze to not be on a face, on an identity, to truly participate in anonymity. Plus there was an additional physical factor to The Heart Chant – usually performed in a circle with bodies closely together, vibrating together. It is in (re)creating this intimacy in a virtual format which created an openness for participants to choose how they wanted to place their hands and body before the screen. For Raquel, the Heart Chant was made particularly special with a focus on creating a physical manifestation of sound, by feeling the vibration of a speaker, to “use sound as a way of triggering these physical sensations that do in fact bring you close to feeling people’s voices.”[29] The visual and tactile components of The World Wide Heart Chant experience almost carried a familiar form of participation as if we were in-person in having all senses engaged.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown there was an immediate sense of longing for connection from many people around the world. Searching for a sense of belonging, familiarity, and even newness. Participating in The World Wide Tuning Meditation and Heart Chant, like many of Oliveros’s work, was an invitation to those who wanted their voices heard and to actually feel a sense of togetherness. And a feeling of togetherness can be felt through the breakdown of the traditional performer/audience member dichotomy. Through the embodied process of singing, sounding, listening, sounding together, subject positions of listeners and performers merged. As Raquel states, “the music in Pauline’s Tuning Meditation and Heart Chant is one that democratizes the whole process of making music.”[30] It is through Oliveros’s work that one can continue to engage and connect as both musical and meditative beings, at times being completely stripped of identity and being one of the collective. As for the impact of this participation? I will end with IONE’s words that “in some way they’re still going out into the world…the sonic element is continuing. When we are sounding on our computers and over these various platforms, sound is reaching us.”


  1. Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, “Join a Musical Meditation Bringing Together Hundreds Worldwide,” New York Times, April 3, 2020,
  2. Pauline Oliveros, Sonic Meditations (Urbana, Illinois: 1974, Smith Publications).
  3. Ibid., The World Wide Tuning Meditation, 2007. (© Deep Listening Publications).
  4. Denise Von Glahn, “Pauline Oliveros,” in Music and the Skillful Listener: American Women Compose the Natural World(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013), 115.
  5. Pauline Oliveros, “MMM Meditation/Mandala/Music,” in Software for People: Collected Writings, 1963–80 (Baltimore: Smith Publications, 1984), 217.
  6. Andrew Raffo Dewar, “LMJ21 CD Companion: Beyond Notation/Notation Beyond,” Leonardo Music Journal 21 (2011): 85, accessed August 18, 2020,
  7. Raquel Acevedo Klein, interview with the author, September 11, 2020.
  8. Pauline Oliveros, “Pauline Oliveros,” in In Her Own Words: Conversations with Composers in the United States by Jennifer Kelly (University of Illinois Press, 2013), 155.
  9. Eugenia Siegel Conte, interview with the author, September 3, 2020.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Raquel Acevedo Klein, interview with the author, September 11, 2020.
  12. David Klein, interview with the author, September 14, 2020.
  13. Kim Noce, interview with the author, September 9, 2020.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Raquel Acevedo Klein, interview with the author, September 11, 2020.
  16. Alba Acevedo, email message to the author, September 19, 2020.
  17. For more on objectivity, subjectivity, and intersubjectivity in Pauline Oliveros’s Sonic Meditations see: Stephen Miles, “Objectivity and Intersubjectivity in Pauline Oliveros’s ‘Sonic Meditations,’” Perspectives of New Music 46, no. 1 (2008): 4-38.
  18. Pauline Oliveros started to create Tele-Musical Performances in 1991. See: Pauline Oliveros, Sarah Weaver, Mark Dresser, Jefferson Pitcher, Jonas Braasch, and Chris Chafe, “Telematic Music: Six Perspectives,” Leonardo Music Journal19 (2009): 95-96,
  19. IONE, interview with the author, September 9, 2020.
  20. Kim Noce, interview with the author, September 9, 2020.
  21. David Klein, interview with the author, September 14, 2020.
  22. Eugenia Siegel Conte, interview with the author, September 3, 2020.
  23. Alba Acevedo, email message to the author, September 19, 2020.
  24. The Heart Chant (2001) by Pauline Oliveros © 2001 Deep Listening Publications.
  25. Tom Bickley, interview with the author, September 8, 2020.
  26. IONE, interview with the author, September 9, 2020.
  27. Ibid.
  28. Ibid.
  29. Raquel Acevedo Klein, interview with the author, September 11, 2020.
  30. Ibid.