In the final days of 2020 I, like many others, was feeling disconnected. Disconnected from my friends, my passions, and even myself. As a part of my research on sound, music, and environmentalism I came across a poem by composer, performer, and sound artist Pauline Oliveros. In her poem “The Earth Worm Also Sings” Oliveros lays out her understanding of the universe as made of and connected through sound: living, dying, and the afterlife are sonic. For Oliveros, all of existence is based in sound and vibration. “The Earth Worm Also Sings” is a 165-line stream of consciousness poem in three sections: First, Oliveros explores the sonic world of the mind, body, life, and death; Second, Oliveros describes a meditative journey in which she imagines an “alternative self, tiny enough to journey inside” the “acoustic universe” of her own ear; And finally the poem ends with a short coda which repeats material from the first section, bringing the reader full circle. Throughout the work Oliveros explores the sonic nature of the universe, a universe that is made of and connected through sound. In her holistic worldview, mind and body are connected to the cosmos through sound and vibration, and it is Deep Listening, a practice of listening to all things at all times, that allows us to access that connection. Through Deep Listening we can be returned to “the source of all beginning,” which is “abundance, fecund creativity, brilliant spark, sounding pulse, life unending.” “The Earth Worm Also Sings” encapsulates the potential depth of Deep Listening, a practice which goes beyond mere “listening” and ties one to the very essence of the universe.

In a time when I was feeling disconnected from the things that made me feel like myself, “The Earth Worm Also Sings” helped me to feel grounded while reminding me that I am a part of something larger than I could ever imagine. At the most fundamental level, Oliveros describes herself as a “community of musical cells” each of which “[sing] the song of its musical structure.” Oliveros’s sounding and listening selves function cyclically, regenerating through listening to their own sound. She writes, “I was born here to hear all my cells through my cells.” In “The Earth Worm Also Sings” Oliveros expresses a way for me to sonically connect to myself, both through listening to the sounds of my body and the sounds of my imagination. After I feel grounded in my own mind and body, remembering that my sonic self is a part of a larger sounding and listening cosmos has provided comfort in days of disconnection and isolation. Listening to the world around me, to the sounds of chirping birds, to the slam of car doors on the street, to laughter coming from my neighbors apartment, connects me to my place. Even the sounds I cannot hear—the sounds of Boethius’s “musica mundana,” the music of the spheres—connect me to a greater whole.

– Taylor McClaskie (Musicologist)