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Hildegard Westerkamp

Electroacoustic composer

Composition– Für Dich – For You (excerpt) - Now playing...

Hildegard Westerkamp emigrated to Canada from Germany in 1968. After completing her music studies in the early '70s her ears were drawn beyond music to the acoustic environment as a broader cultural context or place for intense listening. Whether as a composer, educator, or radio artist, most of her work since has centred around environmental sound and acoustic ecology.

Westerkamp has taught courses in Acoustic Communication at Simon Fraser University (1981-91) in Vancouver, and she continues to lecture and conducts workshops internationally. She's a founding member of the World Forum for Acoustic Ecology (WFAE, 1993) and was the editor of The Soundscape Newsletter from 1991-95. She now serves on the editorial committee of Soundscape – The Journal of Acoustic Ecology, a new publication of the WFAE.

Westerkamp's compositions, which have been performed and broadcast throughout the world, deal with aspects of the acoustic environment: with urban, rural or wilderness soundscapes; with the voices of children, men and women; with noise or silence, music and media sounds; or with the sounds of different cultures. She's composed film soundtracks, sound documents for radio and has produced and hosted radio programs such as Soundwalking and Musica Nova on Vancouver Co-operative Radio. Excerpts of her compositions have been included in the soundtracks of Elephant and Last Days, two films by noted Hollywood director Gus van Sant.

In several compositions Westerkamp has combined her treatment of environmental sounds with the poetry of Canadian writer Norbert Ruebsaat. More recently, she's written her own texts for a series of performance pieces for spoken text and tape. In addition to her electroacoustic compositions, she's created pieces for specific physical sites, such as the Harbour Symphony (1986) and École polytechnique (1990). In pieces like Into India, she explores the deeper implications of transferring environmental sounds from a foreign place into the North American context of electroacoustic composition.

Most recently she collaborated with several Indian colleagues on a sound installation in New Delhi entitled Nada – an Experience in Sound, sponsored by the New Delhi Goethe Institut and the Indira Ghandi National Centre for the Arts. By focusing the ear's attention to details both familiar and foreign in the acoustic environment, Westerkamp draws attention to the inner, hidden spaces of the environment we inhabit.

Für Dich – For You is based on the poem Liebes-Lied by Rainer Maria Rilke and its newest translation into English, Love Song, by Norbert Ruebsaat.


Transformations (Reissue, 2010)
Trans Canada (Various Artists, 2009)
Into India (2002)
Transformations (1996)
Transmissions from Broadcast Artists, Radius #4 (Various Artists, 1995)

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Member since 1978