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Hildegard Westerkamp

Hildegard Westerkamp is a composer, educator, radio artist and sound ecologist originally from Osnabruck, Germany and based in Vancouver since 1968. She was a member World Soundscape Project in the early 1970s, led by Murray Schafer at Simon Fraser University. Around the same time, Westerkamp hosted shows on the Vancouver Radio Co-op, where she aired many of her own soundscape compositions.

Westerkamp’s compositions mainly employ environmental sounds, both rural and urban, as well as voices, which are often left out of other soundscape work. Her homepage at Simon Fraser University offers audio samples of her work, as well as further biographical information.

Andra McCartney’s PhD dissertation “Sounding Places with Hildegard Westerkamp” studies Westerkamp’s contribution to soundscape composition, in particular, her sonic approach to place. In it, Westerkamp says, “I want to transport listeners into a place that’s close to where I am when I compose, and which I like. They’re going to occupy that place differently, by listening to it differently, but still, it’s a place.” The dissertation text and interviews are available here.

Westerkamp has written many articles on soundscape studies, acoustic ecology and listening. In her article, “Linking Soundscape Composition and Acoustic Ecology”, Westerkamp argues for bringing together soundscape composition and acoustic ecology because soundscape composers have expert listening skills. In her presentation “Listening to the Listening”, she discusses the highly subjective nature of listening, what she calls the “complex and mysterious place between a sound and the listener’s experience of it”.

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