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The Nature of Music 15: Hildegard Westerkamp

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Presented in the form of a virtual interview conducted by veteran radio producer Charles Amirkhanian, the evening featured seven works by Westerkamp composed between 1978 to 2021, giving a short survey of the composer’s vast body of work. The pair also discussed the meaning and origins of “acoustic ecology,” how sound impacts the day-to-day of one’s life, the environmental effects of sound, and the role of radio in the proliferation of sound art.

Composer Hildegard Westerkamp focuses on listening, environmental sound and acoustic ecology. At the beginning of her career, she worked with R. Murray Schafer and the World Soundscape Project and subsequently taught acoustic communication courses in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University with colleague Barry Truax. She is a founding member of the World Forum for Acoustic Ecology and was chief editor of its journal Soundscape between 2000 and 2012. She has conducted soundscape workshops, given concerts and lectures, and has coordinated and led Soundwalks locally and internationally.

Westerkamp’s pioneering musical works and writing at the intersections of environmentalism, acoustic communication, radio arts, listening practices and soundwalking activate an awareness, that sound is a decisive dimension of the world, an idea that underpins contemporary thinking across social, political, artistic and scientific practices of environmental respect and concern.

Hildegard’s compositions have been performed and broadcast in many parts of the world. Aside from her soundscape compositions, she has 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. Her compositions have been discussed in various articles and most extensively in Andra McCartney’s dissertation Sounding Places: Situated Conversations through the Soundscape Work of Hildegard Westerkamp: http://hildegardwesterkamp.ca/writings/writingsabout/.

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