Hildegard Westerkamp (Canada)

Hildegard Westerkamp was born in Osnabrück, Germany in 1946 emigrated in 1968 and gave birth to her daughter in 1977. After completing her music studies her ears were drawn to the acoustic environment as another cultural context or place for intense listening. As a composer, educator, and radio artist her work centres around environmental sound and acoustic ecology. Her compositions 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 is a founding member of the World Forum for Acoustic Ecology (WFAE).

Hildegard Westerkamp’s web site

earsay CDs

harangue 1
harangue 2
Into India

The NADA Project


I was familiar with Hildegard Westerkamp's lovely Talking Rain.... Sounds that had before been arrayed in a stereo space were now moving about in planes of space, things had a real volume, and the recording of trucks on a rainy highway, about halfway through the piece, were positively awesome. In this piece, I saw that we had finally reached that state Varese was looking for where volumes and planes of sound could move through space. Warren Burt, Leonardo Music Journal Review of “Immersion - melbourne - 7 june - 14 june 1999

Westerkamp’s music balances a poetics of sound with social commitments that include feminism and environmental politics. Her compositions are critical enactments of acoustic space....All invoke attentive listening. Donna Zapf, Beiträge zur Neuen Music, Germany

Westerkamp creates new possibilities for listening. One can journey with her sound to inner landscapes and find unexplored openings in our sound souls. The experience of her music vibrates the potential for change. Her compositions invite interaction - a chance to awaken to one’s own creativity. One can transform through listening as she has. In the music and soundscapes of Westerkamp we feel memory and imagination as we hear through to the future. Pauline Oliveros, Kingston, N.Y., USA (about CD Transformations)

There was more than just a hint of oracular mysticism in Westerkamp’s art. There was a magic in those sounds. It came from our sense of mingled delight and astonishment that such delicacy goes on under our very, very sophisticated noses. Fascinating and absorbing. Stephen Pedersen, Chronicle-Herald, Halifax

Westerkamp’s tape works - which draw on sounds from the environment - are elegantly shaped, often witty, always eloquent. They register not just as created soundworks but as a way of listening to the world - the aural equivalent of a point-of-view. Susan Mertens, Vancouver Sun

This composition is as expansive as the desert, intimate as the voice of a single cricket. Andra McCartney, Musicworks, Toronto (about CricketVoice)

The always exceptional Hildegard Westerkamp paints a sonic picture of Delhi from ambient noise and shimmering synthesized notes, juxtaposing unearthly beauty with earthy reality. George Zahora in SPLENDID E-ZINE

This is a composer who loves beautifully sculpted timbres, often focussing on high frequency and carefully 'hand-tinted' spectra, or using low and high pitched sounds in an almost metaphorical sense. Many of the sounds have the clear, crisp hyper-reality of the acousmatic world, but Westerkamp has different stories to tell. Katherine Norman, Spring 99 ARRAY issue on ICMA website

École Polytechnique taps into ancient lamenting traditions, with their cathartic and healing functions that historically served both the individual and the community....I am shaken by its evocation of violence....and impressed by the way Westerkamp avoids the traps of literalism or melodrama. Tamara Bernstein, Herizons

An evocative score in any context, École Polytechnique seemed to speak with special poignancy to the Montreallers who witnessed its premiere. In a sense, it spoke for them. Wilhelm Littler, Toronto Star

Hildegard Westerkamp’s work at its best brings us closer to the notion that we are the sounds that we hear...the "just listening" state...the dissolution of the "me listening to that " construct, this is the essence of Talking Rain.. Mark Parlett for the Canadian Electroacoustic Community, March 1998

Mere words are inadequate to describe what took place when the symphony began....Waves of sound rolled back and forth across the harbour bringing thousands of downtown office workers to their windows. The Canada geese from Stanley Park were aroused and circled through the boats, honking loudly as they joined in. Ken Drushka, Harbour and Shipping (about the Harbour Symphony)

The sound was like that of a herd of happy elephants caught in a traffic jam. Globe & Mail, Toronto (about the Harbour Symphony)