Hildegard Westerkamp - Cordillera (1980)
Cordillera is a compositional working of Norbert Ruebsaat's reading of the long title poem from his book Cordillera. The piece combines the voice with environmental sound from the landscape - the Western Canadian mountain wilderness - which first inspired the poems, and thus places them back into their correct context. Cordillera means a ridge or chain of mountains. It is also used generically to describe the continuous range stretching from Tierra Del Fuego to Alaska. The poem describes an ascent and movement through the high country. It is composed of 17 shorter poems or "snapshots" of specific locations, and these are each given their own acoustic shape as the composition proceeds. Cordillera is about landscape, about wilderness, about the human presence and voice in places that are still considered by many to be barren and silent. It attempts to bring back to the city listener the sense of space, time and acoustic identity we experience when we manage to tear ourselves from the noise that clutters most of our daily lives. Cordillera was commissioned by and first installed as an acoustic environment at the Western Front Gallery in Vancouver, Canada, for its "New Wilderness Festival" in the Spring of 1980.
Hildegard Westerkamp was born in Osnabrück, Germany in 1946 and emigrated to Canada in 1968. After completing her music studies in the early seventies her ears were drawn to the acoustic environment as another cultural context or place for intense listening. Whether as a composer, educator, or radio artist most of her work since the mid-seventies has centred around environmental sound and acoustic ecology.
She has taught courses in Acoustic Communication at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver and is giving lectures and conducting soundscape workshops internationally. She is a founding member of the World Forum for Acoustic Ecology (WFAE) and was the editor of The Soundscape Newsletter between 1991 and 1995.
The majority of 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, and so on. 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.
In a number of compositions she has combined her treatment of environmental sounds extensively with the poetry of Canadian writer Norbert Ruebsaat. She also has written her own texts for a series of performance pieces for spoken text and tape. In addition to her electroacoustic compositions, she has created pieces for specific "sites", such as the Harbour Symphony and école polytechnique. In pieces like Visiting India she explores the deeper implications of transferring environmental sounds from another culture into the North American and European context of electroacoustic composition and audio art culture. Most recently she collaboarated with her Indian colleagues Mona Madan, Savinder Anand, and Veena Sharma on a sound installation in New Delhi entitled Nada-an Experience in Sound, sponsored by the New Delhi Goethe Institut (Max Mueller Bhavan) and the Indira Ghandi National Centre for the Arts.
By focusing the ears' attention to details both familiar and foreign in the acoustic environment, Westerkamp draws attention to the inner, hidden spaces of the environment we inhabit.
© Productions electro Productions (*PeP*) 1999