Hildegard Westerkamp: A Life in Soundscape Composition

Hagood ( Mack Hagood )
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Today we speak to Hildegard Westerkamp, the pioneering composer, radio artist and sound ecologist. The centerpiece of all of her work is a close attention to the sonic environment and its relation to culture. We will listen to excerpts of six soundscape compositions made between 1975 and 2005, all of which reward the close listener–conceptually and aesthetically–with a deeper relationship to the sonic environment.

Mack Hagood interviewed Westerkamp shortly after the death of R. Murray Schafer in late 2021. Westerkamp worked closely with Schafer in the early 1970s and she graciously agreed to talk about him despite the grief being fresh. They also discussed her own amazing career and that’s the part of the tape we are sharing in this episode. They talk about her formative years as a 20-something working with Schafer and his World Soundscape Project and then we jump into a number of her compositions, ending with the piece “Breaking News” from 2012.

Incredibly, she said Mack was the first person to ever ask her about that piece, even though it is one of her favorites. And sure enough, not long after this interview she released a retrospective album on Earsay Music called Breaking News, which features that piece and a number of others created between 1988 and 2012.

For our Patreon members we have the full, unedited interview for those who want to hear all her thoughts on R. Murray Schafer and her career. Join at Patreon.com/phantompower.

Pieces featured in this episode:

“Gently Penetrating beneath the Sounding Surfaces of Another Place” (1997)

“Whisper Study” (1975)

“Fantasie for Horns” (1978)

“A Walk through the City” (1981)

“Für Dich – For You” (2005)

“Breaking News” (2002)

Today’s show was written and edited by Mack Hagood. 
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