Program III

Hildegard Westerkamp, Stefan Maier

December 15, 2022 9:00 PM
Doors at
8:30 pm

Reimagining possibilities in spatial sound, Program III welcomes Hildegard Westerkamp for a presentation of 3 sound works created in Octophonic, preceded by a Q&A with the sound artist. Leading into affective futures of sentient machines, Stefan Maier will premiere Nervous Systems, a live performance in spatial sound.

This event will be preceded by a discussion with Hildegard Westerkamp & Stefan Maier, starting at 8:00 pm.

Admission to Program III includes entry to the Layout DJ Session with Mela Melania starting at 11 pm.

Hildegard Westerkamp

Hildegard Westerkamp was born in Osnabrück, Germany in 1946, emigrated to Canada in 1968, and since then has lived on the ancestral lands of the Coast Salish peoples - the Squamish (Sḵwx̱wú7mesh), Tsleil-Waututh (Stó:lō and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh), and Musqueam (xʷməθkʷəy̓əm) Nations.

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."  (Dr. Alice Eldridge, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK)  

Talking Rain (1997)

(Duration: 16:00)

Rainsounds from the west coast of British Columbia, Canada are the basic compositional materials for Talking Rain. Through them I speak to you about this place. The raincoast. A lush and green place. Made that way by rain. Nourished by rain, life–giving rain. In Talking Rain the ear travels into the sonic formations of rain, into the insides of that place of nourishment as well as outside to the watery, liquid language of animals, forests and human habitations, all of which are nourished by the rain.  

Talking Rain was commissioned by CBC Radio for Westcoast Performance. It was realized in my own studio, Inside the Soundscape, and premiered on April 20, 1997. Most rain recordings for this piece were made by myself in and around Vancouver. Thanks to Norbert Ruebsaat for providing his recordings of ravens, eagles and frogs from Haida Gwaii and also for finding the right title for the piece, magically. Thanks to Bruce Davis and Peter Huse for their high–quality recordings made in the early seventies for the World Soundscape Project’s environmental tape collection at Simon Fraser University; to Robert MacNevin for his equally high–quality recordings made 20 years later (1991 to 95) for the same collection; to David Grierson for his light footsteps and receptive ears during the recording of our rainy forest soundwalk in Lighthouse Park near Vancouver. Special thanks go to Jon Siddall, producer of Westcoast Performance for giving me this opportunity and for challenging me to create a radio piece with sounds that must be the most difficult sounds to broadcast! 

Talking Rain is dedicated Westerkamp's long-time partner and friend Peter Grant.

Into the Labyrinth (2000)

(Duration: 15:06)

Into the Labyrinth is a sonic journey into aspects of India’s culture. It occurs on the edge between dream and reality, in the same way in which many visitors, myself included, experience this country. Little ever happens according to pre–determined plans or expectations. Although travelers usually do reach their destination somehow, the journey itself—full of continuous surprises and unexpected turns—becomes the real place of experience. In composing this piece, I worked on it continuously as if on a 15–day journey, where the journey itself became the centre of experience. The composition simply is a result of that experience. 

Into the Labyrinth was commissioned by “New Adventures in Sound” with the assistance of the Canada Council and was realized in the Electronic Music Studio of the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University. I would like to thank Savinder Anand, Mona Madan, Arun Patak, Veena Sharma and her mother Mrs. Goyal, Situ Singh–Bühler and Virinder Singh without whose local knowledge I would have had a difficult time gathering the sound materials. Many thanks go to Max Mueller Bhavan (Goethe Institut Delhi) for inviting me to India in the first place and giving me the opportunity to meet and work with those who have become my Indian friends. Listening to India together has deepened our understanding of each other and our cultures’ differences. 

Into the Labyrinth is dedicated to Westerkamp's daughter Sonja, who courageously traveled through India by herself and emerged enriched from a labyrinth of new and complex experiences. 

Für Dich - For You (2005)

(Duration: 21:00)

For Eight Digital Soundtracks

Poetry by Rainer Maria Rilke

English Translation by Norbert Ruebsaat

The compositional process of Für Dich – For You was an intense encounter with Rilke’s words, not unlike an encounter with the experience of love itself and all its unsettling, complex emotional states. The poem speaks of one person’s love to another, but also and perhaps more importantly about love as an inner state towards life and the world as a whole. On another level the composition explores a sense of place and belonging, of home and love. To underscore this context, the sound sources for the piece consist of specific sounds from two places that have created a sense of belonging in me: North Germany where I was born and grew up and Vancouver and the west coast of Canada where I have lived for over thirty years as an immigrant. These sounds form the sonic/musical language of the piece together with the recorded voices (male and female) of people close to me, speaking the poem, both in German and English. Thus, the piece is an exploration of the heart, an exploration of where the heart is located in connection to culture, language and people. In a globalized world where millions of us are on the move, whether as refugees, immigrants or just as travelers, this has emerged as a wide spread and relevant theme, as we are all in some way searching for home and connectedness.

All sounds and voices were recorded by myself. Many thanks to all who spent valuable hours with me exploring and reading the poem. Readers of the poem are: Wendelin Bartley, Susan Benson, Anne Bourne, Louie Ettling, Peter Grant, Andra McCartney, Norbert Ruebsaat, Sonja Ruebsaat, Susanna Ruebsaat, R. Murray Schafer, Agnes Westerkamp and Hildegard Westerkamp. Für Dich – For You was commissioned by the ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany, in the context of their trans-canada project, curated by Sabine Breitsameter. The composition began during a residency at the ZKM, and was completed in the Sonic Studio at Simon Fraser University and in the composer’s own studio in Vancouver

Stefan Maier - Nervous Systems

Today, in the early decades of the 21st century, we can obliquely hear evidence of a strange new soundscape emerging. This sonic environment is coextensive with the soundscape that acoustic ecology — the study of the relationship between humans and their environment through sound — has traditionally explored. But the new soundscape consists as much of the familiar sounds of natural, rural and urban environments as it does sounds inaudible to human ears. It extends beyond the limits of hominid perceptual capacities, into the realms of inaudible frequencies, the electromagnetic spectrum, and ever-growing repositories of raw, noisy data as vibrational sensors proliferate everywhere, endlessly. But even more strikingly, the emerging soundscape becomes all the more alienating as Machine Listening software proliferates endlessly and everywhere, giving rise to incomprehensible impressions of our technologized environments. Listening-in to these inhuman environments, we might discover the traces of an incomprehensible wilderness consisting of more-than-human relations — to synthetic natures spawned in the wake of industrial modernity.

In Nervous Systems (2022), Stefan Maier explores this speculative soundscape. Drawing on his practice of expanded field recording and synthesis, it attempts to tune into new forms of vitality contained within the emerging sonic environments of the 21st century — to unruly, nervous systems teeming with potentiality, with life.

About Stefan Maier

Stefan Maier is an artist based in Vancouver, Canada — the unceded, traditionalterritories of the xʷməθkwəy̓ əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.

Working fluidly between live electronic performance, sound installation, and concert music, his works explore the chaotic flows of sonic matter through buildings, sound systems, instruments, software, and bodies. His work has been presented by Haus der Kulturen der Welt (Germany), Kunsthal Aarhus (Denmark), Unsound (Poland), SPOR festival (Denmark), Ultima festival (Norway), Monom (Berlin), Gong Tomorrow (Denmark), and Gaudeamus Muziekweek (Netherlands), among many others. 

Recent work as a sound designer has been presented at Sterischer Herbst (Austria), International Film Festival Rotterdam (Netherlands), Vleeshal Center for Contemporary Art (Netherlands), and V-A-C foundation (Russia). In 2017 he received a Mayor’s Art Award from the City of Vancouver and was a 2019 Macdowell Colony Fellow (USA). 

Stefan is Assistant Professor of Sound Art and Sound Design at Simon Fraser University.

Sound Space

a week of spatial sound
‍Ruby Singh
Tiffany Ayalik
Robert Henke
Asa Tone & Yu Su
Hildegard Westerkamp
A Space for Sound
MONOM Catalogue
Modern Biology
Future Ecologies
Edo van Breemen
Kate DeLorme
Mela Melania
Jean Brazeau
Dave Biddle
Alex Penney
Eric Chad
Slow Riffs

Performance Works Theatre
December 14-18