Artists Andra McCartney

“I was born in Fleetwood, near Liverpool (United Kingdom) and lived in several other British ports before moving to Canada with my immediate family in 1968. My daughter was born in 1979 and my son in 1980. BA (Trent, Cultural studies, 1983), MA (St Francis Xavier, Adult Education, 1990), PhD (Music, York, 1999). I have lived in several parts of Ontario and northern Canada, and moved to Montréal in 1999, where I teach Sound in Media for the Communication Studies department at Concordia University.”

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Andra McCartney

Fleetwood (England, UK), 1955

Residence: Montréal (Québec)

  • Composer
  • Writer

On the web

Appearances

empreintes DIGITALes / IMED 0159, IMED 0159_NUM / 2001
Various artists
CEC-PeP / PEP 001 / 1997
Various artists
CEC-PeP / CEC 95CD / 1995

Articles written

In Review

Andra McCartney, eContact!, no. 1:1, February 1, 1998

Claire-voie brings together four electroacoustic pieces by Wende Bartley, composed between 1985-1993. The work is characterized by Bartley’s dense texturing of instrumental, vocal, and recorded environmental sounds, as well as her exploration of the performing potential of the female voice. It is powerful and evocative work.

Ellipsis (1989-93, 14:31) is a work for female singer and tape. Sung by mezzo-soprano Fides Krucker, this piece explores extended vocal techniques such as multiphonics, glottal stops and vocal fry, in a tripartite structure associated with the lunar phases and chronicling a three-fold story of women’s collective unconscious, which Bartley terms “The Age of Darkness,” “Creating a New Space,” and “The Age of Resonance.” (see also Hannah Bosma’s description of the piece in 1995 International Computer Music Conference Proceedings, pp. 141-142).

The second piece, Rising Tides of Generations Lost (1985-93, 15:01), is my current favourite on the CD. It starts with whispered vowels, consonants, and syllables, moving through to spoken words and finally longer phrases that are almost buried, yet rise again through the fires that tortured and silenced women. In her description of the piece, Bartley quotes American novelist Kate Chopin: “this ‘beginning of things’ is ‘vague, tangled, chaotic, and exceedingly disturbing. How few of us ever emerge from such beginning. How many souls perish in its tumult.” Disturbing as it is, I always feel hopeful and energized as strong voices emerge clearly at the end.

Ocean of Ages Revealed (1991, 13:21) explores the gestures of Balkan vocal music, as well as other sources, through the PODX granular synthesis system developed by Barry Truax at Simon Fraser University. This process allows composers to expand and stretch the sounds to reveal microscopic shifts and changes in a slow-moving tapestry. The piece is based on a visual image by Susan Griffin, in which we travel into the darkness of a cave, seeing images of another time etched into the walls.

The last piece, IceBreak (1992, 14:22) evokes the world of ice melting, dissolving and transforming into water, moving through “states of rupture, isolation, introspection, passion, and infusion.” It is made of textures created from short improvisations on instruments from the Kyai Madu Sari, the Javanese court-style gamelan. The textures form rhythmic and melodic streams that echo through sound-space.

I find in Bartley’s music a source of spiritual energy and feminist consciousness that is matched by musical and technical diversity and depth. I listen to this CD often.

It is powerful and evocative work.

In Review

Andra McCartney, eContact!, no. 1:1, February 1, 1998

Hildegard Westerkamp says: “I hear the soundscape as a language with which places and societies express themselves.” Her Transformations CD presents five of her soundscape compositions, reflecting work composed from 1979 to 1992, each sounding the depths of a different place, creating a different inner landscape each time I hear them. She works with the sonic and sociopolitical potentials of each place, recording, mixing, and subtly transforming sounds to heighten listeners’ awareness and appreciation of these sites. She is a skilled and careful interpreter of their languages.

You make it with the skin of the desert night

Cricket Voice is a musical exploration of a solo cricket song, recorded by Westerkamp at night in a Mexican desert region called the Zone of Silence. The acoustic clarity of this place frames the cricket song, accompanied by soundmaking with the spikes of cacti and other plants, and electroacoustic transformations of these sounds. This composition is as expansive as the desert, intimate as the voice of a single cricket.

Listen to our cities

Two of the works, A Walk Through The City, and Kits Beach Soundwalk, are both based on urban soundscapes. In the downtown core, I can become numb to the constant sounds. These works challenge me to listen, to transform, to make quiet places in the city. A A Walk Through The City takes us through Vancouver’s Skid Row area, guided by Norbert Ruebsaat’s poem of the same name. Kits Beach Soundwalk begins at Kitsilano Beach, in the heart of Vancouver, yet at the same time a border. I hear the throb of the city balanced with the tiny sounds of barnacles feeding in the lapping tide. This piece explores many borders—between dream and waking, city and country, water and land, documentary and composition. When it enters the dreamworld of high frequencies, I remember where quiet places in the city can take me.

Soundmarks and Sitka

Fantasie for Horns II is the earliest piece in the collection, composed from the sounds of Canadian trainhorns, foghorns, factory and boathorns, and a live part for French horn. Horns are especially evocative soundmarks that give us a sense of place. Each time I hear this piece, I remember growing up by the sea and listening to the moan of the coastal foghorns, reminding me of the awe-inspiring power and energy of the sea. The latest piece on the CD is Beneath The Forest Floor. Most of the sounds for this piece were recorded by Westerkamp in the Carmanah Valley on Vancouver Island, and the piece evokes the stillness and peace of this old-growth rainforest, home to Sitka spruce and cedar trees over a thousand years old.

I have always found Hildegard Westerkamp’s work to be a particular source of insight and inspiration. It takes me to familiar and new places, encourages me to listen to the sounds around me, and to “transform through listening,” as Pauline Oliveros also notes about Westerkamp’s work. Her music urges me to listen to the language of the soundscape and to express my own relationship to it by working with soundscapes myself. I hope it does for you, too.

… a particular source of insight and inspiration.

Sociopolitical Sonic Potentials

Andra McCartney, Musicworks, no. 68, June 1, 1997

Hildegard Westerkamp says: “I hear the soundscape as a language with which places and societies express themselves.” Her Transformations CD presents five of her soundscape compositions, reflecting work composed from 1979 to 1992, each sounding the depths of a different place, creating a different inner landscape each time I hear them. She works with the sonic and sociopolitical potentials of each place, recording, mixing, and subtly transforming sounds to heighten listeners’ awareness and appreciation of these sites. She is a skilled and careful interpreter of their languages.

You make it with the skin of the desert night

Cricket Voice is a musical exploration of a solo cricket song, recorded by Westerkamp at night in a Mexican desert region called the Zone of Silence. The acoustic clarity of this place frames the cricket song, accompanied by soundmaking with the spikes of cacti and other plants, and electroacoustic transformations of these sounds. This composition is as expansive as the desert, intimate as the voice of a single cricket.

Listen to our cities

Two of the works, A Walk Through The City, and Kits Beach Soundwalk, are both based on urban soundscapes. In the downtown core, I can become numb to the constant sounds. These works challenge me to listen, to transform, to make quiet places in the city. A Walk Through The City takes us through Vancouver’s Skid Row area, guided by Norbert Ruebsaat’s poem of the same name. Kits Beach Soundwalk begins at Kitsilano Beach, in the heart of Vancouver, yet at the same time a border. I hear the throb of the city balanced with the tiny sounds of barnacles feeding in the lapping tide. This piece explores many borders—between dream and waking, city and country, water and land, documentary and composition. When it enters the dreamworld of high frequencies, I remember where quiet places in the city can take me.

Soundmarks and Sitka

Fantasie for Horns II is the earliest piece in the collection, composed from the sounds of Canadian trainhorns, foghorns, factory and boathorns, and a live part for French horn. Horns are especially evocative soundmarks that give us a sense of place. Each time I hear this piece, I remember growing up by the sea and listening to the moan of the coastal foghorns, reminding me of the awe-inspiring power and energy of the sea. The latest piece on the CD is Beneath The Forest Floor. Most of the sounds for this piece were recorded by Westerkamp in the Carmanah Valley on Vancouver Island, and the piece evokes the stillness and peace of this old-growth rainforest, home to Sitka spruce and cedar trees over a thousand years old.

I have always found Hildegard Westerkamp’s work to be a particular source of insight and inspiration. It takes me to familiar and new places, encourages me to listen to the sounds around me, and to “transform through listening,” as Pauline Oliveros also notes about Westerkamp’s work. Her music urges me to listen to the language of the soundscape and to express my own relationship to it by working with soundscapes myself. I hope it does for you, too.

… a particular source of insight and inspiration.

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